Monday 25 February 2019 2:17 pm

Revealed: Cancelling Commons' recess cost taxpayers £400,000 - and MPs didn't even vote on Brexit bills

An extra week in parliament for MPs to tackle Brexit cost taxpayers’ £400,000 – yet no bills relating to the UK’s departure from the EU were voted on.

City AM has learnt the decision to cancel last week’s parliamentary recess meant the Commons coffers were hit from cancelled tours, extra staff payments and postponing building works.

Read more: May refuses to say if ministers will be sacked if they vote to delay Brexit

When Leader of the Commons Andrea Leadsom announced the week-long recess – scheduled to begin February 18 – was to be scrapped, she said it was because the public wanted to see MPs “continue to make progress at this important time”.

Yet the extra week saw no Brexit bills before the Commons, even though legislation relating to trade, agriculture, fisheries, immigration, financial services and health all need be rubber stamped by the time the UK leaves the EU – even if there is no deal with Brussels.

A Cabinet source said important Brexit related work was carried out during the week on a more technical level that still needed input from MPs.

Labour MP Nic Dakin, who uncovered the figures, told City AM: “Cancelling the recess was a costly political stunt.

“No significant votes took place and with many days finishing early in the previous month the business could have been managed effectively with better business management.

“£400,000 may be an underestimate of the cost of cancellation – all money that could be spent on health, education or other public services.

“Frankly this Conservative Government would find it difficult to organise a celebration in a brewery let alone negotiate a satisfactory way out of the EU.”

Read more: Businesses, here's your no-deal Brexit survival guide

The figures show that £90,000 was lost from cancelled tours of the estate; £10,000 was spent on staffing; while the cost of postponing planned building and maintenance work is between £200,000 and £300,000.

Lib Dem MP Tom Brake, who provided the information as a representative of the House of Commons Commission, said in his answer: “There may be additional costs that cannot yet be quantified and there may be additional income from catering as the estate will be busier than expected.”

While no primary legislation was voted on, secondary legislation to help get the UK ready for Brexit was put to MPs, including a number of statutory instruments recommended by the European Statutory Instruments Committee for upgrade to the affirmative procedure. 

A Cabinet source said: "Legislating for Brexit doesn’t just happen via primary legislation, but through critical secondary legislation too – which is exactly what the Commons debated and approved last week. It is right that parliament sat last week, at an incredibly important time for the country."