Christmas Illuminations on the Champs-Élysées kick off holiday season in Paris

MPs can now expense costs associated with their Christmas parties and the optics are awful.

According to guidance from the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) which was first reported by the Daily Mail, food and drink can now be expensed as long as it isn't alcohol.

Lights, tinsel, and a tree can also be expensed because "festive decorations" are covered by the guidance.

However, MPs have been told to be mindful of the cost of living crisis and any claims "should represent value for money, especially in the current economic climate".

The news hasn't put people in the Christmas spirit. Trade unionist Howard Beckett sad: "MPs can now claim Christmas parties & decorations on expenses. 130,000 children will wake up on Christmas Day homeless. This isn’t a fair system."

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Campaign group Best for Britain said: "Taxpayers will fund MPs’ Christmas parties for the first time. During the worst fall in living standards since records began in 1956. While families are panicking over how to put food on the table this Christmas."

Some MPs have already expressed their disapproval at the plan. Labour MP Jess Philips said "no-one asked for this, no-one I know will use it", adding it was "really irresponsible" of IPSA to publish the guidance "as if MPs have been clamouring for it when I've literally never heard anyone do that".

She tweeted: "I will throw a Christmas party for my staff, it will be in my home where I will cook and pay for all of the food and drink. Once again I reiterate that there was no clamour for this from MPs and it's stupid."

Another Labour MP, Chris Bryant, added: "I don't know of a single MP who asked for this or intends to use it. It is totally inappropriate and I shall certainly not be taking it up."

The shadow minister Sarah Owen also criticised the advice. “No one I know asked for this. No one I know would use it. It’s wrong,” she tweeted.

“MPs (some more than others) will always be targeted for abuse and violence, as part of the job. But idiotically irresponsible decisions like this make that more so, despite us having no control or say over it.”

And the SNP's Stewart McDonald called it an "absurd" ruling from IPSA, calling on the body to reverse the "universally unwelcome" advice.

Anum Qaisar, another SNP MP, said: “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.”

Speaking on TalkTV, senior Tory backbencher David Davis said the watchdog had "missed the mood of the age" and the advice was "bonkers".

"There are lots of things we have to spend taxpayers' money on in terms of providing offices and services and so on," he added. "I'm afraid Christmas parties seem to me a bit of a strange pick, particularly this year of all years."

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