MPs play host at House parties

WHAT do the Helicopter Club of Great Britain, the SPL, the British Humanist Society and Scottish Widows have in common?

The answer is they have all held receptions or other events hosted by Edinburgh or Lothians MPs in the House of Commons.

No taxpayers' money is involved – the costs are met by the organisations involved. But the plush facilities at Westminster are only available if a member agrees to sponsor the function.

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Details of thousands of lunches, dinners and receptions hosted by MPs at the Commons since April 2004 were released after authorities abandoned attempts to block a Freedom of Information request.

Out of the nine Lothians MPs, Edinburgh North & Leith Labour MP Mark Lazarowicz hosted the most events, with a total of 22.

He said most of the functions were in connection with his role as chairman of the all-party parliamentary group on debt and personal finance.

They included receptions and dinners for organisations including Citizens Advice; APACS, the trade body for banks, building societies and card-issuers; and National Energy Action.

Mr Lazarowicz said: "Our group meets with consumers and industry representatives to discuss issues of debt and finance, which are obviously important, and I am happy to host these events at Westminster."

Edinburgh South Labour MP Nigel Griffiths hosted 13 events, including two dinners for the Helicopter Club – Mr Griffiths is the only MP with a helicopter pilot's licence. His Linlithgow and Falkirk East colleague Michael Connarty hosted 11 events, while Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett had three events to his name, and East Lothian Labour MP Anne Moffat one.

The rules on how MPs could book the reception and dining rooms, most of which have views across the Thames, were clarified in March 2007 after a complaint that they were being used by Tory MPs for fundraising events.