MPs Spend Thousands of Tax Pounds on Learning Languages

MPs spend thousands of pounds of taxpayers’ cash to learn foreign languages

TORY tycoon Jeremy Hunt is using taxpayers’ cash to learn Mandarin – after marrying a Chinese woman.

Mr Hunt, who earns £134,565 as a Cabinet minister on top of his multi-million-pound personal fortune, wed Lucia in her home city of Xian two years ago.

Since then Tory louse, who paid himself a near-£2million bonus from his publishing firm Hotcourses last year, has spent £2,527.93 on language classes funded by ­Westminster authorities.

Tipped as a future party leader, he is among a number of politicians who have taken advantage of an extravagant Commons scheme that has cost voters a six-figure sum over the past five years.

Private lessons from tutors who visit the Houses of Parliament are a perk of MPs’ £65,000-a-year job. Taxpayers were landed with a bill of £110,279.58 by 39 MPs who took classes in 11 languages, ranging from French, Spanish and Italian to Arabic, Sylheti and Urdu.

Westminster officials forked out another £28,416.36 for lessons of their own. Details were obtained by the Mirror under freedom of information laws.

Some lessons were conducted by personal tutors, others at a Foreign Office-run language school, which has been closed. MPs who stood down at last year’s general election were among the big spenders.

Former Tory minister Michael Jack used £4,768.77 from public funds to improve his Italian – before then retiring to run a Tuscan vineyard.

Shamed Lib Dem Mark Oaten, who announced he would be standing down after it was revealed he visited a rent boy, ran up a £4,035.94 bill learning French after the scandal broke in 2006. Ex-Labour minister Sion Simon spent £10,269.90 on Italian classes and another £185.06 on French.

David Drew and Martyn Jones, other Labour MPs who stood down last year, spent £4,690.80 on Arabic and £6,704.72 on Spanish respectively in the two years before the election.

Fraser Kemp, Tony Blair’s fixer who also retired from Parliament, spent £6,341.61 on Spanish classes. Former Transport minister Stephen Ladyman who fought and lost Thanet spent £7,065.24 learning the same language.

Among serving MPs, Tory Daniel Kawczynski and Labour’s Mark Lazarowicz forked out £540.50 and £1,300 each on lessons in Polish – their parents’ native tongue.

Labour’s shadow justice minister Andy Slaughter is among those who have taken part, spending £6,930 on Spanish classes.

Shadow transport minister Jim Fitzpatrick spent £1,000.22 learning Sylheti, which is usually spoken in Bangladesh.

Spending peaked in 2009-10 with MPs using up £37,257.15.

A spokeswoman for Mr Hunt said the language lessons had helped him with his work when he welcomed the Chinese PM to Britain earlier this summer.

But Labour MP John Mann, who led a crusade to end the scandal of MPs’ expenses, described it as “totally unacceptable”.

He added: “Working people feeling the pinch will be astonished that these MPs still don’t get it.”

Taken from The Mirror: 27.08.11