Lizzie Healey’s London Notebook

Would you believe it? MPs have been told they can claim an extra £10,000 in expenses for working from home during the coronavirus pandemic. Of course you would.

The extra money has been made available for each MP, including Martin Docherty Hughes, the SNP for West Dunbartonshire and his Argyll and Bute colleague, Brendan O’Hara, in addition to the office budget of up to £26,050 per year.

These MPs refuse to comment and refuse to be held up to public scrutiny by The Democrat.

Sturgeon Docherty Hughes and O'Hara 4

Local MPs Docherty Hughes and Brendan O’Hara pictured with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Westminster leader Ian Blackford. Picture by Bernie Heaney

Reports from Westminster say the additional funds have been allocated to help MPs and their staff pay for laptops and other computer equipment, as well as electricity, heating and phone bills.

There are no reports of either MP refusing the money or intimating that they would divert it to food banks or other deserving charities.

One would have thought they would have learned their lesson from the last expenses scandal. You must remember the duck pond that one of them claimed for?

If MPs and their assistants do not already have laptops, which are of course portable, then it’s time they moved into the 21st century.

This elite corps of “public servants” were also told by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) that their monthly credit card limit has increased to £10,000 ‘to help with cash flow’ and that cards will not be suspended if they are unable to make the repayments on time. Lucky them.

The 90-day limit on expenses claims has also been suspended, while MPs can be paid claims without evidence and can send on invoices and receipts at a later date.

IPSA issued the update to MPs in March and said: ‘We have agreed a series of immediate measures that we hope will provide you with the resources and flexibility to concentrate on your parliamentary duties and support your staff at this time.

‘There will be an immediate increase of £10,000 to your office costs budget.

‘This is to cover any additional costs you may incur to set up working remotely as a result of coronavirus. This extra budget will be available until March 2021.’

The Westminster Parliament has now been shut down until April 21 at the earliest.

Sir Alistair Graham, a former chairman of the committee on standards in public life, has criticised the decision.

‘It seems to me a very crude approach,’ he told The Times.

 ‘I think the public may be slightly puzzled as to why what looks like a generous payment of this nature has been made without first doing a bit more research into what the actual costs are.’

The MPs do not seem to realise that real people, yes, you and me who are working at home have had pay cuts but still work from home.

We’re not being given any money for electricity and heating. They don’t need it for heating. The weather is much warmer now that’s summer is round the corner.

It is unbelievable that don’t they already have laptops. This astounds me! Most of them will be sitting on their arses doing SFA.

This is disgusting really. People are complaining that MP’s are already well looked after – “I am sure they are actually saving money on travel and lunches by staying at home anyway, so why do they need so much extra?

“What about people on zero hours contracts and people claiming universal credit, they need some extra payments so they can look after their families and themselves.

“And then there are the people who have to use food banks and the others that won’t qualify for welfare benefits.”

Another person told a phone-in: “MPs given ten grand to stay home and do sweet FA? Only the *essential* government ministers need to work in order to see the country though the crisis. The rest of them, especially the irrelevant Opposition, and the House of Lords can be furloughed off on 80% pay, told to stay home and to shut up.”

Meanwhile, home care workers in Dumbarton and elsewhere are dying from having picked up the virus while having to keep up their hectic house calls schedule, which hardly gives them time to give clients a cup of tea.

I have been told how they had been putting on ‘brave smiles’, but inside are all ‘terrified’. One local woman said she was ‘petrified’ because she did not have the proper PPE to make her job safe. I don’t blame her.

The UK’s death toll has jumped by 938 – higher than Italy’s worst day when 919 died – and is one of the biggest daily increase since the outbreak began, following a rise of 854 deaths yesterday and 439 on Monday.

Boris Johnson’s ‘temperature has fallen’ after second night in intensive care The prime minister’s condition remained ‘stable’ as he stays on in St Thomas’s for ‘close monitoring’..

A mother of quadruplets died after contracting coronavirus. Shabnum Sadiq, from Slough, leaves behind five children including 13-year-old quads.

Schools could reopen in England after Easter if lockdown works, an unnamed minister told The Times: ‘We need to be led by the science, of course. But if we can reopen schools after the Easter holidays things could begin to get back to normal. It could kick-start the economy.’

Another nurse ‘with entire life ahead of her’ has died of coronavirus aged 29.  She was Rebecca Mack, who had worked on the children’s cancer unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle.

A boy, 15, took own life during lockdown after feeling ‘isolated from the world’.

Meanwhile, a driver admits killing 39 people found in refrigerated lorry in Essex.  Northern Irishman Maurice Robinson, 25, admitted manslaughter at the Old Bailey.

The UK Government still won’t say when lockdown will end, but Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says it won’t be soon – neither immediately nor imminent.

And it has been revealed that an elderly woman begged Amazon Alexa to soothe coronavirus pain as she lay dying alone. You couldn’t make it up.

Happy Easter. Keep well. Stay safe and stay in.

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