MP Beckett to make changes after getting in a jam on her congestion charge claims
DERBY South MP Dame Margaret Beckett has been criticised after paying her London congestion charge fee annually at taxpayers' expense when it would be cheaper to pay by the day.
But the politician said the payments were down to not being fully informed on the subject and that she would change how she forked out in the future.
Latest figures for MPs' travel claims in the 2011-12 financial year show that Mrs Beckett claimed back £2,520 from the taxpayer for paying congestion charges.
Technically this would be enough to pay for 252 days of travel in London, when Parliament only sits for about 150 days a year.
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But Mrs Beckett said the payment had come about because she had paid her congestion charge bill without realising more flexible payments were possible.
A Transport for London spokeswoman website says that, by registering online for £10, people can pay a discounted congestion charge of £9 per day, and that it would have been the same in 2011-12.
This would mean Mrs Beckett could have paid £1,360 for a year had she travelled to London on official business only when Parliament was sitting.
Mrs Beckett said: "We didn't use our car in London until 2010.
"Congestion charges had been around for a long time but we weren't involved with them until then.
"I asked what we could do to pay and we were advised we could pay for a whole period so we were covered.
"We paid a congestion charge for a year. I now discover that a more flexible system is in place.
"Nobody advised me there was an alternative way to do it that would be cheaper.
"That's what I will do in the future as soon as the money I have paid for the current period has run out."
Derbyshire Dales MP Patrick McLoughlin, now Transport Secretary, was one of the top claimants for overall travel expenses.
In 2011-12 he claimed £7,223 to use his car and £4,301 for public transport, including 39 first-class train fares.
A spokesman for Mr McLoughlin said: "All of his expenses claims are fully compliant with Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority rules."
Robert Oxley, campaign manager for the Taxpayers' Alliance, said Mrs Beckett "not understanding the system" was a poor excuse.
He said: "MPs' expenses are meant to support them in their role, not write them a blank cheque for things like the congestion charge.
"Margaret Beckett should have got far better value for her taxpayer-funded expenses.
"While he might not have been Transport Secretary at the time, the size of Patrick McLoughlin's claims will still go down poorly with commuters stuck on overcrowded trains and motorists feeling the pain at the pumps."