Taxpayers fund MP language lessons

A Conservative backbencher who took Hebrew lessons costing more than £600 is among nine MPs who received foreign language training at taxpayers' expense in the last financial year.

The £676.80 cost of Grantham and Stamford MP Nick Boles's Hebrew instruction was disclosed under Freedom of Information Act rules.

Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt spent £702.00 on Mandarin lessons, according to official figures.

A House of Commons spokeswoman said the House approved funding to enable members of Parliament to "learn a foreign language or develop existing skills in accordance with their parliamentary duties" in July 2001.

Provision is understood to be arranged by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with other MPs also taking up language lessons since they were introduced.

The MPs listed for the financial year 2011-12 also include: Joe Benton (Spanish) £1,008.00; Edward Leigh (Italian) £1,417.45; Tony Lloyd (Russian) £342.79; Emma Reynolds (Spanish) £651.00; Linda Riordan (Spanish) £630.00; Dame Joan Ruddock (Italian) £924.00; and Joan Walley (Spanish) £129.00.

In a statement issued by his office, Mr Boles said: "Language instruction is a service available to Members of Parliament. I took some Hebrew lessons."

It is understood Mr Boles has an Israeli partner.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "Nick Boles has abused this taxpayer-funded perk in order to make conversation around the breakfast table a little easier."

He added: "If MPs want to learn the language of a foreign partner then they should pay for it themselves, not expect taxpayers to pick up the bill."