POLITICIANS have blasted plans to allow MPs to claim their Christmas parties on the taxpayer. 

Updated guidance issued by Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) last week said MPs had “discretion” in their expenses budget to “claim the costs of food and refreshments for an office festive event.”

“As with all claims, value for money should be considered and all claims will be published in the usual manner. No claims are allowed for alcohol,” the guidance added. 

The guidance, under the Rules & eligibility section of the Ipsa website, also said that MPs can “claim the cost of festive decorations for their office.”

However, taxpayer’s cash cannot be used towards “decoration displays to the outside of their constituency office.”

They also say any “toy donation drive or similar charitable activities are not considered parliamentary in nature” and therefore the “cost of advertising or other associated costs is not allowed under the Scheme.”

Glasgow South MP Stewart McDonald described Ipsa's decision as “absurd.”

“In all the times I’ve taken my staff team out it never once crossed my mind that it should be expensed. I couldn’t do the job without my team behind me. They work hard all year round, and it’s a pleasure to thank them at Christmas. Ipsa should reverse.

“And, as other MPs have said, I haven’t heard of a single colleague asking for this change. Universally unwelcome.”

Anum Qaisar, the SNP MP for Airdrie and Shotts tweeted: “This is completely tone-deaf - especially during a cost of living crisis.

“MP staff are the backbone of our offices and it’s my delight to treat my team at Christmas as a gesture of thanks for all their hard work. Ipsa should reverse this decision.”

Labour’s Shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds suggested the expenses watchdog had been a “little bit naive.”

He told Times Radio: “People have not been asking for this. I don’t think anyone will use it.

“This is our regulator … the independent body that runs the MPs’ expenses system, which is a system for staff and rent of your office and all of that kind of stuff, you know, being a little bit naive, to be honest, because if they publish stuff like this, you will get a story like this.

“I understand why people cover it in this way but I doubt anyone will be using it. People will not have been asking for it. And (maybe) Ipsa need to be a bit more savvy in terms of how they present what they’re doing on this.”

Labour MP Jess Phillips – in a post on Twitter retweeted by Foreign Secretary James Cleverly – said Ipsa had been “irresponsible”.

Former Brexit secretary David Davis said the expenses watchdog had “missed the mood of the age”.

He told TalkTV: “I think it’s bonkers, frankly.”

In a statement published on Tuesday morning, Ipsa said there had been no change to the rules. 

“We are aware of concerns regarding the rules for MPs' festive and celebratory claims. Our rules have not changed. 

“MPs employ, on average, five members of staff in their local constituencies to deal with casework from members of the public. 

“These cases are often distressing for the constituent and staff member alike and working in that environment day in and day out is very challenging.

“As employers, it is entirely appropriate that MPs should, if they see fit, reward their staff with a modest gathering at Christmas. 

“We are clear that alcohol is not included, that any event must represent value for money, is subject to publication for transparency and must not be party political in nature. It must be funded within existing budgets.

“To suggest that there is anything inappropriate in this is simply incorrect. We are disappointed with the interpretation of this normal employment practice at a time when MPs are receiving large amounts of abuse, particularly on social media.”