£50,000 of taxpayers' money spent on speaker's wife's air travel

Nearly £50,000 of taxpayers' money has been spent on providing free air travel for the wife of Commons Speaker Michael Martin, according to the Mail on Sunday.

Within the past three years, Mary Martin has run up a bill of almost £25,000 on foreign flights. In addition she has spent £24,000 flying from the couple's Glasgow home to their grace-and-favour apartment in Westminster.

The Mail on Sunday disclosed that Mrs Martin was given special permission to claim travel expenses when her husband – known as 'Gorbals Mick' because of his working-class Glasgow roots – became Speaker in 2000. The spouses or partners of MPs are allowed to claim travel expenses for 15 trips to Westminster each year.

Although Mrs Martin has no official role as the Speaker's wife, it was agreed when he took up the post that she could also claim travel expenses to support him in his official duties.

Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show that Mrs Martin has claimed a total of £23,885 since 2004 to pay for regular return flights between Glasgow and London. The figure has risen steadily and reached £9,033 last year – more than £250 a week for the eight months that Parliament was in session.

Mrs Martin also received £24,485 for foreign flights when accompanying her husband on ten official trips during the three-year period. Officials said figures covering Mr Martin's first four years in the Speaker's chair were not available.

Speaker Michael Martin's wife claims £50,000 in free flights to 'support' her husband (Mail on Sunday, Sunday 20 January 2008)