Suffolk: Gummer defends first-class MPs

AS the row dubbed “The Great Train Snobbery” rumbles on, Ipswich MP Ben Gummer has defended his fellow parliamentarians who travel first-class to seats in other parts of the country.

Mr Gummer – along with other Suffolk MPs – have only claimed standard-class rail tickets on expenses over the last two years.

But he understood why MPs who faced four or five-hour train journeys from Westminster to their constituencies liked to travel first-class.

He said: “If I travel in the middle of the day I can get a table in standard class to work on the train, but I have had people sitting opposite me tweeting that they can see the papers I am dealing with.

“You cannot do any confidential work in those circumstances – it’s okay on a journey from Ipswich to London but if you are travelling up to the north or to the south west and you want to work it’s very difficult.”

If he is travelling at rush hour, he accepts it is impossible to do any work on the train apart from reading: “I don’t see that it is a case of snobbery, simply an issue of those on long trips being able to use their time constructively,” Mr Gummer added.

Many MPs in this area drive themselves rather than using the train – and figures from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) confirmed that none had claimed for first class travel.

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It was revealed at the weekend that 185 MPs from all parties had claimed first class rail tickets – although IPSA says it will only pay for first class tickets if they can be bought cheaper than normal standard class fares.