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My shirt's hairier than yours

Nick Robinson | 10:03 UK time, Wednesday, 13 May 2009

With her typical style and willingness to fly in the face of received wisdom, Ann Widdecombe warned this morning of the dangers of a "my shirt is hairier than yours" competition between political leaders who want to prove that they're more sorry and more willing to force their colleagues to pay back money than their rivals.

Ann WiddecombeHer interview on the Today programme and those with two MPs' wives are well worth a listen. They capture well the sense of frustration that many who work in the Commons feel about the firestorm they're living through.

It is that competition that lies behind a dispute about whether the prime minister has oversold the decision of a cross-party Commons committee to set up an independent investigation into all MPs' claims for the past four years.

He spoke as if a deal had been done. I understand that it has been in principle but the practicalities have not been agreed.

Commons officials are still examining whether it will be possible to retrospectively identify claims which "did not conform to both the rules and the purpose for which the allowance existed, and which ought to be repaid". They will report back to another meeting tonight. It may prove easier said than done.

In any event, much has now been agreed between the party leaders on which they could not previously agree.

• The allowance for second homes will now be limited to bills - ie rent, mortgage, council tax and utilities. They will be barred from claiming for furniture, white goods and fixtures and fittings

• Home "flipping" will be stopped - MPs will have to say which is their second home at the beginning of each Parliament and stick to it unless their personal circumstances change significantly

• MPs selling homes won't be able to avoid capital gains tax by telling the taxman one thing and the Commons another about which is their second home

What remains at issue is that Labour wants a cap on the amount that can be spent on mortgage interest payments and the Lib Dems are arguing that MPs should repay any gain they make by selling a house which the taxpayer bought and did up.

There is no agreement on these yet.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Hi Nick,

    Looks like GB has made another announcement that will not be delivered.

    See you in the pub.

  • Comment number 2.

    I heard the interview with the MP's wives. I don't doubt that their husbands are completely honest and I can even have some sympathy with them. I accept that MPs need to have London accommodation.

    But they still seem to fail to understand somewhere along the line. Austin Mitchell's wife talked about "smears". These are not smears. They're facts.

    Worrying too, that she talked about "even Nick Robinson" and "even Evan". There's a mindset here that BBC journalists should be supporting rather than criticising the system. From what I've seen and heard of Nick's coverage, I think I can see why.

    Whose side are you on?

  • Comment number 3.

    What's the news on Balls-Cooper and the speaker getting an injunction to prevent the Telegrapg publishing their expenses, as is now being rumoured on blogs?

    Have reporters asked Balls-Cooper whether ibly one claimed for the second property, after the issues with designating first and second a few years ago?

    What about the difference between us mortals and MPs. We get penalties or jailed following milking the system and they can just repay after flexing the system?

  • Comment number 4.

    Is Gordon going to pay for his cleaner now? That is the big question of our times!

  • Comment number 5.

    It is only a few days ago that the PLP was advising MP's to be not contrite, I take this quote from Andrew Neil's blog [in case the moderators object]

    "It would be easy for the public to gain the impression from this [media] coverage that MPs are generally claiming excessively or outside the rules laid down by Parliament, which is not the case."

    It does show the hypocrisy behind all of this.

    Paying the money back is fine but a shadow has been cast on their judgement.

  • Comment number 6.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 7.

    They're still trying to slip in the main problem with the whole system - mortgages. This still allows them to make capital gains on expenses. If you can get a free mortgage paid by the taxpayer, what incentive is there to prevent over-heated housing booms from dragging down the rest of the economy?

    The other more insidious problem of obtaining non-executive directorships also seems to be slipping by unnoticed.

  • Comment number 8.

    The scale of Labour troughing is in a league of it's own. The repayments dwarf ethose in other parties:

    £40K from Phil Hope
    £13K from Blears
    £20K from Moran

    No comment on repayments from mega-troughers Alistair Darling or Hoon yet and we haven't even heard about Ed Balls antics yet!

    If Labour Ministers and MP's pay back all that they should, Gordon is going to have to ask the Bank of England to increase Quantitive Easing.

  • Comment number 9.

    Nick, having just read some of your blog on this matter i'm appalled.

    This is a scandal and you're treating it like a trivial story. How much is your salary and how much do YOU claim in expenses? I don't trust you any more than i trust "them".

    We always knew they were "at it" and your levels of access should have meant you'd have more knowledge on this than you're displaying.


  • Comment number 10.

    I fail to understand how only a few days ago all claims were made within the rules. The rules were there to facilitate anyone to become an MP, its an expensive business and often two homes are required to do the job we are told.

    Yet, many MPs seem to have tens of thousands of pounds lying around in bank accounts that they can pay back in an instance any claim they feel now may have been unjustified.

    So were we being lied to about the need for such a generous expense system or are these grand gestures of repayment not all they appear to be at first?

    Either way, I am still of the opinion that ANYONE feeling the need to pay back any money now should stand down and call a by-election, let us decide if your worth the money.

  • Comment number 11.


    at last well done for tieing down the PM last night about was the new review of Past expenses a response to Camerons media initiaive...

    you pressed and pressed and got the golden nugget....

    No it was not due to cameron, someone else had suggested it to PM (pass the buck) and then the nice golden statement

    "We have been thinking about this for days".... or similar quote...

    Hes been "dithering" again over what to do....!!!

    WOW - well done nick at last you land a punch....

    And anyone note that Hazel states "I decided to payback" and repeated the "I" several times... more knives in her bosses back - not "we" or "PM" recommended.... it was an "I" decision... ouch poor PM.


    at last progress.

    This is just not game changing... how many MPs are now safe - are even Tory MPs now safe...

    Also can you please have word for Vince Cable....

    0 claim for Seconds Home (he commutes on train) ...

    the man is a GEM!!!!!!!!!

    ITs not all about the BAD - find the good tooo

    The good (Vince, Hoey )

    The Bad (Speaker - booo)

    The ugly (this left as excercise for the readers....)


  • Comment number 12.

    why oh why are they trying to make it so complicated (unless to confuse the electorate) why not make Mp's just like the rest of us..we incur expenses in the pursuit of our job and claim back according to HMRC is that too difficult, i think a lot of the anger from taxpayers is due to the "one law for them and another for us"... make it a level playing field and everyone will be happy!

  • Comment number 13.

    At least they are talking about doing something but, what is happening meanwhile?
    Have all current expense claims been 'frozen' in the interim pereiod as Gordon tells us?
    Will any decision reached by the auditors be retrospective?

    Yes Nick, there is a hair shirt element about all this. I just hope we're not paying for those shirts..... or the hair!

  • Comment number 14.

    A problem with the LibDem proposal is what happens if the MP loses money on the sale of the house? This is quite possible in present conditions and if the taxpayer is going to take any profit, it would only be equitable if the taxpayer took any loss. This suggestion, like much LibDem policy, has not really been thought through.

  • Comment number 15.

    Dear Nick

    Whether there is agreement or not on an independently audited review of previous claims, this proposal if agreed could help provide the public in general and Labour Party members with a benchmark against which to judge sitting MPs already selected to stand for re-election.

    The logic is explained here:

    I have applauded those Labour MPs who have examined their conscience and appear to have done the right thing - an independent audit could help validate such actions if undertaken pdq.

    Peter Kenyon
    member, Labour Party NEC - constituency section

  • Comment number 16.

    I am student and could in a some what odd sense make an analogy between myself and and a sitting Westminister MP. I have two homes; my main constituency home (AKA, my parents house) and my London home (AKA Halls of Residence), could the Commons not do the same as me? Why not build a block of private flats, each flat contains 5 MPs who all get en- suite bedrooms with a single bed, a work desk and broadband connections. They would share a communal kitchen between the five and have attached a small lounge area with a TV. A maintenance and security team would be on had 24-7 to assist them with any problems, all at the cost of £90 per week or £4680 per year, which comes to £3,023,280 for all 646 MPs including the PM and central London ones. Furthermore you could even have mixed party halls, to encourage social interaction and the sharing of ideas.

  • Comment number 17.

    And there it is. The knee-jerk overreaction that has always been the real risk in this whole affair: "They will be barred from claiming for furniture, white goods and fixtures and fittings". A totally unnecessary and unfair step too far. And when I say "unfair", don't think of all the current greedy lot - it's tempting to want to do unfair things to them because they've been doing unfair things to us. But that's just childish and counter-productive. Instead, think of the MPs of the future who are decent and honourable people and who have done nothing to deserve unfair treatment from us (if a decent and honourable MP sounds too far fetched, remember that it is entirely up to us who we elect to parliament next year).

    MPs with constituencies outside of reasonable commuting distance/time of parliament need a second home to do the job. I don't think anyone disputes that. If I decided that my MP had been on the take and I wanted to challenge them for their position on a platform of rather more honourable and responsible behaviour, I would expect "flipping" to be banned and I would not expect to dodge capital gains tax by telling the tax man one thing and parliament another. But I wouldn't expect to be hit with the bill for furnishing my second home (obviously I don't mean marble bathrooms and extravagant chandeliers and the like - just normal, reasonable living facilities). That's not cheap and it's an expense that only exists because of the job, so is therefore a perfectly legitimate business expense.

  • Comment number 18.

    Gordon Brown gave the task of coming up with sensible proposals for the remuneration of and expenses for MPs to Sir Christopher Kelly.

    So all the twaddle about "I want that ", "No, we want this" is a waste of time. If you appoint an independent body, it is quite wrong to then engage in childish squabbles about what you want him to say.

    By all means allow input. For the moment, what we need is an investigation - conducted in a fully transparent manner - by HMRC, to determine whether known expenses actually paid (and practices executed) give rise to taxable amounts to be paid by MPs.

    No club is allowed to create rules that avoid common or tax laws. Indeed the Green Book does NOT say that any allowances claimed and paid are free of potential tax liability.

    If the Commons has given any direction to HMRC to cast a blind eye at allowances, this could only have been done with the connivance of the Treasury. If such tacit arrangements exist, they are corrupt and should be exposed. Anyone involved with such an arrangement should be fired - and taken to court.

    Let's hope there will be sensible arrangements for the future. And cleasn up the mess from the past.

  • Comment number 19.

    ...well , I dont know , what the problem is . The clue is in the title : MP= more please !!!

  • Comment number 20.

    This is a lady, and I use the term in the real sense of the word. Anne Widdecombe has decency, a strong sense of what is right and wrong and religious beliefs which inform her behaviour. In fact, she has all the qualities which are mocked and derided in today's Britain. I wish she was prime minister of a coalition government of similar thinking men and women. Impossible, because with the exception if Frank Field, the rest of the politicans are knaves and greedy clowns.

  • Comment number 21.

    No bill, no mortgage repayments, no rent, just Premier Inn or Travel Lodge hotel bills for single room only. Train fares second class advanced purchase only. No lunches, no dinners and no breakfasts as they would normally have these. Come to that why not make them live on the national minimum wage or sell the big issue as a second job - make them do something useful!!!

    And while we are about it: why do BBC TV presenters earn more than MPs - how about a root and branch reform of remuneration in the country. A national maximum wage / unearned income, above that 100 percent tax!!!! See what I mean there needs to be a little balance!!!!

  • Comment number 22.

    If the rumours that certain persons have got injunctions to prevent revelation of their expenses are true, they obviously don't the same view we are all expected to accept that "If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear"

  • Comment number 23.

    For me the issue isn't so much about the claims, as the fact that this was a cynical system devised to enable what was being done to be done! MPs deliberately removed themselves from the tax laws that we other mortals are expected to live by. Any honest person who interferred was persecuted, Ms Filkin being but one classic example
    What especially sticks in my craw is that for over a decade I have had to listen to Gordon Brown spout on about paying our Fair Share of tax as he squeezed my pension, then my company expenses and loaded me with a tax burden it is hard to shoulder. The Revenue have introduced scheme after scheme to target small business, schemes relating to so called Income Shifting and IR35. IR35 in particular is a pernicious rule that is aimed at removing as much tax from a Contractor falling foul of its rules as possible. A law where a mythical contract is drawn up by the tax office to determine a contractor is a disguised employee, and he is then stung for the disguised employer's taxes, no identification of the said disguised employer, no attempt to get this Disguised Employer to pay his/her fair share. Sanctimonious Ministers have repeatedly refused to discuss this, their stock response being 'We must all pay our Fair share of Tax'. Brown and co have striven to associate people's right in Law to minimise their tax bill by 'Avoiding Tax', with the illegal 'Evading of It'. In order to ensure MPs did not fall foul of the Tax Evasion laws, they simply wrote themselves out of the legislation. Now THAT is the crime for which they should all pay as far as I am concerned, and it is for that that I believe they should be kicked out of parliament, no reprieve by 'paying back'. Quite simply it is time that they were required to obey the same tax laws as ourselves, and probably any other laws that they may have placed themselves above. Our Public Servants need to be aware that they are just that, not our Masters, and a clearing out of the Commons, followed by a reform and clearing out of the Lords is now a pre-requisite of progress. A simple step would be to require a written Oath by all Politicians to accept only travel and accomodation expenses and then backed by a receipt, and whilst we are at it, any MP who fails to attend Westminster for a minimum number of days, would be kicked out - Messers Adams and McGuiness would then find they had a choice to make between their principles and their expenses.

  • Comment number 24.

    I think what this whole affair also shows is that the public are sick to the teeth by the blame game that goes on at Westminster and on the airwaves between parties.

    For far too long now the media and the politicians have lived in a bubble where back stabbing is seen as far more important than policy and arrogance is the only qualification required for promotion.

    I normally have little time for AW's politics, but I think she is often right in her opinions about parliament itself. The rush to outdo each other with apologies is quite frankly sickening.

    Even more appalling is the ease that so many of the "outed" politicians will be able to pay back these expenses; it beggars belief that someone who can afford to simply right a cheque for thousands needed to claim in the first place.

    Politics should and HAS to be a vocation - and I think for a few MPs that is indeed the case.

    But I think for MAJORITY it is nothing more than a vehicle for their egos and their wallet. They are no better or more qualified than us that post on these and other blogs. Nothing more that an inflated balloon of pointless opinion.

    The waffle and rubbish should be left to us who thankfully have little influence - the weighty responsibility should be in the hands of those who are of the calibre to serve the country who pays them.

    I have seen only one who fits the bill in recent times; Vince Cable, and I am not even a Liberal supporter! (This is when the next issue of the Telegraph shows I am wrong about him too!)

    How do we fix this? Changing the way expenses work will nail the politicians down a bit, but it does not solve the problem. We still have a country being run by people who believe that it is their right to get the tax payer to clean their swimming pool. The fact that we will no longer let them claim for that does not change who they are.

    And these receipts only scratch the surface. This is just the last 4 years during a time where there has been concern about the system publicly raised. What about the previous 4 years, or 10 years even? How much of our money has been poured into the pockets of people who NEVER deserved the vote of the British Public.

    And then the most difficult question of all:

    Where are the people who CAN do the job of and MP, and do it for the right reasons. Where are the politicians that the public deserve?

  • Comment number 25.

    IMO a general Election is what is required let the people decide who they now think is telling the truth about what they have "inadvertently claimed"

    Home flipping should never have been allowed under the present rules.

    Its sole purpose is for financial benefit to the claimant

    MPs selling homes won't be able to avoid capital gains tax by telling the tax man one thing and the Commons another about which is their second home.

    This is fraud of the highest order and should be an easy case to prosecute they have after all signed to say what they were doing.Paying back after the fact should not nullify the offence it should be an admission of guilt.

    IMO the rules should be changed over the summer period with holidays suspended and parliament sitting until they get agreement ,after which an election should be called,and the peoples court can decide who is worthy to represent us.

    The whole political system needs massive overhaul to prevent this ever happening again and the next Parliament should be committed to seeing this happen all parties can include the detail in their manifesto's.

    We have to get back to local people representing us in parliament who know our own areas and problems and will fight to get the best for the voters,rather than the Jobs for the boys career politicians who are in the majority in the system at the moment.

    10 years of labour Government have given us the most corrupt and untrusted set of politicians in our recent history if action isn't taken now we will end up having a revolution in this country.

    It would have been nice if the whole of the Euro MP's claims could be published before their elections so as we can see who is working the system there because i am absolutely positive it will be even worse than what we have already seen.

  • Comment number 26.

    What you're failing to report is that the only reason that Brown has "agreed" to changes is because Cameron decided off his own back to force repayment by his own MPs and that that was such a logical/reasonable decision with such massive public backing that Brown had no choice but to follow Cameron's example.
    You and the BBC are reporting this as if this was all Brown's idea; it wasn't; it was forced on him by Cameron's actions.

    As for the question "can dodgy claims be forced to be repaid restrospectively?" - the answer is plainly yes, because regardless of what's mentioned in the rules, at the end of the day the rules have always said that expenses are only allowed for matters essential to doing the job; it's that caveat which has always been in the rules (and in tax laws) that means that retrospective payback is not just possible, it's actually legally mandatory, if it's not paid back then it's fraud.

  • Comment number 27.

    The debate about 2nd homes is silly. MPs can rent. This takes away the need for bills allowances as landlords will have to repair boilers, provide furnishing etc. Apparently it costs £200/week to rent a 1 bedroom flat within walking distance of Parliament. So make the maximum £10,000/year indexed to rent inflation. The alternative would be "MP's digs" whereby parliament owned a number of rooms/properties MPs could use. If this were cheaper it should be considered. But £22,000/year for housing expenses is clearly far too excessive.

  • Comment number 28.

    One easy rule, any home you claim for may only be in your constituency or within x miles of Westminster. This also applies for travel claimed. Travelling to and owning a home that is not at least in the vicinity of your constituency is simply not action taken in pursuit of one's parliamentary duties.

  • Comment number 29.

    I think that you missed a trick Nick, and the spectator is picking you up for once again not giving all the story

    ...and just to push it forward, this is what I believe the public want to be included in any deal co-opted by the Honourable Members

  • Comment number 30.


    When are you going to publish your expenses????

  • Comment number 31.

    The arguments made today about MP's not being affluent enough to furnish a 2nd home that the job "obliges" them to have is surely yet another hollow one.
    They surely just need to use the allowance to RENT somewhere that's already furnished.
    This would also remove all the maintenance/other charges.
    The big accountancy/consulting firms don't "buy" their staff houses - they either pay for short term overnight accommodation or pay for a suitable longer term place to rent.
    I would think 22K a year gives quite a broad choice int he rental market - even in Central London - and the argument that needing to live close to work is true of everyone - not just MP's - but we can't always achieve it.
    disgusted at this lot (all parties) - and given that no one actually had the chance to elect GB as Prime Minister surely an election is needed to clear the decks.

  • Comment number 32.

    There is a simple solution to the problems of the second home allowance. Just scrap it.

    MPs who live in/represent constituencies within the commuter belt don't need one. Parliament should then buy a number of flats and houses in London that are then allocated to MPs who need them. Utility bills are paid automatically and it gets redecorated for them every 4 years. A standard level of furniture would be provided, only being replaced when required rather than every time a new MP is elected.

    This provides them with the accomodation they need and avoids the taxpayer having to buy every new MP another home and furnish it.

  • Comment number 33.

    Junior health minister Phil Hope is to repay £41,709 in second home allowances after being "badly hurt"' by media revelations.

    How do you think we feel ?

  • Comment number 34.

    By the way... It has been suggested that any private individual with multi homes can simply tell HMRC which one is his/her "main home", when selling, so avoiding CGT.

    I don't believe that is true at all.

    I understand that HMRC require evidence that the home has been lived in for a significant period, to qualify as a genuine "main residence" before being flogged off. If this were not the case, then someone with 25 properties wanting to realise profits would simply nominate which everone he chose to flog next and pay zero CGT on a multi-million property portfolio. Don't think they'd go for that - do you?

    Send in the Tax Inspector rottweillers to root out those claims paid which are not incurred in furtherance of the performance of the role of MP. Then tax 'em. And issues warnings to any MPs who failed to disclose fully to the Tax Office that they will be jailed should any future breach occur.

  • Comment number 35.

    1. No furniture: are the MPs supposed to sleep in an unfurnished flat? This will lead either to purchasing new flats fully furnished or favour MPs who worked in London (and hence already have a property there) but have found a constituency in the Shires (and hence can purchase things more cheaply). This is NONSENSE. In the private sector, you can allow capital purchase of furniture and depreciation over 10 years. So furnish the place and allow replacement every 15 years, as they are only there 4 days a week. MPs are human: if YOU were a woman and a bloke brought you back to a spartan, stone-age hostel, would YOU want to bonk him? Eh????
    2. If MPs already own 7 houses, they don't need an 8th at the taxpayers' expense. They can RENT or use one of their multitude of properties.
    3. Until John McEnroe becomes a US senator, it is not necessary for an MP to have a tennis court in the back garden. End of discussion. Ditto Ian Thorpe and swimming pools.
    4. When are MPs supposed to do the garden? Oh, that's when they're having 'surgeries', 'attending local functions', all those things the media and the voters expect them to do. Perhaps the MPs should claim for floodlights so they can disturb the neighbours with the Flymo at 10pm on a Saturday night, eh? Could get the wife to do it, I suppose. That'd go down well with Tory grandees who expect wifey to constantly 'support her husband in his constituency duties', eh? Or how about getting a reprobate hoodie? Might find it didn't get done, or worse, they got their mates to burgle the place. Allowable expenses??
    5. CGT is where the line should be drawn. These properties were purchased in pursuit of the career, not from earnings. Hence CGT should be paid on sale and I'm of the view that further profits should be paid to the community. I trust the taxpayer, however, will take over the property if the MP is ousted and finds themselves in negative equity, eh?
    6. Upgrading a private property portfolio using flipping is totally out of order. No discussion. That's state subsidies gone mad. And they all know it.
    7. Giving employees tea and biscuits is normal behaviour. What's the problem? No tea and biscuits in the media ever again. And as for boozy Christmas parties on the firm: straight to the Tower of London.....and none of you are going to the footie on the firm either.......
    8. Running an office sensibly is core parliamentary business. I don't want my MP being a secretary. So they pay their assistants for that. Provided that their assistants do the job and aren't at University or on a gap year at the time.
    9. Eating: every human being eats in one place. You don't eat twice over, so there are NO allowable expenses there. Travelling to and from constituency: £30 a day allowance - and it shouldn't be claimed in full for most. How many Glaswegians still use the train, eh? Holyhead maybe. Pembrokeshire maybe. North of Scotland? Fly from Inverness.
    10. Travel in London: give them all a bloody Oyster for Zones 1 and 2. That covers all the mainline railways. All zones for MPs living in their outer London constituencies. Since we won't allow them an inner London residence too, will we? Or will we??
    11. Finally, allow HOC to organise a quarterly 'let your hair down' session. All well-run companies do it. It's called team bonding, team bonking and refocussing on the next quarter. Anyone who gets someone pregnant either pays for the abortion themselves or brings up the kid at their own expense..........

  • Comment number 36.

    Another by the way - then I'm off.

    Did Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper ask the admissions people at their childrens' schools for special dispensation for their children to attend, when they were hundreds of miles away from their "main home"?
    If not, they misled the schools.

    Or did they (quite logically) say their London home was their children's normal home? In which case they misled the Commons and should repay their "second home allowances".

  • Comment number 37.

    Hi Nick

    Your quote:

    'Commons officials are still examining whether it will be possible to retrospectively identify claims which "did not conform to both the rules and the purpose for which the allowance existed, and which ought to be repaid". They will report back to another meeting tonight. It may prove easier said than done.'

    When ia was writing on R Peston's blog in Jan/Feb this year about the 'sleaze museum' mentality/culture in Parliament/H Of L - who would have thought that the current MP's expenses fiasco would grow into a major scandal so quickly?

    I keep hearing MPs saying that it is the rules which are at fault (expenses - 'exclusive, wholly, necessary') but surely it is the House of Commons management who are also seriously at fault here for approving many of the claims. The exception being e.g. H Blears's tax evasion on capital gains tax for that is what is most surely is - When is H. Blears to be invited to resign as an MP and face trial? Presumably that explains the procastanations of the Speaker of the House?

    I think this all amounts to a conspiracy to defraud the taxpayer as effectively carried out by the House of Commons and MP's in the process?

    Would it be too cynical to suggest that the MP's expenses fiasco is the thin end of the wedge and the reason we do not see anyone getting a visit from the police is because of the same reason we do not see any bankers in the dock - the government have too many skeletons in the cupboard on peerages, bungs, favours, indirect political donations, non- exec board appiontments, jobs after MP's retire from Parliament, non-dom tax favours etc - not even mentioned the House of Lords - Whoaa! - The whole Shebang!

    Another point - I'm listed to your Radio 4 programme on previous Prime Ministers and their history in Parliament - Sleaze in Parliament - is nothing new it seems - an no matter how great and glttering a PM's tenure there is repetitive historic evidence of all types of sleaze - it goes with the territory. There is a bad elitist culture and is not unrelated to the banking sector crisis - I think that there are clear links and attitudes and in final analysis the responsibility for the banking sector fiasco also rests with MP's - particularly the Brown government.

    Parliament and House of Lords - let's face it - have been and still are a collective sleaze museum and we need a new system of participatory politics using new technology to deal with the question of wars, trident, EU memebership/enlargement/currency - we need more referenda(dums?) to deal with these issues and more than anything else we urgently need a general election.

    My idea of a new parliament would be a new institution based in e.g Liverpool, North East, Birmingham to separate parliament/HoL from the Financial City of London - the two institutions are currently far too close in every possible way.

    I hope, one day, in such a new parliament that the 'Speaker' will have a Brummy, Scouse, Jordie, Norfolk or Cornish accent - The whole system needs a proper shake up and radical reform as well as grace and favour appointments behind the scenes . Let's see some bankers and MP's facing trial - let's have some proper justice on this.

  • Comment number 38.

    I have to keep my accounts for 7 years to allow the Revenue to inspect. This can be done for the MP's as well all this bleating is doing them no favours, the wailing from the wives, the attitude of some in the Commons is diabolical , the speaker and George Foulkes to name two, just who the fig do these people think they are , WE pay their wages, they go to the toilet the same as us, pick their noses the same as us bin the lot of them.

  • Comment number 39.

    Why do they need another 'independent' panel to look at MP's expenses? Further massive costs to the taxpayer and a question about just how 'independent' any panel can possibly be.

    Why not use the final arbiter of expense payments already in existence?

    Her Majesty's Revenue and Customs.

  • Comment number 40.

    Far from taking a decisive lead on this issue, all Cameron has done by his action is to get up and dance when the media starts playing a tune. The media want to provoke someone into action by their expenses revelations, but it is very unhealthy for the UK when the media start thinking they can set Govt agendas. It was right that they expose this, but equally, it is right that MPs are not panicked into a reaction just to make themselves look good on the next day's front page. All the tabloid baying for blood (and they're ALL tabloids these days, even the 'quality' papers), is just typical media trying to amp things to the max to sell a few more copies of their tawdry rags. I don't respect Cameron for his actions - on the contrary, I think he's naive to be frightened into reaction by a few screaming headlines.

    We elect our MPs to run the country. Newspaper editors are not elected. Our esteemed members should occasionally remind the gutter press who is in charge. The expenses business needs to be sorted out for sure, but do it properly. Don't be harangued into a half-baked solution by the papers. The media ruin our kids, cloud our perception, and hold up a mirror to society that is warped and twisted. They do immeasurable damage in the name of profit and 'good copy'. We must not allow them to run our coutry as well.

  • Comment number 41.

    Hmmm, I'm detecting the outlines of a MP's 'business case' here.

    As in MP sits down with partner(s)and says 'Well, I've larged it big-time on the old expenses and now it has all come out. My majority in this constituency is not very significant so I may well be out-on-my-ear at the next General Election. Maybe if I come out waving the cheque-book there is a faint possibility that the voters will give me another chance. Which means that the initial outlay now would be more than recouped by another term in Parliament'.

    In my experience, you can never be too cynical when plumbing the motives of some people.

  • Comment number 42.

    Re the politicians wives comments on the Today programme. If it's all a load of 'smears' why did the party leaders ALL apologise. Politicians: You make your bed and you lie in it (No pun intended!)

  • Comment number 43.

    Where are we on Brown's tax returns before he was found out to be illegally subletting his constituency office. Did he declare the rental income in his tax returns?

  • Comment number 44.

    I thought Nick's reporting last night was quite bold - saying the PM had only followed Cameron's lead. Brown would not have like that ONE BIT.

    And to put that to the PM himself... good work!

  • Comment number 45.

    If the Westminster mafia think paying their illgotten gains back will make everything ok then they are insane as well as dishonest. And on the retro check why only 4 years ? Normal time barring is 6 years so what's wrong with using that period ? Roll on the June elections as it is all we will get as a chance to show our disgust. It would take a revolution to get a general election and have them all out.

  • Comment number 46.

    Conspiracy theorists (and I am fast becoming one!) will love the fact that after post number 9's (very fair) crticism of BBC's Nick Robinson no other posts have been cleared!

    However, that's not my reason for contributing a post. Rather I just wanted to express my disgust at the despicable behaviour of our elected MPs. I'm frightened to admit that I'm not a bit surprised! Is anyone? We all knew they were at it. Just imagine what Smug Smirker Hamilton was claiming back in the day!

    If I steal from someone, but pay them back when I'm caught, am I then an honest man? If I have rightfully taken money and am "caught" why would I feel the need to pay it back? I think we all know the answers.

    I remember many years ago hearing a joke that went "What is the collective noun for MPs? A trough". The wisdom of that "joke" is now clear to all.


    Parliament should be dissolved (What use are MPs any way? Did they save us from recession? Ha.) and a new assembly set up of honest, law-abiding, decent people who will look after the public interest rather than their own.

  • Comment number 47.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 48.

    I believe that Ann and other MPs should view the current trials as something they will all emerge from the stronger and the better.

    That those who hold such public office need to act to appropriate standards in all of their dealings is 100 per cent non-negotiable. If the implementation and enforcement of proper standards causes trial and tribulation, then so be it.

    Such dodgy expense claims as have been recently reported not only damages the individual MP or his/her party but actually damages both the House itself and democracy.

    In an extreme situation of voters' moral outrage backlash we could have an election that left us with minor representation from the current 'main' parties and a house full of extreme left, extreme right and Monster Raving Looney members. (Some would say that would be a good thing, but I don't agree).

    If MPs want to protect Parliament and democracy, then they need to behave in ways that don't threaten these things.

    It's not unlike the banking crisis where some senior bankers chose to keep on with their aggressive market domination practices even to the point that they not only caused the downfall of their own banks - or would have had they not been rescued by HMG - but nearly caused the downfall of the banking industry itself.

    So with MPs, failure to put in place reasonable arrangements - which everyone knows should have happened years ago - has much greater possible consequences and sequels than just a bit of inconvenience for members, or a few 'holier-than-thou' soundbites from leaders.

  • Comment number 49.

    Personally I'd have preferred Blears and Moran to keep their ill-gotten gains and resign instead of paying them back. Small price to pay for their departure.

  • Comment number 50.

    Hi Nick
    The taxpayer spent time at two dwellings. The High Court concluded that the sole or main residence was the home where the wife and family resided

    Is this ruling only for "peasants"?

    Join the revolt!

  • Comment number 51.

    A couple of points spring to mind with regard to the Telegraph's revelations. The first is that the public should not be in the least bit surprised that with some notable exceptions, we have such a rotten bunch of MPs. Look at how many of them voted in favour of our illegal attack on Iraq, when a little bit of independent research on their part would have shown that the reasons given by Bush and Blair were completely bogus. In spite of their protestations that they carefully considered the options, they were happy to go along with the herd. Once MPs become engulfed in the Westminster bubble they soon realise that the easiest way to further their political ambitions and stay on the gravy train is to keep their heads down and tow the line. Any MP, such as George Galloway who dares to question the establishment is quickly shot down by the right-wing press such as the Telegraph and the Mail.

    Appalling though it is that some MPs are fleecing the taxpayer, the sums in question are minute compared with the the money wasted on Trident, ID cards, invasion of Iraq, the Royal Family and bailing out the banks etc. If there has been an unwritten understanding that MPs pay is topped up with expenses to keep them on par with their European counterparts what difference does it make as long as there is a ceiling? What is far worse is that so many of our so called 'socialist' MPs have been complicit in making sure that our once public utilities stay in the private sector, lining the pockets of the avaricious at the expense of Joe public and that the financial and service sectors have been given preference over manufacturing industry. Papers like the Telegraph are happy to sneer at MPs but are afraid to tackle the real problems in our society for fear of upsetting their advertising paymasters.

  • Comment number 52.

    I listened to the "wives" radio interview and was not impressed. I now have absolutely no sympathy for them. One of them bragged about getting a more expensive flat near the commons to reduce travel costs because WE can walk to work.

    Hang on... do we have another "keep it in the family" researcher here? Is she on 40 grand like Saddo Smith?Who employs her? Was her post advertised in line with equal opportunities legislation? What qualifies her for the job?

    And another thing. The "wives" (or should that be "EmpWAGS" - MP's wives and girlfriends) were bleating on about how they MUST have a second home. WHY?

    WHY "MUST" they have a second home to do their job - when real workers away from home don't get this privilege?

    Let them stay in a cheap B&B. Or better still - a cardboard box near Kings Cross.

    Looks like the EmpWAG daughter mentioned in the interview, who warned mumsy not to go on radio to avoid making a fool of herself was spot on... Maybe daughter should go into politics. Having some sort of brain clearly comes in handy.

  • Comment number 53.

    When you tell the House the designation of your home is one thing and then tell HMR&C it is another, for a financial gain, that is an act of fraud. Ms Blears is guilty of this given she could not have stated her homes as having the same status, to both the House and the Taxman and still received the capital gain.

    To give it the cutsey title of 'flipping' should not detract from it's essential illegality.

    Has anyone made a complaint to the Police to instigate an investigation?

  • Comment number 54.

    "It was within the rules" has a disturbing resonance with "We were only obeying orders".

  • Comment number 55.

    Do we know how Hazel calculated the 13.3k?

    Did she include the gain incurred by someone else (the tax payer) paying for some of the work. And if she did did she treate it at 100% tax rate or at standard Capital Gains rates?

    If she did not claim it at 100% then she is due to write out another cheque for undeclaired Income Tax.

  • Comment number 56.

    There is far too much emphasis on this story now, there are a lot more items that should surely be of higher priority than this?

    Jobless figures released and more people are out of work, economy still retracting: the list goes on

    Every person agrees that MP's should be reimbursed for out of pocket expenses incurred during their work. I don't think anyone has objected to this? People are understandably upset that the rules have been bent (sometimes severely) but it's not the most important issue in the country right now!

    Even bloggers who are seriously oposed in their political views all agree that this is a cross party problem and most are agreeing on the same outcome: Give MP's expenses but keep them down to just what they need, and keep them transparent to the public - it's not that difficult. You could copy any large corporations expense rules to get a good solution

    I however think that there are more important issues to sort out first

  • Comment number 57.

    What ever they say about being sorry, etc etc etc...the simple fact is they were systematically and cynically on the take in the firm belief that this would be a permanent secret trough to feed from. They are only sorry because they have been found out.

    Cameron is in no position to lecture anyone. He has maxed out on his 'allowance' to claim for mortgage interest...£24.000 pa. (more than most people earn before tax).

    Leaving aside the fact that he could have rented a nice apartment in London for half this amount....what does it say about him? To me it clearly says he was working the system hard by buying an expensive property (heavily subsidized by us) to maximize capital appreciation.

    Let us hope that MPs don't succeed in clouding the real issue here.....most of them don't deserve their position ( unless we are happy to represented by people with these low moral standards).

  • Comment number 58.

    4. At 10:37am on 13 May 2009, gthebounceranddavincimaster wrote:
    Is Gordon going to pay for his cleaner now? That is the big question of our times!

    I would have thought that given Gordon has (at least) 2 Grace and Favour residences and has done so since being in Government over 10 years ago, why does he need a cleaner?

  • Comment number 59.

    Crash could have won the hairy shirt competition weeks ago if he'd had any sense of leadership by sacking Jacqui Smith and taking positive action to resolve the whole issue with Clegg and Cameron. Instead he threw his toys out of the pram and hoping it might go away. Now he's playing catch up and still not an original thought in his head. Go now Gordon and take Gorbals with you.

  • Comment number 60.

    Come on Nick - give credit where it is due.

    Cameron has left Broon for dead by coming up with a decisive plan of action, whilst Broon wrings his hands and does nothing.

    Why wont you admit that - that Cameron is a true leader, Clegg is making a good attempt and Broon is now so far behind it is an embarassment to have that man as the PM.

  • Comment number 61.

    To CommonScents:
    If you're going to the pub don't forgot to request a policeman to accompany you on the way back, another of GB's wonder-wheezes...

  • Comment number 62.

    Nick, Could you ask Ms Blears what on earth she is going on about?

    Apparently, she doesn't feel she actually owes this capital gains tax but is going to voluntarily pay it??!!

    There is no mechanism by which you can pay tax you don't owe. HMRC will simply let it sit there as a credit on her Self Assessment statement and she could ask for it to be repaid any time she likes. If on the other hand she is admiting that it is due, then she is saying she filled in a tax return incorrectly, has committed an offence and incurs interest and possibly penalties (maximum penalty is 100% of tax due).

    As for a proper examination of all the other MPs expenses to see if they really were wholly exclusively and necessarily an HM Inspector of Taxes, I can tell you that's a pretty narrow definition and if I were still in my old job, I'd have a pretty easy next couple of years knocking that lot down.

  • Comment number 63.

    When are you and other BBC journalists all of whom are paid from the public purse via the license fee going to tell us how much you earn and what allowances you receive? I was appalled to hear that a news presenter earns £93,000. So how much does the taxpayer pay you Mr Robinson?

  • Comment number 64.

    I agree with #12 - there must be plenty of other workers in the same situation as MPS, and the tax-man has already got a set of rules covering these cases. Why does there have to be a special set of rules for MPs ? They have behaved like the Soviet Politburo - I'm surprised they didn't have special lanes on the roads for the exclusive use of apparatchiks and other members of the nomenclatura.

  • Comment number 65.

    They say that they are all so sorry about the expenses - they are only sorry that they have been found out.

  • Comment number 66.

    This isn't about the system being "wrong" it is about us (the public) having found out about the system. Had we not, does anyone think for a single second that anything would have changed?

    This point needs to form part of any interview on the subject with any politician.

  • Comment number 67.

    So, Nick, your cosy chat with fellow-traveller Evan Davies on the Today programme this morning was all about Dave's mortgage interest claim. Nary a word about the serial house flippers in the ranks of New Labour who haven't paid CGT on their serial gains! They all have, like Dave, claimed their boots full quota as well as the gains.

    Is this the famed BBC impartiality and fairness at work?

    Or an agenda?

  • Comment number 68.

    I've never seen such blatant greed and envy as the whinging masses of BBC blogs and HYS over this issue. That someone should get paid £65k, and have an expense account as well, and perform badly - shame, shame! Do you get this uppity about your bank manager, or your GP? That's your money, too.

    If you're so poor that £65k + expenses is unimaginable wealth, after this many glorious years of free market growth and opportunity, you've only got yourself to blame. I love Thatcherism, me.

  • Comment number 69.

    When MP-applicants are interviewed before being offered a job, what are they told about the expenses regime?
    The expenses expectancies appear to be part of the culture. Individual MPs are then only kept in check by their personal standards.

  • Comment number 70.

    Expensive food? Perks for the 'hard-up'.
    How is it that MP's are granted £400.00 per month for food?

    If they 'worked' anywhere other than in politics, they, like the rest of the population would need to provide their food from what is left of their salaries after tax.

    Should these noises be pulled out of the trough?

    Compare that £400.00 allowance to Old Age which those same pensioners contributed from their salary for a lesser return.

  • Comment number 71.


    In my view it is extremely worthwhile allowing the parties to compete on this issue since at some point, we will actually get to a level of agreement that is in line with public opinion. This is surely better than simply passing the buck to a Committee of the House where those who are affected by self interest can come to a cosy agreement.

    It is also worthwhile seeing contrite MPs speaking directly to their constituents in a way that relates to the sense of anger felt rather than just parrotting the agreed party line on the issue.

    Meantime, are we any closer to getting the Speaker removed?


  • Comment number 72.

    Remember Den Dover the Tory MEP from NW who took £700,000+ in expences? Cameron expelled him and he kept the money.

  • Comment number 73.

    With great power comes great responsibility (hat tip: Stan Lee). And with those, above all, comes accountability. Why, at the moment, when one asks who is in charge here? (and has been for over a decade - wheres Al Haig when you need him?), do I suspect sets of digits, and a few stumpy ones, will suddenly mutely point in every direction save one.

    Also noting the spotlight swinging around some other areas, like Sauron's gaze, with Channel 4 staff attacked for grossly excessive pay

    Market rate talent requiring public subsidy as the money model doesnt add up. Interesting. As was their reply.

    Because I do rather think that pointing wherever else possible in comparison in a two wrongs make a god given right isnt working too well at the moment in the public domain at the mo. Including £multi-grand inquisitors.

  • Comment number 74.

    re 21: "And while we are about it: why do BBC TV presenters earn more than MPs - how about a root and branch reform of remuneration in the country."

    Maybe because the little that they do is still more than an MP?

    I don't pay the TV presenter's wage.

    I do pay the MP's wage.

    While we're on that, how about nuking the renumeration of CEO's and the like to a reasonable £100,000 pa? with another £100,000 pa bonuses for good work? A root and branch reform of pay in this country. If you meant it.

  • Comment number 75.

    Nick no mention no mention of BBQ Jacqui should she not be repaying the money she squandered on her sisters back bedroom. If the health minister feels he need to pay back 41K surely her 116K cannot be seen as anything other than blatant jiggery-pokery. The Torie may have made some daft claims but when it comes to largess Labour grubbing has them beat hands down.

  • Comment number 76.

    How long before you lose the new member title?

  • Comment number 77.

    "Forlornehope wrote:
    A problem with the LibDem proposal is what happens if the MP loses money on the sale of the house? This is quite possible in present conditions and if the taxpayer is going to take any profit, it would only be equitable if the taxpayer took any loss. This suggestion, like much LibDem policy, has not really been thought through."

    Well considering that a MP serving a five year term could have used their expenses to pay off the mortgage to the region of £125,000 (which could buy a house free and clear in some places!) I expect it would be unlikely if any MP would actually make a loss.

    However, if the house market is so low that they are likely to make a loss then the house should be passed over to the commons and used by the incoming MP.

  • Comment number 78.

    One of the wives was asked this morning if she didn't think £24,000 in rent for a year might not seem a bit excessive to some people. The reason she gave is that she wanted somewhere near to Westminster so her poor wee husband could walk to work. Were that we were all so lucky...

  • Comment number 79.

    I'm really enjoying the current MP bashing season.

    Fascinating too to find myself agreeing with Norman Tebbit and Ann Widdecombe. A few years ago I would have bet money on that one never happening... But we all get old (and wise?)

    I have experienced a startling revelation of just how huge is the level of uneducated, untrustworthy low-life that are attracted to a political career and MP status nowadays, compared to the era of Tebbitt, Widdecombe et al.

    And I sympathise with the journos nowadays too. It seems that to write a story naming and describing an MP as "honest", "decent", "caring", "trustworthy", "honourable" or anything similar will immediately attract legal action for libel. Mustn't tell lies about MPs, after all...

  • Comment number 80.

    I have an answer to all these second homes gravy train, there are a lot of huge empty buildings in central London. Using compulsory purchase order buy one as cheap as possible renovate it create 1 bedroom efficiency apartments with communal kitchens on each floor, with metered gas / electricity / water. Throw in a few rules about visitors and guests and expected behaviour, problem solved!

  • Comment number 81.

    'The allowance for second homes will now be limited to bills - ie rent, mortgage, council tax and utilities. They will be barred from claiming for furniture, white goods and fixtures and fittings'
    On the whole I agree with this, MPs have show just how greedy they can be when allowed some freeway, and how untrust worthy they are when it comes to their own pockets.

    However I do think their should be one exception to this rule, new MPs should be able to claim for setting up a second home if they have to. And that should include furniture, white goods and fixtures and fittings on a NEW TO PARLIAMENT ONE TIME CLAIM ONLY.

    By the way I'm not about to stand for parliment just in case you wandered!

  • Comment number 82.

    Post 24: "And then the most difficult question of all: Where are the people who CAN do the job of and MP, and do it for the right reasons. Where are the politicians that the public deserve?"

    I don't think honest, law-abiding people want to be polticians nowadays - its too tarnished.

    Two possible answers: set up a citizen's committee, drawn by ballot from people who can be bothered to vote in the next election. Then let these 100 citizens interview every single MP and decide which ones are there to serve the public interest and not their own. Then accommodate these MPs in a tower block in London. This caps the cost of MPs AND keeps them in touch with the people who have REAL problems (personal crime, poor health & education, anti-social behaviour etc etc) in today's society.

    Second possible answer: same citizens committee but sack ALL current MPs and replace them with local councillors. In this age they are the ONLY politicians who actually DO anything for the ordinary people.

    However, let's face it: MPs don't really do anything useful - they just shout at each other, behave like unruly schoolchildren and waste taxpayers' money. The real decisions about policy are made by bureaucrats (here and globally) and Big Business.

    Get rid of the lot of them - be honest, can anyone say that they will miss them????

  • Comment number 83.

    As a tax advisor, I'd always been surprised at the rather lax rules around nominating which of two homes is your principal residence and the capital gains tax advantages aurrounding this. At least I now know why, as they mirror to some extent the rules governing MPs choices.

    Of course the big difference is that ordinary people have to dig into their own pockets to buy and furnish their homes.

    Seems to me that MPs were being extra greedy, not only getting us to pay in the first place but then not wanting to give at last some of their profit back by way of capital gains tax.

  • Comment number 84.

    Phil Hope's voting record:
    Voted strongly for introducing ID cards.
    Voted very strongly for introducing foundation hospitals.
    Voted strongly for introducing student top-up fees.
    Voted very strongly for Labour's anti-terrorism laws.
    Voted very strongly for the Iraq war.
    Voted very strongly against an investigation into the Iraq war.
    Voted very strongly for replacing Trident.
    His expenses 'mea culpa' isn't even a start!

  • Comment number 85.

    How many unemployed according to the figures released yesterday??

  • Comment number 86.

    Yes, I've noticed that as one of Gordons characteristics. Not what we want from a leader. If he says something I expect it to be factual and true, half-truths not spun for political ends.

    Spin is analagous to misleading Parliament. It is as scandalous as the expenses abuses and should be completely banned.

  • Comment number 87.

    Now that Stephen Fry has admitted fraudulent expense claims will the BBC be calling in the police to investigate his expenses.

  • Comment number 88.

    Fascinating how this is now being steered towards the idea that if they pay back the money everything will be all right.

    The reserves of trust and respect that UK citizens should have for their democratic system have pretty much evaporated. It would take a threat or disaster of truly national proportions now to restore a degree of confidence, and even then the public would watch their representatives like hawks after the fiasco of the Iraq adventure.

    The fact is, the majority of people have joined up to the Getting On With Life Party. Politics and elections are so much static; white noise. The public try to turn down the sound as low as possible and look out for their savings. Our differences have shifted from either side of the House of Commons debating chamber to either side of much more immediate and identifiable social and intellectual fault lines which are now where basic issues of fairness and civilized values get strained. Consistently unaddressed problems of crime and anti-social behaviour, the demonstrably steep decline in standards across our cultural and academic institutions, the special pleading for minority interests that has replaced genuine tolerance, the manifest injustice of our justice system; all these attract interest, not sterile discussions about political and economic doctrine. The country needs a new Bill of Rights like a fish needs a bicycle. Our existing rights are not getting us very far. But offer a Human Responsibilities Act and you will be trampled in the rush of people wanting to sign up.

    The patient is going to stop breathing soon. Drastic surgery is needed. An immediate amputation of the capital's media from a true democratic grass roots movement might just stop the gangrene reaching the heart. Decentralisation of that particular power base will have to accompany the decentralisation of power and the breakup of the Establishment if any reforms are going to stick. The London political / journalistic axis is rotten to the core and the symbiotic relationship is extremely corrosive, even more so now that most of the national media have switched over to providing wall to wall entertainment rather than solid, useful news.

    Time to wake up and smell the coffee, pundits and political theorists alike. The public believe that politicians lie, cheat, swindle, exaggerate, manipulate and hunger after power. They see them as short-term thinkers who will do anything to gain the upper hand. Nobody outside Westminster and local council chambers has any interest in the political system. We just watch the froth blow off the waves of a particularly stagnant and noisome sea.

  • Comment number 89.


    I had a thought about Hazel Blear's payment of the CGT she would have had to pay had she not been dodging this tax.

    As "her spokesman said there was "no liability" for CGT on the sale", surely her cheque to HMRC for £13k cannot go towards paying this theoretical CGT, but towards her future tax bills as a payment on account? Therefore, the taxman will adjust her tax code for 2010-11 to take into account this prepayment of tax.

    So, was her cheque waving only a PR stunt?

  • Comment number 90.


    Is Brown's position to make sure that his inquiry takes as long as possible in order that his fellow cabinet people have the time to gather the money, or different expense claims, to balance what they'll have to pay back

    When will the Homes Secretary pay back her allowances?

    When will Brown pay back the money for the cleaner?

  • Comment number 91.

    By the way, there is really only one game in town right now ... which is will the world economy, and by extension, the (so-called) UK's economy, pick up enough steam by early 2010 to see genuine 'green shoots'.

    Thus allowing one G. Brown to claim that he has steered HMS Great Britain through these treacherous economic storms (and so please vote for me and my shower in the forthcoming General Election).

    I hope there will be a recovery very soon, not to save any politicians skin but because I seem to know a lot of people whose businesses are almost dead and other folk who are unemployed and just running down savings (these people are too proud/sensible to utterly demoralise themselves by visting their local JobCentre).

  • Comment number 92.

    Hi Nick, Do you think an added problem might be that with a general election looming that those MP's who are retiring or likely lose their seats really won't be interested in paying back money they legitematly claimed under the existing system.It's going to be very hard for any party leader to force an MP to act agaisnt their financial interest in these circumstances.

  • Comment number 93.

    Raise the banner high..

    Call upon the monarch for a dissolution of parliament and an imediate election. Each standing candidate must declare and justify expenses claimed in the last parliament. The existing mob are thoroughly discredited, the time is now for revolution and renewal. We the people demand change and we demand it now!!

  • Comment number 94.

    Anyone giving money back in the future should no longer be referred to as the default title of 'Right Honourable Member' and should no longer be addressed as such. This would make a clear distinction between individuals regardless of party.

  • Comment number 95.

    I don't read the Telegraph. I have it read to me by CHQ, The Angry mob who read the papers every day and the BBC. Dave's 'Leadership' that Nick and Andrew Neil Admire so much is coming up with policies on the fly in reaction to whatever media decides we are all angry about like MPs publishing their own Expenses on the Web. If he was such a Great leader he would have led on this issue without first being oh so easily swayed by the media and its angry red faced readership.

  • Comment number 96.

    I am horrified at how badly the system has been abused....and what makes it worse is that some are trying to hide things. They are supposed to represent us, and so we have a legitimate right to find out what the expense fund is spent on.

    I understand the need to live in London, but why second homes? And even if second homes are needed then the public should own them...not the relevant MP. When that MP then loses office the property is handed onto the next person.

    This issue is not something that can be swept under the carpet. I will be keeping a very close eye on what happens and will certainly not vote for any party that does not agree that MPs expenses should be along the lines of those in the public sector.

  • Comment number 97.

    I am a tax consultant and I have often wondered at the generoity of the main residence election, whereby you can nominate a 'residence' that is not your actual main residence to get the benefit of the capital gains tax main residence exemption. We can manipulate the elections to get more than one residence covered at once. Now I realise that it was probably due to the MPs feathering their own nests.

  • Comment number 98.

    I'm not sure that it's necessary for MP's to own a second home at all. Why not either force them to rent a property (and they then claim the rent back, up to a reasonable limit) or have the government buy properties for MPs to live in in london. Each constituency has an allocated property. When an MP loses his or her seat the new MP simply uses the allocated house. This would avoid the problem of MP's gaining financially on property.

    I'm also not convinced about the need for a food allowance - it's reasonable they need two places to live at the same time, but they don't need to eat in two places at the same time...

  • Comment number 99.

    Will you please stop repeating the Labour mantra that their claims were 'within the rules'. Most of us have now read the rules and many of their claims were defininetly NOT 'within the rules'
    Claims should be above reproach
    Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was
    necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could
    properly perform his or her parliamentary duties
    Allowances are reimbursed only for the purpose of a Member
    carrying out his or her parliamentary duties
    Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give
    the appearance of giving rise to, an ibenefit to themselves or anyone else.
    Do you really take us all for fools ready to accept any nonsense that the BBC chooses to put out on behalf of their political masters.
    I reckon their should next be a very large microscope turned on BBC spending after all it is also funded by tax-payers via the licence fee.

  • Comment number 100.

    Just to clarify, as a number of posters have commented on the subject, it is in fact relatively easy for anyone with two properties to designate one as his principle residence, then reverse the decision. You just need to make an election. Nor does this have to be over a protracted period of time. A month will do. I know as I am ex HMRC and currently advising on the 'other side'. Such 'evidence' as may be required would just mean informing your bank (say) that you had changed addresses, then informing them you had changed back. Best though, that the place COULD be inhabited! If you have tennants or no furniture or the place is a burnt out shell, you might struggle, otherwise no real problem.

    The result is that any gain attributable to a period when the property is your principle residence, plus automatically the last 3 years of ownership, will qualify for CGT exemption.


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