We have provided some answers to frequently asked questions about the use of budgets for celebrations to support MPs and their staff in conducting their parliamentary activities during the festive season.
The answers give broad guidance about what is allowable under the Scheme.
There is discretion within budgets for some items, but we would remind MPs that claims:
should represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate
must be expressly parliamentary in nature
should not be party-political, campaigning, or self-promotional
All claims will be published in the usual manner.
Can MPs claim the cost of celebratory cards?
Yes, MPs can claim the costs of celebratory cards under the discretion allowed under the Scheme.
IPSA expects that value for money is considered, and that the circulation of the cards is limited – for example, they should not be sent to large groups or all constituents as there is a risk this may not represent value for money and could be considered self-promotional.
Can MPs claim the cost of card printing and postage?
Yes, MPs can claim the cost of card printing and postage at the discretion allowed under the Scheme.
Can MPs issue a festive/New Year calendar in lieu of a card?
Issuing a calendar simply as a promotional item is not permitted and would not be considered a parliamentary activity.
If however, you wish to send a leaflet or flyer whose main purpose is parliamentary (for example signposting advice, or MP contact details) and a calendar is included as an ancillary item, this is permissible.
Can MPs claim the cost of food and drink for a festive office event for employees?
Yes, MPs can claim the costs of food and refreshments for an office festive event under the discretion allowed as “hospitality”.
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.
Can MPs claim the cost of food and drink for a festive event or gathering within the constituency?
Any event or gathering must be explicitly within a parliamentary context.
If this meets the criteria, then refreshments can be provided as they would be for any other event.
Organising a purely social event within the constituency is not claimable under the rules.
Can MPs claim the cost of festive decorations for their office?
MPs can claim the cost of festive decorations for their office under the discretion they have for use of their office costs budget.
Can MPs claim the cost of, or make a contribution to, decoration displays to the outside of their constituency office?
No, the Scheme does not allow for this type of claim.
Decoration displays are normally provided by local authorities and/or community groups, and this is not considered a parliamentary cost.
Can MPs claim the costs of presents/certificates relating to a competition (for example, at a school)?
If an MP wants to run a competition with a parliamentary purpose then a low-value prize may be made available for the winner of the competition, for example, sweets, chocolate, or a certificate.
It is not expected that public money would be used for a high-value gift.
Can MPs organise a toy donation drive or similar promotions?
Toy donation drives or similar charitable activities are not considered parliamentary in nature. The cost of advertising or other associated costs is not allowed under the Scheme.
Letter from IPSA Chief Executive, 24 November 2022