MPs do not receive £160 a week grocery allowance

9 October 2023
What was claimed

MPs have an allowance of £160 a week for groceries.

Our verdict

This is not correct. MPs do not receive a grocery allowance, though they can claim up to £25 for food when they have to spend a night away from their constituency or London due to their work as an MP.

A post widely shared on Facebook claims that MPs are entitled to £160 a week as a “grocery allowance”, while the “job seekers allowance weekly rate” is £71. 

The post is a photo of a placard featuring text which says “MPs weekly grocery allowance: £160

Job seekers allowance weekly rate: £71

Let’s target the real scroungers”. 

There are multiple inaccuracies within this post. MPs do not receive a grocery allowance, though if they spend a night away from their constituency or London as part of their work as an MP they can claim £25 for food and non-alcoholic drinks.

The post also relies on old figures for the rate of Jobseekers Allowance. Currently, two types of Jobseekers Allowance exist—the legacy benefit income-related Jobseekers Allowance and the New Style Jobseekers Allowance. Both pay claimants up to either £84.80 or £67.20 a week, depending on the age of the claimant. In 2013, claimants of income-related Jobseekers Allowance received up to £71.70 a week. 

Since Universal Credit began replacing the old income-based Job Seekers Allowance, many people who are unemployed receive support through Universal Credit instead. The amount they receive depends on their personal circumstance, such as whether they have children or whether they are unable to work for health reasons. But it will likely be more than the £71 outlined in the Facebook post, which appears to be based on Jobseeker Allowance figures from a decade ago. 

The figures in the Facebook post have been circulating on the internet for over ten years. Full Fact has written about misleading claims and misconceptions about MP expenses and pay before. We often see these types of claims spread widely online. False or misleading claims about politicians have the potential to affect people’s opinions of individuals, parties or how they choose to vote.

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What can MPs claim for food?

MPs are able to claim expenses connected to their work as an MP, such as the costs of running an office, employing staff and some travel costs. What MPs are allowed to claim for, and how much they’re allowed to claim, is set by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), an independent body that regulates business costs for MPs as well as deciding the salaries and pensions of MPs and their staff. 

IPSA confirmed to Full Fact that MPs can claim expenses for food and non-alcoholic drinks when they stay overnight at a location that is neither their constituency nor London, if they have travelled for parliamentary business. This is a maximum of £25 per overnight stay and MPs must provide evidence for their purchases. This is the only subsistence cost that IPSA allows to be claimed. 

Rules on what food expenses MPs can claim have changed over the years. Previously, MPs could claim up to £15 reimbursement for an evening meal (excluding alcohol) if Parliament was sitting beyond 7:30pm, MPs could claim £25 a night for food (without having to provide receipts) if staying away overnight from their main home, and MPs could claim up to £400 a month for food (though this is still less than the Facebook post’s figure of £160 a week). 

How much is Jobseekers Allowance? 

The Facebook post claims those on income-related Jobseekers Allowance are paid £71 a week. In 2013, those who received Jobseeker’s Allowance and were over the age of 25 received up to £71.70 a week. This amount increased the following year. 

New applications for income-related Jobseeker’s Allowance have not been permitted since Universal Credit was introduced, but claimants who remain eligible still receive it. Those who receive this benefit and are over 25 receive up to £84.80 a week in 2023/24.  New Style Jobseekers Allowance is for those who are unemployed and looking for work, or those who are working less than 16 hours a week, and meet certain criteria such as having paid National Insurance contributions in the last two years. It can be claimed on its own or alongside Universal Credit. 

People can claim it for up to six months and the amount an individual receives depends on their income from part-time work or a pension. The maximum weekly amount for over 25s is £84.80 and for those under 25 it is £67.20. 

Universal Credit has been replacing income-based Jobseekers Allowance since 2013. If an individual doesn’t meet the criteria for contribution-based New Style Jobseekers Allowance, they can still receive support through Universal Credit.

It is means tested, so the amount people receive depends on their individual circumstances, such as if they’re single or in a couple or if they have children. 

The standard allowance for someone receiving Universal Credit who is single and under 25 is £292.11 a month. Universal Credit is £368.74 a month for someone over 25 and single, around £85 a week.

Claimants receive extra money depending on their circumstances, such as if they have children or a health condition or disability. If someone is on Universal Credit and unable to work for health-related reasons, they could receive an additional £390.06, which means their weekly benefits payment would also be more than the Facebook post suggests.

Image courtesy of Stevebidmead

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