Friday, May 08, 2009

Darling & Hoon Are the Two Most Serious Cases

OK, I have now just ploughed through the nine pages of coverage in the Telegraph. It's a curious mix of the outrageous and the pedestrian. You get the impression with one or two of the Cabinet Ministers that a story has been manufactured out of very little. But for most of them, there are questions which need to be answered, and I am afraid that the stock answer of "It was approved by the Fees Office" or "It's within the rules" is simply not good enough.

Take Geoff Hoon, for example. As far as I can see, there can only be one explanation for the quadruple redesignation of his second home. And the reason can only be for financial gain. Similarly with Alistair Darling. They played the system. Apparently they even have a name for it. it's called "flipping", as in flipping between your main home and second one. You spend money on one, then redesignate it so you can then spend money on the other. And it's all within the rules. Nice, eh?

It always used to be the case that an MP's second home was the one they used while in London. Even then, the allowance system was abused, but at least it was clear which home was the second home. Nowadays, MPs can choose, which also means, they can change their minds, seemingly at will. Jacqui Smith is a blatant example of this, but following today's revelations there are clearly others - Gordon Brown among them. No doubt there are many Conservatives too, as we will no doubt find out in the next few days.

It is very easy to define what constitutes a main home and it shows how broken the system is that one MP's definition can be completely different to another's and they are still within the rules.

Looking through the different examples cited by the Telegraph I think the following need further explanation...

  • Gordon Brown's decision to redesignate his second home
  • Why did Gordon Brown pay his brother for cleaning bills?
  • Why was Geoff Hoon allowed to redesignate his second home four times?
  • How can Peter Mandelson justify billing the taxpayer for £3k after he resigned as an MP?
  • Several Cabinet ministers seemed to have bullied the Fees Office into submission.
  • Would Jack Straw have discovered his council tax error if it hadn't become apparent that these things would be published?
  • Why did Hazel Blears claim for three properties within twelve months?
  • How can Alistair Darling justify his "flipping" of properties?

I am not making a party political point out of this as I have absolutely no doubt that over the next few days Conservatives, LibDems and MPs from minor parties will be shown to have done similar things. So yes, we can all condemn and be outraged. And we all are, especially those of us who try their hardest to defend politicians and politics as a noble cause. So yes, condemn, get it out of your system, but then think how best to change the system and try to restore some sort of order.

There are two simple reforms which could be made immediately. Ban MPs from claiming food costs. You can only eat in one place. Secondly, ban them from buying any furniture or fittings for their second homes. They would then each get a one off £5k grant at the beginning of their parliamentary career, or a similar grant once every five years. They could then only claim for rent/mortgage interest and utility costs.

We can all think up different solutions, but in the end it is Sir Christopher Kelly's committee which will be tasked with doing so. I do wonder if they have the resources and capability to complete the task, though. The three political party representatives have withdrawm from the committee on this issue, but surely the committee needs to call on expert advice from serving politicians.

We are about to enter a very murky few days for the reputation of politics.

Still, plenty to talk about on my radio show tonight! I'll be posting details of how you can take part later on.


Wrinkled Weasel said...

Any one who is interested. Gordon did an interview on the Patti Pravo show and "answered" questions about expenses, and other things.

Anonymous said...

I hope I'm not just kicking a man when he's down but what most annoys me about Gordon Brown's cleaning bill is not the fact that he paid his brother it's the fact that he could claim it at all. In what other walk of life can we claim our domestic cleaning bills as our "expenses". Most people clean their own homes as Iain has pointed out. If you want a cleaner instead you pay for it. Not me or any of the other taxpayers.

Lord Snooty said...

"I am not making a party political point out of this as I have absolutely no doubt that over the next few days Conservatives, LibDems and MPs from minor parties will be shown to have done similar things. "

So we can look forward to a detailed analysis of Tory expenses claims in the next few days? With a list of questions Tory frontbenchers have to answer? I look forward to it.

Pilgrim's Progress said...

Evan Davies demolished the "within the rules " line on the Today programme.

Putting responsibility onto the fees Office is a shoddy disgraceful act.

Flabbergasted that a Chancellor can avoid his own Tax and think it appropriate.

House flipping is endemic, undermines the true purpose and justification of the allowance and has now been exposed to the light. It truly stinks.

Anonymous said...

There's another problem here which is how do they deal with the mass of complaints there are going to be over the coming weeks. MPs probably won't be reporting each other, but that won't stop members of the public complaining to Sir John Lyons, who has hardly proved himself to be the most effective Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards so far. Given it took him over a year to deal with the Brown and Spelman complaints, and he is still looking at Smith and McNulty, he won't be able to deal with complaints against Hoon, Darling, and Blears - as well as the others we will learn about in the next few days - before the election. That means either careers will be destroyed over allegations that turn out to be unfounded, or people will get away with egregious fraud.

In anticipation of this I think the Commissioner should be allowed immediately to appoint two well-qualified deputies to handle complaints in their own right. Second Philip Mawer is you like (I'd like to see Elizabeth Filkin back but that isn't going to happen). Otherwise we will be looking at reports from the Standards Committee stretching out into 2011.

Little Red Riding Hood said...

What really riles me is MPs who have substantial private incomes claiming for every last lightbulb and cushion cover. Have they never heard of public service?

I can't see that people like Shaun Woodward, David Cameron or George Osbourne have any business claiming anything.

Anonymous said...

'So yes, condemn, get it out of your system, but then think how best to change the system and try to restore some sort of order.'

The system is NOT the problem. The problem is the pigs IN the system.

Politicians are meant to be 'honourable'. And, many moons ago, I have no doubt, most were. But now?

Please Iain, you can't see the wood for the trees. Stop trying to defend the indefensible.

Dave said...

The whole system stinks. Can we not get 646 residents of Her Majesty's Prison to swap places with out MPs?
I suspect they'd be more honest than the lot we've got.

Anonymous said...

Big non event, and now we are getting desensitised by all the expenses shit.
Just get on with governing ,how much time is wasted fiddling , non fiddling , worrying answering questions , having meetings, talking to Jurnos - all on expenses.
As you say its endemic and there are actually some who don't over do all of this claiming. May be around of applause for them - oh I guess that's not news

Jim Millen said...

There's any number of options available to sort out the details of MP's expenses. The bigger problem for me is the lack of clarity about the fundamental principles at stake.

Why can't they just state "Expenses claims for MPs should under no circumstances be a source of profit to the individual concerned." - no exceptions.

Then anyone found to have violated this basic principle could face censure. Seems a lot simpler than complicated and loophole ridden rules...

resurgemus said...

I think your title should read "Darling and Hoon are the two most serious cases - for the moment"

It will be interesting to see how the MP couples, Balls\Cooper, Wintertons, Robinsons etc. have managed their expenses.

As for the Speaker you just know it will be one of the worst with whining weasel words as the defence

RfS said...

The only real reform will be not allowing them to claim on a second home and get them to live out of hotels. I stayed 5 days a week at the Premier Inn in County Hall when I worked in London. Only just cheaper over the long run than the £24k a year allowance but they will have no asset at the end and a few people will have had their wages paid.

Also there needs to be an overhaul of the Fees Office. While MPs are top of the pile they will continue to turn a blind eye to this fraud. The Fees Office should have Met officers sitting on it and automatic charging of suspects when fraud has been suspected.

I defraud my employer expenses system I get fired, maybe go to jail and am unemployable. Maybe MPs should try living under that system?

Plato said...

What makes me so depressed Iain is that two of those I considered to be 'good' guys have been banged to rights.

I honestly though Ms Blears and Mr Darling had a shred of decency - they talked more honestly about the crap we are in - Mr Darling as far back as last year in his imfamous holiday intv.

Shows me that even those who appear upstanding are in it as well.

I agree that a few of the stories are literally paper thin but to be frank, I would trust a word those people said so it has had no impact on my perceptions of them.

wv piker - porcine biker perhaps?

Flemingcrag said...

You wonder how many of these "creative expense claims" MPs have made on second homes would pass the following HMRC test;


When you consider that ordinary people have to pay taxes on the gift of a Christmas Turkey or Company provided Tea & Biccies.

How does a Government Minister get to claim stamp duty on a second home as a work related expense? Surely the profit he makes when he/she sells that property reimburses him/her a hundredfold !!!

Unknown said...

I think some of the small details are the most damning. No MP needs the taxpayer to pay for Sky TV. No MP needs a fancy telly costing £700. These claims clearly reveal an attitude of wanting to milk the taxpayer for the nice things many of us would like but which normal people have to spend their own money on.

Whatever the rules said, I think people who could make these claims are unfit for office.

Faceless Bureaucrat said...

"Take Geoff Hoon, for example. As far as I can see, there can only be one explanation for the quadruple redesignation of his second home. And the reason can only be for financial gain."

Hoon by name, Hoon by nature...

Cinna said...

I remember years ago being sent away to work by the company I was working for at that time. After two weeks my expenses were stopped and I was paid a fixed, weekly subsistence allowance.

That amount was niggardly even then. It was made worse by the fact that the taxman got on my case. I had to satisfy him that I wasn't actually profiting from this "subsistence."

It galls me that these people are milking the system and justifying the fact by claiming "it's all within the rules." It strikes me that much of this borders on fraud, particularly "flipping."

A few weeks ago Harriet Harridan was harping on about "the court of public opinion." It seems to me from her recent appearances on television, trying to spin this away, that she has scant regard for the court of public opinion.

Be aware that the court of public opinion has rumbled you, and you have all been found guilty!

Lord Snooty said...

Shame that piece of scum, Derek Conway, isn't still around to entertain us with his grotesque greed. Still, no doubt some other MPs will oblige. Looking forward to reading the details of the Wintertons' claims!

Paul Burgin said...

Am obviously rather angry about all this, but what is even more galling is that what will likely happen electorally speaking, is that many people won't vote, and that can lead to all sorts of murky consequences. Plus if the Daily Telegraph were making a party-political point it was not a good move, as you yourself pointed out, it will lead immediately to areas where the Conservatives and Lib Dems have been foolish at best, arrogrant and corrupt at worst

Red Riding said...

I expect it nearly makes you cry, Iain, to see how much money MPs can make for doing nothing. No wonder you've been so desperate to become one.

Jon Harvey said...

What about:

1) Making all MPs work from one home in their constituency - so they could vote remotely on bills going through parliament - and do the rest by email / teleconferencing

2) Making anyone who who holds public office have to publish their tax & income affairs and expenses for all to see

3) Requiring MPs to submit a tender when standing in an election - along with their manifesto - so that the electorate can choose the best value for money candidate

But more seriously, what about:

4) Electoral reform so that very far fewer MPs would feel 'safe' and all be subject to rigorous accountability to the electorate (unlike now where first past the post effectively ensconces a large number of MPs in 'safe seats)

5) Require all MPs to have an AGM where any constituent can come and call them to account for their expenditure (the MPs would have to publish annual accounts, achievements, attendance at the House / votes etc)

6) Start making the rules less detailed and more ethical principle based. I like the idea of 'you cannot make a profit' for example. In society we are racked with guidance on this, risk analysis here, 38 page forms there, page 456 of the procedures manual says this etc etc etc.

Kavanagh QC said...

@Carl Gardner

You're absolutely right about things like claiming for Sky TV. Why on earth does that count as 'expenses'? On that basis, surely it would be no more ludicrous to claim for alcohol or prostitutes? Surely no-one's done that...

Lord Snooty said...

It seems obscene that MPs can buy second homes with our money and then reap the profits later on. They get a handsome enough salary, can they really not afford a cheap B&B or budget hotel for a few nights a week (and Parliament only sits for less than half the year)? Or else maybe small student halls-of-residence type accommodation near to Westminster ought to be provided (basic style - bed and a desk in a box room).

Unknown said...

There is a very simple solution to this. What does HMRC allow as tax deductable expenses for an employee who requires additional accommodation to do their job? I would suggest that it is both clear and restrictive. As an example, when travelling on business, despite all the health advice, you cannot claim the cost of using a gym.

Richard T said...

There are a couple of points that occur to me -
Generally: claiming expenses is not compulsory. Not one of the 640and odd had to claim anything. I have no problem with the traditional definition of reimbursing reasonable expenses necessarily incurred to do the job so that rules out every claim for the main residence. Anything else is screwing the taxpayer.

specifically: I'd like to understand how Jack Straw could have mistakenly claimed council tax. It's on the bleeding bill and he would have had to copy it off to make his claim.

I hope the Telgraph dissects all the mileage claims from south east MPs; there's abuse to be found there too.It's like Eric Pickles travelling 37 miles from Brentwood to Westminster; the Inland Revenue won't allow ordinary folk to claim home to work tax free and every business journey claimed must be by the shortest route.

Stuart said...

What about abolishing the communications allowances and using the money to send every registered voter a receipt-by-receipt breakdown of what their MP has spent over the last year?

MPs could also include in the mailing a personal report, the claims in which must be independently audited.

The bleach of transparency needs to be flushed through the system.

Mirtha Tidville said...

The present salary of an MP is £64,766(ministers getting more of course).....If they cant manage to buy their luxuries on that kind of money then they should resign, and go back to real world and try living on a lot less!!!!!

I dont care what the rules were they are a shower of greedy, useless, hypocritical barstewards....

It`ll be a cold day in hell when they next get any respect from me.

A plague on all their houses

Blaad said...

I appear to be missing th epoint completely here.

How can Brown claim for a cleaner at his flat when he was residing at 11 Downing St (at our expense)?

ps - wv cheating b*****ds (Honest guv)

Mark M said...

The answer is simple. Change the expenses to the same rules as private companies expenses.

Hotel rooms if necessary, and travel costs to and from London. If people in the private sector can deal with it, so can MPs.

You'll be surprised how many Outer London MPs find they can commute every day when they know they have to stay in a Premier Inn if they don't.

Philipa said...

An MP's dormitory is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

The BBC are doing their best to give New Labour's ministers the benefit of the doubt but this time it's futile. Things have gone just too far now.

strapworld said...

Brown certainly has one question to answer and that his payment to his gardener!

The Telegraph tells us he paid the gardener £1.500 for the year!
=£4.11p a day!
(.51375pence an hour)
£28.85 a month

If he only did the garden for six months of the year
=£8.19 a day!
(£1.025 an hour)
£250 a month.

Is there not something called the minimum wage that Brown keeps harping on?

Seems he does not practice what he preaches!

Anonymous said...

When it comes to the designation of second homes, I've always thought the simplest way of deciding would be the smaller of an MPs two properties to be their second home, wherever it is. So if MPs choose to be based in London (like the Ballses) they can have a small constituency home. If they choose to live in the constituency they can then get a small flat in London. Simple really.

Nikostratos said...


Iain is saying yes we know the Torys are just as bad but we would rather give that story a miss.
So please could we move along and not dwell on issues such as a Tory M.P claiming £19000 for his swimming pool.

Iain how does your Blog survive 'IF' the conservatives win the next election and you are unwilling to criticise or Blog them on any wrongdoing?

Iain Dale said...

MrM, you really area prat. There have been countless occasions when I have criticised the Tories on this blog. So far the Telegraph hasn't published anything on Tory politicians. Why don't you wait and see what I say when they do. Idiot.

Who is this Tory MP who has claimed for a swimming pool? let me know when you find out, won't you, and I'll happily comment.

Francis Horner said...

If the opposition parties are serious about re-establishing respect for Parliament the should be using the "bringing the party into disrespect" clause that they hopefully have in their rules and ruthlessly chucking out / de-selecting MPs who have flagarently abused the system, even if it is "within the rules".

That way they limit the damage to their own reputations and leave the government even more exposed.

Lord Snooty said...

I think Mr M is making a fair point. And calling him a 'prat' seems pretty discourteous, Iain.

Anonymous said...

Iain Dale,

Unusually, you are missing the point.

The principle of 'second homes' is quite wrong. MPs simply need lodgings - hotel, club, whatever - for which they should have to produce receipts to show they were lodging to attend parliament and not lodging to go to the opera.

Thats News said...

Why is it that they max their expenses?

This is why I think they do it

Fantana said...

Plus the fact that apparently we are subsidising the bastards to the extent of £5.5 million a year through House of Commons dining.

Paul Halsall said...

I am beginning to think this is just a huge hoot to the business community.

Total possible expenditure on 646 MPs at #24,000 pa is just over #15 million, much of it probably justified.

Meanwhile the Bank of England announces its buying up another #50 billion, and no one is discussing it.

Meanwhile bond-dealers are taking their percentages.

Dick Puddlecote said...

They could then only claim for rent/mortgage interest and utility costs.Drop the mortgage interest from that unless they are going to repay a proportion of the equity on leaving office. Why should our taxes be used to enrich their property portfolio?

Anonymous said...

There has clearly been a lot of exploitation of allowances here, but what about the Fees Office? Shouldn't it be censured for its relaxed attitude to claims? If it let through porn films, one wonders whether it ever disallowed anything.

wolfie said...

Order - order

The Rt Hon Chancellor for the Parliament of Public Opinion.

We have today passed an emergency budget in respect of the deapening crisis in our country. It has come to our attention that virtually most of the MP's of all parties have been milking the expenses system, albeit loosely within the rules, to feather their own nests at tax payers expense.
The best way of handling the situation as it now exists would be to disolve parliament and call a general election with a new set of rules for the new intake. However as this government is determined to hang on to the bitter end I am today announcing a "windfall troughing tax" to be backdated for the last 7 financial years all monies claimed as expenses shall be subject to this tax at the rate of 95%.

This will come into effect from midnight tonight.

I commend this to the court of public opinion

Richard said...

"Gordon Brown's decision to redesignate his second home"

You've got them in the right order - this could be the one to finish off Brown.

It's a deliberate, considered, planned action designed purely to increase his expense claims. No justification for it.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this 'Big Bang' release is that it 'hides in plain sight' some of the most egregious examples of 'graft'..

The 'flipping' is a case in point. That would have merited a whole day's newspaper coverage in itself.

But the worst from my point of view is that a 'main home' can differ for Council Tax, for Capital Gains Tax and for Second Home Allowance - this is blatantly a fiddle and absolutely disgusts me !!!

How can you tell one story to the Revenue and Customs, another to the local council, and another to the 'Fees Office', if you are staying in a 'Grace and Favour' home and have a London flat ??

Anyone doing this should give up the right to be called an 'Honourable Member'.

If people like Ed Miliband, Hilary Benn and Alan Johnson can submit claims which are reasonable and can be justified without Clintonesque legal defences, why can't everyone else ??

The thing that annoys me more than even this is that if the BNP end up doing well in the Euro elections the troughing politicos will end up blaming the 'meeja' for eroding trust in politicians and the political process, rather than seeing their own behaviour as the source of the problem.

As for the party political slant, well, yes 'They've all been at it' - but surely the Government are the ones who promised they'd be 'purer than pure' and who have had the most power to resolve this situation; surely the 'buck stops with them' ?

Jabba the Cat said...

As Guido points out, the silence from the opposition parties on this issue is deafening.


Because they are all at it. A bunch of thieving hoons, the lot of them.

Anonymous said...

Blaad 1.46 - You need to read the Telegraph article, and the scales will fall from your eyes...

The greedy blighter was NOT living in Number 11's 'grace and favour' flat [possibly because Tony Blair and family were living there, and he couldn't stand them?] and so despite there being spare space somewhere in Downing St, he was claiming to live ELSEWHERE in a flat at taxpayers' expense...

As I say, the problem with the 'big bang' is that there is an awful lot of information coming out on one day, and it will take a weekend of reading to fully take in and digest just how incredibly rapacious the troughing has been..

Richard said...

Yes, MPs from out of London need somewhere to stay.
No, they shouldn't make a profit from it.

Going forward, there should be a few Parliamentary hostels to give them each a hotel-style room, about half an hour's Tube journey from Parliament. That's all they need; the Commons has the office space, restaurants, meeting rooms etc.

But what about the greedy piggies who have already had their mortgages paid, getting their property investment subsidised by taxpayers?

One solution - when they lose their seat, any property on which they have claimed the mortgage interest as an expense should be sold back to Parliament at the price they paid for it. It can then either be used to house their successor, or sold to help buy the MPs' hostel.

p smith said...

A separate point but one which is probably more relevant than most of today's prattle:

Given that it is now tacitly accepted that it is acceptable for civil servants with a political agenda to leak whatever information they deem fit, is this good for government and is it something that the Conservatives will be happy to accept or seek to quash, once they are in power.

This is not intended as a justification for this tired government rather it is a perfectly serious question. My concern is that if ministers cannot confide in the civil service, effective government may well become near impossible. Forget expenses, imagine a Tory government is planning a radical overhaul of the NHS or the education system or the welfare state (hard to imagine I know). If plans are leaked and sensationalised, true reform will be rendered extremely difficult.

Paul Halsall said...

@That's News

To be fair, most people, working for ANY organization which has an expenses system will maximize what they can claim legally.

That's just how we are. (I put id down to "original sin" myself).

Anonymous said...

Iain, clearly there are a large number of points being made in the Telegraph, and you've highlighted about a dozen.

But I would select the point about all these claims made for £ 249 to get below the threshold where a full invoice would have been required.

If an expense had been legitimately incurred, however extravagant, then 'fair enough'.

Or if the expenditure incurred was over £ 250, and they knew they couldn't claim the full amount, then whilst that is 'a bit naughty' we will let that pass for the moment.

What I want to know is - if Hon. Members were simply inventing claims for work which had never been done, that surely is prima facie a case of fraud ? The rules merely say that 'an invoice is not required' but they surely are there to re-imburse expenditure which has actually taken place.

If MPs are lying about this, then it is not a case of saying 'the rules are wrong / not worded well' - the MPs are clearly guilty of the 'common law wrong' of 'obtaining pecuniary advantage by deception' ??

Anonymous said...

I do think that we can forgive the PM the luxury of a cleaner! If it emerged that he spent 2 or 3 hours a week doing the hoovering, we would be shouting 'hasn't he got anything better to do'!

However, was the bill for when he was living in Downing Street - which I presume has cleaners!?!? if so, what was he claiming for.

I think Hazel Blears has some awkward questions to ask.

The only real solution is to ban the ACA and pay MPs more. Failing that, define the London home as the second home, pay rent or mortgage interest only, and then pay a modest annual amount toward furnishings/maintainence etc which can only be claimed with a receipt.

J H Holloway said...

As we all write, I understand that they are beginning work on a new series of 'The Thick of it'.

How can the fantasy keep ahead of this reality?

Chris Paul said...

By far and away the biggest problem in this whole sad malarkey - as invented by Thatcher M as I understand it - is the ownership of properties and the ability to keep them and pocket capital gains on reselling.

This is the greatest fault in the system IMO.

Hoon and Darling being examples of people using this.

Every worker who gets a pay rise or gets reappointed or a promotion is fairly likely to take the opportunity to trade up their home. That's what we all do from time to time as family increases or people leave the nest or we can afford a greater mortgage or we get a windfall.

These people have a job. They need to have two bases in most cases. They have a very generous set of T and C and a very generous expenses regime. They mostly get stuck in to that as people do in the private sector and in their own businesses.

And what's more contrary to the spin from TPA etc the rest of us do not have to reveal all to the public, just a certain amount to the tax man.

As you say there will be equally bad and I'd guess far worse from Labour back benchers. And from shadow figures in both main opposition parties.

The Telegraph have stretched the facts to the limit and beyond and the secondary reporting is pretty careless.

Andy Burnham for example wasn't pushing for more with a clear joke about a divorce threat, he was just trying to get a more timely payment.

Gordon wasn't paying his brother to clean his flat.

Hazel only owned one place at a time, not as implied.

Dougie Alexander is not an arsonist.

Mandy simply mended the roof while the sun was shining.

It's all pretty thin. Nine blooming pages of stretching and innuendo.

We must surely expect some great delights from the Tory MPs. Hence a rather low key response to the DT stories. And I do hope Clegg, Huhne and some of the provincial Lib Dems look right when dragged into the light of day.

Anonymous said...

MPs need some tips from Kirsty Allsop about living and buying frugally.

Claiming food is appalling. The 'flipping' of residences is just criminal.

MPs are peripatetic. There is a need for a second 'home' or flat. Its fair they should get some recompense for this. It does not cost a fortune to simply furnish a small flat.

Life can be tough for an MP - job uncertainty being constantly under scrutiny travelling researching debating. Believe it or not I have sympathy for them. they have been arsed around with their pay. If the electorate ae not careful they will throw the baby out with the bathwater.

But the 'flipping' like Brown and Smith and others have done is just plain fraud. Some Conservatives may be caught out as well, but this is the govt for Gawds sake.

yellowbelly said...

Iain, the solution is simple. No MP who lives within a 90 minute commute of Westminster needs anything other than a rail season ticket.

Other MPs don't need second HOMES. They have one HOME in their constituency, and they need somewhere to STAY whilst in London.

A hostel providing one bedroom, lounge, bathroom & kitchenette would suffice, owned by us, so no need for any claims by MPs, and no undeserved windfall profits on eventual resale as at present.


Now, about Trident not being a WMD...?

Anonymous said...

I have just read in a side bar on the Telegraph site that 4 soldiers have been killed in one day in Afghanistan and I belive one yesterday.

What in gawds name are they fighting for?

I have been worried for a long time that a sudden death toll was inevitable - this is not it, bad though it is. We face a big problem in Afghanistan and all our leaders can give us is this shambles

Unknown said...

Just came on the news that the police had ben called in on the matter.

'Oh good', thinks I, 'there's going to be some prosecutions'.

Then (of course) the announcer went on to say, ' investigate the leak of the details'.

I'm amazed that I was caught out for that millisecond.

Unknown said...

Sorry to disappoint you, Anonymous (3.25pm) but obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception wasn't a common law offence. It was enacted by s16 of the Theft Act 1968, and has now been repealed by the Fraud Act 2006. Anyway, it wouldn't have covered these circumstances.

I think the legal question is whether any of these claims amounted to fraud under the Fraud Act 2006. I doubt it, to be honest. The fact that these claims were "within the rules" isn't an effective political defence, but I reckon it does mean the claims were not dishonest in legal terms.

Martin said...

They are all SCUM. Gordon Brown's brother sounds like as much of a tosser as the one eyed idiot.


Have MP's no shame?

The police called in to investigate the leak.


Cjamesk said...

All parties will be damaged by this just wait for the home allowances for the NI assembly in particular Sinn Fein.

This as i posted last night will hurt the "grass root" Labour voters more and thus steer them towards the BNP.

Although I cant help but think there is a hatchet job being prepared for tomorrows Telegraph.

DC and Clegg need to get in quick and either release their expenses or pre-empt the damage and deal with it quicker and more efficiently than ZaNu-Labour.

Mark Griffiths said...

I began my career as a lawyer, working for a government department. In the mid-90s I was seconded from my branch up North to fill in for a colleague who was on maternity leave.

This was a pretty high-powered post (I was still keen in those days), and involved dealing with some sensitive issues which are still covered by the OSA.

For six months, I lived in London during the week and spent weekends at home.

On my Civil Service T & S ("travel & subsistence"), I was able to claim for a modest one-bedroom flat in South-West London, and one 1st class return ticket each week for two months, after which I had to travel to and from London 2nd class.

I paid my own commuting expenses whilst in London, food, light, heating, laundry- you name it, none of it could be claimed on expenses. In the meantime, my wife was living in our Northern home, and we didn't notice much in the way of savings on our utility bills etc.

The whole six months secondment probaly meant I was out of pocket to the tune of a few thousand quid, but I didn't mind; I was doing an important job, being paid pretty well, advancing my career and the rules were the same for everybody.

Question: why can't Parliament adopt a similar system? What makes MPs so vastly different to the average worker bee? Why have they been allowed to designate a special status for themselves? Anybody?

Dave H said...

OMG! Now I've seen it all!

The Mail (yes alright) leads with the same politicians & corruption story.

Amongst the many commenters expressing outrage and disgust, one ends:

"...If these allegations are confirmed to be true, then it is very shameful Mr. Prime Minister.

- Alasholuyi Charles, Lagos, Nigeria,
8/5/2009 13:37"

Well done Gordon.

The Polemicist said...

This is the prime minister who urges the world to take action on tax havens. This is the government that forces tax advisers to inform HMRC of perfectly legal tax avoidance schemes.

Yet when it comes to them they have 5 havens and we pay for all of them, and then use every trick in the book to avoid us knowing what shifty scheme they're in to.

What a wonderfuld system. We pay in as much as they can suck out of us and they take out as much as can get away with. And they care for the working classes, do they?

Anonymous said...

here is the solution

No Society said...

i believe you to be a man of substance, though politically biased. There must be nothing more important when, as one would expect, tory indiscretion is revealed and i sincerely hope that your credibility will equally expose that particular party shame. Keep up the good work meantime

Anonymous said...

Dave H - that is a classic !!

Well spotted, sir !!

Unknown said...

I can't believe the Speaker has called the police in. To investigate what offence? Misconduct in public office, presumably. Or else theft. Anyway, it's just the same as Jacqui Smith's decision to allow the police to be called in on Chris Galley and Damian Green (a decision she's never properly answered for). An outrageous abuse of the police, when the leaks threaten no security interest, but merely politicians' desire not to be embarrassed.

The Speaker should be stopped.

Nikostratos said...

Bit of a misprint there...bit of a hurry you know.......

one Tory grandee charged £98.63 for a service on his swimming pool boiler at his country home.

Iain no need to be so rude...

David Lindsay said...

Gordon Brown's cleaner, blah, blah, blah.

The widest incomes gap since the Sixties.

Child poverty targets simply scrapped.

Four British soldiers killed in Afghanistan in a single day.

And absolutely no difference between the parties.

Which there isn't: the Tories' "do nothing" economic policy would by definition translate into "change nothing" if they moved from Opposition to Government.

It was not worth holding the last two General Elections, and it is not worth holding the next one.

Anonymous said...

Telegraph reportedly planning to do the shadow Cabinet on Monday
James Forsyth , Spectator 4:19pm

Anonymous said...

"It's in the Rules"....
According to the newspapers, David Miliband tried to claim for a pram and baby essentials (astonishingly, that claim was rejected); a male MP claimed for buying Tampax, and another MP claimed for cat food.

All essential expenditure to allow them to perform their Parliamentary duties, no doubt.


Come on you lot. Someone must know if the PM was living in Downing Street or his gaff when we paid for his cleaning.

Anonymous said...

coming back to the 'pecuniary advantage by deception' theme..

Looks like the shit is really hitting the fan with this...

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Carl Gardner, ah but the irony is that Tony McNulty may have the rozzers on his tail as well..

Still, it would make it easier for the cops as all their investigations could take place under the same roof..

Westminster could become a 'one stop cop shop'...

Sorry !

peter_dtm said...

In Britain we (used to) have Common Law. Common Law expects reasonable behaviour; the Law is for guidance.

On the Continent they have Napoleonic Law; Napoleonic Law is prescriptive and defines by rules what is allowed.

Common Law is under increasing attack from the EU (it is incompatible with Napoleonic Law). It expects YOU to think and take responsibility for your actions.

Let's see; who wants to join the EU - who have already transferred their allegiance ? Who have already subverted Common Law ?

'The Rules allow it' is the excuse of an unreliable immoral un-British traitor. Under Common Law they KNOW what they do is wrong ! Under EU law its ok 'cos its 'In the Rules'


peter_dtm said...

Isn't the publication of this information just following the Court's findings on the attempt to hid them ?

Doesn't who ever handed the goodies over have a defence of obeying a Court decision ?

The government were TOLD by the court that it was illegal to not publicise the expenses list. So well done good and law abiding Civil Servant; he (unlike our current government) seems to be aware that the Government is SUBJECT TO THE LAW - the whole lot of them must have been in contempt.

So I presume the Police must be investigating who exactly prevented the publication of the details after the government LOST their court case.

copydude said...

Iain. I think you have it wrong here.

Harriet Harman is pleading on TV that Derek Conway is the most serious case.

But to ordinary people, of course, a scam is a scam. And to the law as well, stealing 5p or 5000 pounds is stealing.

Harriet even goes on to say that we are not as corrupt as foreigners. As if that excuses anything.

Could you imagine Berlusconi in a TV interview claiming that he is not as corrupto as Signora J Smith? She is clearly mental.

Greed is greed and abuse is abuse, no matter what the rules may say. The public see that and the Government doesn't get it.

The truth is, everyone in Government knew this was a scam and it could have been ended years ago. Or by tomorrow. Every single private sector firm has a workable expenses system. The Inland Revenue has clear directives on allowable expenses, And the Government itself has introduced new laws every 4 days since it has been in power - laws for other people - so this could have been sorted any day.

But meanwhile, it has spent a year in the High Court trying to fight any disclosure on expenses and another six months censoring receipts.

This quarter, Britain lost more jobs that any of the 27 EU countries. There were record numbers of personal bankruptcies, record numbers of people losing homes and record numbers of distressed at the Citzen's Advice Bureau.

So. The only other argument Harman has, 'because we're worth it' , hardly sits well at this time.

All MPs are tarred with the same brush. But only the Government could have done something about it and chose not to.

Adrian said...

There I was, thinking there was no point in wasting time and money on new parties at the forthcoming elections. Now it seems the fringe candidates will have a field day.

Unknown said...

On obtaining pecuniary advantage, Anonymous, either the police have no idea what they are doing or they're simply quoting a complaint from a member of the public who's out of date on the law.

Here's what the statute law database says about section 16 of the Theft Act; here's the
repealing legislation.

Joe Public said...

........."but surely the committee needs to call on expert advice from serving politicians."


The committee needs to call on expert advice from the Taxpayers who fund such extravagances.

Anonymous said...

Carl Gardner - Quoting the law is good - but the trouble is, these shysters think they're 'above it' !

I hope you will be phoning in to Iain's show this evening - things could get lively...

Take care...

Anonymous said...

It's completely disingenuous for MPs to say that their claims have been "approved by the Commons authorities". MPs employ these "Commons authorities" who are, after all, merely civil servants. Are the civil servants seriously going to make life difficult for their own bosses by refusing the bosses' claims? Of course not. It would be more accurate for MPs to say "our expenses claims have been approved by our underlings."

Anonymous said...

All MPs should be provided with furnished lodgings only.

Furnished by the MoD to the same specifications as servicemen's accommodation.

Roy said...

Why aren't people coming forward to request police investigation of the more serios cases. How do we get that to happen.

ed said...

Those ministers who have access to grace and favour homes provided at taxpayers expense should have to use them (unlike J Smith) and should have no other accommodation paid for (unlike apparently Mr Brown).

Maybe the test should be that those things which would normally be paid for out of taxed income by other mortals should never be able to be claimed for.

Anonymous said...

In the spirit of the age why not outsource expenses approval to a randomly selected FTSE100 company and get them to apply their internal rules to MP's claims?

A dose of reality would be a useful reminder to the Honourable Members (as if!) of how far from the straight and narrow their behaviour has strayed.

Richard T said...

Have you got the hole in Squeaker Straw's story yet? How could he have claimed his council tax without seeing the yearly bill? As the bill would be for the abated amount, how could he have made a mistake in making the claim?