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Questions that MPs dread

Nick Robinson | 23:55 UK time, Thursday, 7 May 2009

Every receipt from every claim by every MP for four years made under a system which all parties now agree was not only open to abuse but all too often encouraged it.

The Commons has been bracing itself for this ever since they lost a battle in the courts to prevent publication under Freedom of Information legislation. What they were not ready for was a leak of every detail to a newspaper, probably in return for a large sum of money.

What ministers call "inadvertent mistakes" others will describe much less charitably. What they say was "within the rules" others will call plain greedy. This will damage not just them and the government but the reputation of politics as a whole.

Neverthless, what's been revealed so far looks unlilkely to force anyone from office and compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer.

Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics. They'll tell you that they need to live in two places to do their job properly and that costs money which they're entitled to re-claim.

Tonight some are facing very awkward questions indeed and others - in all parties and at all levels - fear that they may be next.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    Bring it on ...

    Why do we have to wait until July to see these facts? Is it that it will take Martin's gang that long to black out some of the more enlightening information? Once again the British people will likely be denied the right to know just how fast and loose their representatives play whilst serving themselves and lining their own pockets.

  • Comment number 2.

    I paid it back when I was found out!
    The fees office should have told me it was wrong!
    It was within the rules!
    I've done nothing wrong!

    If these people try that in their next employment* they could well find themselves in court
    *That is if they can find other employment after they are booted out at the election

  • Comment number 3.

    CALL AN ELECTION. DO IT NOW. I WANT TO SAVE MY COUNTRY FROM THE ENEMY WITHIN- LABOURISM AND ITS VILE COHORTS IN EVIL THEIR FABIAN SOCIALISTS

  • Comment number 4.

    "Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics".

    Kinnock & Blair?

  • Comment number 5.

    So the Justice Minister claims for money he didn't pay.

    As far as i know thats fraud. A criminal offence.

    Will Straw admit this ? Or will it be some of the usual 'i didn't know'
    and 'anyway i've now repaid the money'.

    Hmm, i see the fraudster is claiming the latter.

  • Comment number 6.

    'Tonight some are facing very awkward questions indeed and others - in all parties and at all levels - fear that they may be next.'

    Some resignations would be nice but I'm not holding my breath.

    I, too, expect this to be a cross-party scam. It really is becoming something of a constitutional crisis. It would appear that half of our 'Honourable Members' are crooks.

    Your Majesty. It's time to call time on the government of the day.

  • Comment number 7.

    BBQ's not on the John Lewis List of allowable ACA expenses, I seem to recall a certain Home Secretary having claimed for one and insisting it was within the rules!

  • Comment number 8.

    Do these tawdry politicians actually realise just how much they are loathed and despised out in the real world away from the insular freebie land of the Westminster Bubble ? They are no different to the benefit cheats they regularly attack in word and print. A disgrace the lot of them.

  • Comment number 9.

    Can someone explain to me how Gordon Brown could claim any expenses for a flat in Westminster between 1997 and 2009 when he was living in a flat fully paid for by the tax payer above No 10/No 11 Downing Street.

    I find it hard to believe that his brother paid for the Downing Street cleaner, given security and all that, or is it another McNultyism, I live in one place and claim for my parents/brother in another ?

  • Comment number 10.

    Errrr - so Gordon Brown overclaims by 150 quid and the Commons office apologises for not spotting it? How does that work?! Gordon should be apologising for his incompetance in financial matters (not a huge surprise really tho, is it!)

  • Comment number 11.

    Makes you wonder why the PM paid his senior exec brother at EDF £6.5K for cleaning and how did he find the time to do it, mind you it's makes you wonder how much his brother gave Gordon for not making the Power companies reduce there prices over the winter when the oil price was down???
    Mind you Power corrupts and our leaders will show you how corrupt they can be when all the expenses come out.
    We should get rid of all the party hacks who think they owe being a MP to the party that let them stand rather than the pepole who vote, lets see Joanna and some true people power supporters elected that with frighten them as much as Transparency....

  • Comment number 12.

    If someone on Benefits was only half as 'creative' with 'the rules' they would be in prison or destitute by now..these people are despicable!!

    Snouts in the troughs demeans pigs in my opinion.

  • Comment number 13.

    The Government, the teachers unions, the teachers, the headmasters unions, the headmasters, the local education authority's

    Thousands of people paid billions upon billions by the public to one end teach children.

    So what is this despicable governments answer to its failings

    It intends to bring the Armed forces in to restore discipline

    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1178508/Right-fall-line-orrible-little-pupils-Government-wants-military-run-state-schools.html

    Mind you it takes a long time to ensure Scotland is bankrolled at Englands expense in both financial infrastructre and employment terms.


  • Comment number 14.

    None of these people would last long in the real world, nor do they deserve to.

    Roll on the General Election when those that royally deserve it will be consigned to the political midden. A sad end for the once great Labour Party.

    It's unfair to talk about MPs in terms of pigs. Pigs are useful and intelligent animals. They don't fiddle their expenses, nor do they steal from the taxpayer.

  • Comment number 15.

    I'd love to see just one MP stand up and declare support for a 'Halls of residence'and a rail pass idea. There wouldn't be any need to claim any expenses.

    Of course not a single one will support it, they still think they can find a way to carry on fleecing the tax payer.

    I can't see the British public accepting anything less now though. There's just been so much greed and lack of respect for the tax payer, it's truly sickening.

  • Comment number 16.

    Am I the only one who is infuriated by the phrase "Within the rules". Surely we have the right to expect that MP's will behave with honesty and integrity. As an example, claiming for a second home may be within the rules but if the MP knows that he/she doesn't actually need that second home then it's a clear misuse of public funds? Knowing what a parlous state the country's finances are in it is surely down to public servants to save every penny possible?

  • Comment number 17.

    Nick, you make very valid points. Shouldn't we now start to impose some really tight control of public spending. When I have to stay away on business I use a Travelodge. It's clean and inexpensive. Why don't we provide some good basic accommodation for MPs working from home and take complete control of their expenditure? I think that MP's should lead by example. The country is bust. We can't afford to pay for the care of our elderly - people who have often worked and paid taxes all their lives. A perfect example is what will be spent on re-decorating No10 when Mr Brown leaves at the next election. Inexcusable.

  • Comment number 18.

    Well said ScallyWag42 (comment #14) I couldn't have put it more eloquently myself. I would have just added, though, ...."and scum always rises to the top".

  • Comment number 19.

    "Neverthless, what's been revealed so far looks unlilkely to force anyone from office and compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer"

    I own and run a small business. If I, or any of my employees fiddled our expenses on the scale now being observed by our political class, arguing that our thieving was "small beer" would cut no ice with the HM Revenue & Customs. Employees would be sacked on the spot. I would be fined and/or face a custodial sentence.

    Politicians just get away with it (with my money). Nick, it reads as if you condone this political gangsterism - and I'm paying you too. Something stinks here.

  • Comment number 20.

    Sorry Nick, right off the pace again! I'd be out of a job if I was as good at it as you! " Don't get rich in politics " ? Cooper & Balls ain@t done bad; Home Secretary fraudster Jacqui Smith lives quite well ! Gordon and Alistair really know how to feel our pain ! yeeaahh ! Get some realism into your reporting even if the truth is too much for you to stomach !

  • Comment number 21.

    "Nevertheless,whats been revealed so far looks unlikely to force anyone from office"

    How true when we consider how Smith and McNulty have survived with their
    jobs intact.

    However,with further guff promised by the Daily Telegraph,this will make
    party political campaigning much more interesting and spicy!How many M.Ps
    will come out of this whiter than white? How many times shall we have to hear the bleat that "It was in the rules"?

    This info gives us a new criteria for choosing where to put our cross come election day.Good.

  • Comment number 22.

    Give them £250k - £500k per year and let them trough away. This is taking up the news agenda ... what about my pension, jobs risk, schools SATS, NHS funding ... you know, the boring bits!

  • Comment number 23.

    I'd like to know how many claims there are for £249 )for plumbers, decorators etc) there are where no receipt is necessary.

    I agree with a previous posters who compares these MPs with benefits cheats

    The phrase "the lowest of the low" brings these MPs and benefits cheats together quite nicely, I think.

  • Comment number 24.

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

  • Comment number 25.

    Nick. You are paid by the public, not the Labour Party. If you still wish to support Captain Gordon and the Titanics, you are free to do so, but in your own time please. The "small beer" comment is risible, and would probably would not have been made if the Opposition expenses had been revealed first. Instead of defending the indefensible, why not run the story that Ed Miliband, Alan Johnson and Baby Benn appear to be upright and honest?

  • Comment number 26.

    Mr Brown submitted claims for incidental expenses such as calling in Rentokill to deal with an infestation of mice at the property, at a cost to the taxpayer of £352.
    In 2006, he accidentally submitted the same bill, for £153 for plumbing work at the Fife home, twice, and was paid accordingly on each occasion. Yesterday, a spokesman told The Daily Telegraph: The bill which had been accepted by the fees office was inadvertently assigned to two quarters. When this inadvertent error was discovered, the amount was immediately repaid.

    The Prime Minister is believed to have repaid the second bill yesterday after being approached by The Daily Telegraph.

    Repaying the bill yesterday of course absolves The P.M. of all responsibility for his "error".

  • Comment number 27.

    Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary, repaid £1,700 that he overclaimed for council tax soon after it transpired that all MPs expense receipts would be published.

    Another case of attempting to close the stable door after the horse has bolted. It just doesn't wash!

  • Comment number 28.

    Dear Nick,

    MP's expenses 'probably in return for a large sum of money'? So you imply by you (HP)source, but I would like to think a member of HMG civil service has enough of these criminals and cheats.

    Within in the rules, that's what the Nazis said didn't they?!

    Xxxx

  • Comment number 29.

    "Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics. They'll tell you that they need to live in two places to do their job properly and that costs money which they're entitled to re-claim."

    Nick, Possibly that is the problem. A lot of them go into politics without many assets but acquire them on the journey. I remember how in 97 a lot of new Labour MP's came to Westminster and were worried about how they would survive financially. It would be interesting to track their progress up the asset ladder. Go and do some research Nick and come back to us with some interesting facts to back up the MP's claims of poverty. My perception is that it doesn't stack up.

  • Comment number 30.

    DEPUTY PM John Prescott getting taxpayers to foot the £323 bill for repairing his toilet seat twice in two years. He also repeatedly claimed the maximum for food £4,800-a-year while banging in a 2006 claim for £6,772.27 for work on his designated second home. It included having mock Tudor beams stuck on the front of the eight-bed turreted pile in Hull.

    The toilet thing is no surprise. I wonder why.

  • Comment number 31.

    Why do MPs claim for bathroom plugs and wooden beams? Answer: Because they can. It's as simple as that. It's no good calling them greedy and self-serving when they are acting within the rules. If I could claim for fixtures and fittings in my house then I would - I'd be stupid not to.

    We also need to guard against this 'trial by media'. It's bad enough that Joanna Lumley dictates immigration policy, now the Telegraph tries to get rules changed. It's not good. What next, Jordan setting educational policy?

    To the people who want MPs wages screwed down too low, ask yourself this: If wages are low, who could afford to stand as an MP? Answer: Those who are rich enough not to concern themselves with money. This could lead to idle rich people becoming MPs and we don't want that to happen. The wage needs to be a decent one to attract a wide variety of people, rich and poor. I'd say £150,000 plus the ability to reclaim a very limited number of legitimate out-of-pocket expenses (petrol, excessive car miles, rent, etc). Make it like a normal company's expense policy (like mine!). Mirrors, plugs and pornography they can pay for themselves!

  • Comment number 32.

    Do you think MPs will be apologising for spending all that money on legal fees to hide their thieving ways?

    And does anyone doubt that the real reason for delaying publication is to see if they can hide any more of their corruption?

    All MPs have either been dishonest or complicit by not whistleblowing.

    'Dont get rich in politics'?

    Just check their net worth before becoming MPs and after...


  • Comment number 33.

    "Give them 250K - 500k per year and let them trough away" says Stargazer
    comment #22.

    No!Why should we? That wouldnt stop them finding new ways to fleece us,the
    taxpayers.No wonder Michael Martin tried every way to stop these outrageous
    claims being made public,using our money of course.What we have heard so far constitutes fraud,and the claim by Andy Burnham that his wife would divorce him if his expenses were not paid is risible!

    Now Nick,a bit more serious tut-tutting please!It may seem "small beer"to
    you,but the public regards it in a much more serious light.

  • Comment number 34.

    To me, the whole issue of MP's expenses is that so many of them have sought to maximise the amount they claim, rather than keeping claims as low as possible so as to save taxpayers' money. This is shameful behaviour that demonstrates disdain for the people they purport to serve.

    I fear that things are even worse among the MEPs in Brussels - we have no idea what they are up to, probably far worse.

  • Comment number 35.

    BTW: Nick

    Gordons: £6,500 for cleaining.

    You say Brown claims to have actually had a formal contract detailing costs and hours in a cleaning agreement with his brother.

    Thats seems very, very formal... Even more formal than the public would expect...

    Have you seen this contract?




  • Comment number 36.

    These people govern our country and should be beyond reproach but the expection of honesty and integrity from our 'leaders' is well and truly misplaced. Does it send a certain signal to the rest of the population ? It gives a clear indication that you can, and should try to get away with anything you can, and if you get found out you can claim it was a mistake and repay the money.Tell your children that this is ok.
    The sums involved may be small but it indicates a state of mind, and does anyone think that if they could get their snouts into a bigger trough they wouldn't.
    What we don't know is whether they snuffle at the 'golden' trough called the stockmarket. I wonder whether tips, signs, indications flow through to politicians from 'those in the know' . Considering some bank shares have tripled in value in the past six weeks vast amounts of money can be made if you 'know'. Has anyone considered the rushed halving in CGT brought in last year under the pretence of 'increasing small business tax' ? If there is a 'golden' trough, then those who 'accidently' claim, surely would feel it as their right to maximise their opportunity.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sorry Nick - 'small beer' just doesn't rub with the other 55m people in the UK - when I worked for 47 years in commercial life - unlike so many of our dear MPs - including most of the Cabinet - if anyone even so much as claimed a newspaper whilst staying away on company business they could face the sack. And the Inland Revenue (HMRC) were even stricter on annual tax returns! A friend of mine was a self employed carpenter/joiner who included a box of brass screws within the expenses of his annual tax return. His tax inspector asked him to prove that the screws were not for 'personal use' - I joke not!

    Our dear 'girls and boys' in Parliament - paid for by us hard working, tax paying and put upon folk should be made to suffer the same fate.

    'An oversight' indeed - what complete twaddle! Anyone claiming expenses has to sign the claim form with the receipts attached. At that moment they are required legally and morally to ensure the claim is correct and honest and WITHIN THE SPIRIT not WITHIN THE RULES! That is the moment of truth - not when they subsequently get rumbled!

    I dispair, I really do

  • Comment number 38.

    Nick:

    'compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer.'



    These are same politicians who jail people who 'accidently' over claim benefits and public sector expenses.

  • Comment number 39.

    150,000!!

    Leave that sort of salary to the House of Lords; the House of Commons' renumeration should be set at about double the average wage of their constituency - civil servants do all the work, anyway. MPs are just supposed to be the Vox Populis of their constituency in Westminster. Then add salary as their responsibilities increase - committees, departmental/shadow responsibilities - like teachers.

    Single Halls of Residence, canteens and a pool of civil service researchers, rather than controlling their own staffing costs. It's the only way to regain public confidence.

  • Comment number 40.

    I will accept that it is all "within the rules" when all of these excesses are repaid in full to the public purse

    Remember that if you cleaned your house, the taxman wouldn't allow it on expenses to set against tax

  • Comment number 41.

    You say that there have been no huge, resignation matters found.

    I would argue that Peter Mandelson putting a bill for thousands of pounds for property maintenance days after stating that we was no longer going to be an MP must be close.
    How on earth could he explain that the maintenance was needed so he could perform the duties of an MP if he was not going to be one?

    He evidently had no intention of using the money for the benefit of his consituents,just his own.
    Therefore, it is not within the rules, therefore must be seen as a resignation matter.

    I suppose you could argue that him getting the money for maintenance meant that he could sell the house more easily. This meant that he could afford to stop being an MP. If I lived in his constituency, I think I would see him NOT being my MP as a benefit!!!!

    I would also suggest that Alistair Darling changing the location of his 2nd home four times is more for his benefit than his constituents.
    Did he, by any chance, claim large amounts for his 2nd home within months of changing its location???

    Steve.

  • Comment number 42.

    if i steal something "inadvertently" i am still guilty of stealing.....if i pay back a sum i stole when i have been found out does not make me less guilty (and how much would have been paid back if it wasnt for the freedom of information act!)...all this "within the rules " is a disgrace...why does gordon brown even have a second home allowance given he has lived in a grace and favour home for the past twelve years....If i as an employee tried any of these tricks the tax authorities would be down on me like a ton of bricks...and the fraud squad would be knocking on my door.

  • Comment number 43.

    Straight from Mandy's email; bbc seems to pay handsomely for copy-paste (or [Ctrl]+C, [Ctrl]+V).

    What those who seem to be willing to give politicians the benefit of the doubt seem to forget is that politicians should err on the side of caution rather than claim aggressively and then say they're sorry and will repay. People entering politics should be willing to enter a world of public scrutiny and they should make an effort to appear clearner than clean. Otherwise politics and politicians will loose all credibility.

    "Not get rich in politics ...."
    The median UK salary is just shy of 25,000 pounds. 50% of those in work earn less than this number. Compare that to politicians salary, their very generous pensions and their allowances which are net of tax. Maybe politicians don't become millionaires, but they are paid handsomely and I do not get the impression that many have been able to earn more money outside the public sector or consultancies paid by the public sector.

    All the families jumping on the bandwagon confirm that politics is a well-paid activity, at least compared to their previous jobs.

    A few bandwagon examples:
    -Balls and Cooper
    -Milliband and Milliband
    -Alexander and Alexander
    -Benn and Benn
    -Blair and Ms Booth's stepmother
    -Dunwoody and Dunwoody
    -the speaker and his son MSP
    -Kinnock, Kinnock's wife MEP, Kinnock's son British Council
    -McNulty and his wife an educational watchdog chair
    -Kelly and her hubby working for the local government

  • Comment number 44.

    No ifs no buts...

    http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/Nl1/Newsroom/DG_064814

    Excerpt from this excellent government resource:

    "Benefit theft is a crime - NO IFS, NO BUTS

    Published: Monday, 30 October 2006

    A new hard-hitting campaign launched today warns benefit thieves that there is no excuse for benefit theft - commit it and you will be caught and punished.

    The NO IFS, NO BUTS campaign warns benefit customers that excuses will be tolerated if they deliberately hide changes in their circumstances that might affect their benefits. Failure to do so could constitute fraud.

    The campaign will feature television adverts and billboard posters highlighting the problem of taxpayers' money being stolen by benefit thieves. Last year benefit thieves received over 52,000 prosecutions, sanctions and cautions for a range of fraud offences.

    John Hutton, Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, said:

    "Benefit fraud is theft, and we are committed to catching benefit thieves and bringing the toughest penalties against those who commit this crime - no ifs, no buts.

    "The public are fed up with benefit thieves stealing money intended for society's most vulnerable. There are no excuses for taking money that isn't yours.""

  • Comment number 45.

    Did Brown declare the rental income on his sublet consitutency office in his tax return before this illegal practice was found out? Do we know?

  • Comment number 46.

    Nick,
    Any chance of a good investigative journalist peeking at EDF's books to see how much Bruv Andrew Brown claimed from them for "a cleaning lady"

  • Comment number 47.

    These people are on the gravy train and need sorting out. Brown and Labour are just out of touch with almost every class in the country
    (With the possible exception the of the full time professional benefit taker sub-class). The other parties have probably got their snouts into the trough as well , again the whole lot of them need a good speaking to (perhaps another celebrity come politician type character) .
    Also Robinson point about this being 'small beer' compared to other countries- which ones is he comparing the UK to ? A banana republic?

  • Comment number 48.

    "Small Beer" Nick.................you never cease to amaze me.

    If this is small beer, how about telling the culprits (Brown & co) to find a few home owners struggling to pay their mortgage and giving this expense money them to stave of the bailifs.

    Nick, you live in Ivory tower land with your boss Gordon and his corrupt cronies.

    You really don't get how people are struggling on the street do you.


    The time has come for a no confidence vote from respected Labour MP's like Frank Field..........at least the guy has the guts to own up that things have gone badly wrong, and he was the guy who highlighted Browns pension robbing straight after his first budget.

  • Comment number 49.

    Labour MP Sir Stuart Bell said, "We do respect public opinion and we do respect the need for change - and I think that change is coming, I hope it will come quicker and I hope the public will get the respect for MPs back which we do actually deserve at the end of the day."
    (Mirthless laughter!)

  • Comment number 50.

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

  • Comment number 51.

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

  • Comment number 52.

    I would like to know which politicians are squeaky clean. These are the people we should seek to promote to high office, given that they acted honestly even though they assumed no-one would be able to find out what they were up to.

  • Comment number 53.

    Clearly there are more revelations to come out in coming days and this will spread to all parties. I suspect that the real horror stories will be about people further down the Westminster food chain, I suspect that frontbenchers on all sides will have been more circumspect as they have more to lose, the backbenchers will probably have used the exepenses to inflate their incomes.

    What strikes me is how the Commons' Fees Office has been little more than a rubber stamp operation! I work in the civil servie and I've had claims for £14 rail tickets to get to training courses reduced down on the slightest grounds. Mr Brown likes to drone on about "fairness" perhaps he should start by ensuring that MP's expenses are subject to the same scrutiny as the rest of the public sector.

  • Comment number 54.

    Nick

    I take it you wrote this in a hurry and was tired at the time. You completely miss the point. Whilst the amounts may be "small beer" the principle is the same. How any public servant can think it is right that their employer should pay for them to have a second home and pay for renovations etc is beyond me. We should be pressing for MPs to have to sit down with a panel of their constituents and defend these outrageous claims. Reasonable expenses - fine. New kitchens, bath plugs, patio heaters ..... NO. Lets highlight the good guys and get answers from the rest.

    This episode is in keeping with Westminster. Why have a simple, cost effective solution (eg. civil service expenses) when you can have a ill-thought out and more costly approach. Why didn't the party of the hard working family sort it out? 12 years not enough?

    Pooly paid MPs - don't make me laugh. £65K is hardly on the bread line and I do not see they wanting to get out. We do not need to pay them more for bankrupting the country.

    Instead of this pallid, "balanced" view, lets have some incision. After all this crosses all party lines.

  • Comment number 55.

    Nick

    You made the following statement:

    "Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics".

    Errrrrr, have you asked Tony Blair, Patricia Hewitt, many of the last Tory administration etc? You might find that they're actually doing ok.

    The sooner we cut out the 'poor politician who can only afford to serve us, yes us, by swindling us/sitting on the boards of several other companies at the same time' sob story the better.

    They need to get their acts together, those that need to resign should be required to (by their leaders/party membership) and we should move forward!

  • Comment number 56.

    Whilst the comment "small beer" may well be true when you look at the pure % of money fiddled against money available in the public purse it is still wrong!

    MP's need their expenses paying, that's fair enough; but it should only be for expenses accrued during their duties. Nothing more, nothing less

    Pretty much like the rest of us - but that's too much isn't it?

  • Comment number 57.

    Whenever a shoplifter is caught they offer to pay, or else claim that they forgot to pay. The same excuses are being made here.

  • Comment number 58.

    If those arrogant spongers in parliament had to face the true cost of living like us poor cows out here they might start to tell the truth about the state of the economy do something effective to improve things.

  • Comment number 59.

    Taxman and wholly & exclusively come to mind. He who sets the rules should abide by them.

    Er, Mr Taxman is this a no go area or one where you get your bonus for the next few years? How far do you go back? How long do records have to be kept?

    Its time for Joe Public to get there own back. We need a bit more tax revenue to pay for the excess of this Labour con trick.

  • Comment number 60.

    A bit of spin coming on here because I couldnt help but notice the lack of Tory names in the BBC report.
    Yes I know that it only applies to Ministers for now, but are we saying that the Shadow Cabinet are all squeaky clean & have never put in a dodgy expense claim in their lives?
    If Cameron tries to make this the case, a real Punch & Judy show will follow because there will be plenty of smoking guns just waiting to be found amongst the Millions of receipts.
    As a private sector employee who has to account for every penny he spends on expenses & who cant even buy a pint of beer on tab, I find it offensive that Straw could of claimed 100 per cent of his Council Tax when he only paid 50 per cent.
    If he had to put in proper receipts, how could this be possible?
    To any normal person, this would appear to be fraud.
    Perhaps the Taxman needs to be told?

  • Comment number 61.

    I heard Harmann on the radio defending this as
    a) its not as corrupt as other systems
    b) it was within the rules
    My response it that
    a) so what - I'd have thought the 'mother of all parliaments' might aspire a teensy bit higher than that
    b) some set of rules eh? So MP's don;t think they are paid enough and so pad their expenses - what a super example to set to the rest of the proles !
    You are not paid enough ? do what the rest of us do - look for another job
    And the worst bit is that Harmann said that the reason that the government tried to block publication under FOI is that they wanted to 'protect' some of the data - why ? because its embarrassing ?
    However the government seems to have a different attitude to our data - quite happy for that to be available..
    Mind you I suspect that come May a number of the worst offenders at padding expenses will be looking for another job ..

  • Comment number 62.

    "Deputy Labour leader Harriet Harman said no resignations were likely as all claims were within the rules."

    The Court of Public Opinion no longer in session then, or did that just apply to Sir Fred`s pension debacle?

    Details of all MPs expenses should be published now, rather than the cherry picking of the few. This would pull the rug from under the feet of The Telegraph and get everything out into the open.

    Why wait until July when parliament is in recess? We need to know now what has been going on so MPs can be questioned before they disappear on their 13 week break. In the hope I suppose that will be forgotten about when they return.

  • Comment number 63.

    If I heard Evan Davis correctly during the interview with Harman this morning the excuse that all this was "within the rules" does not stand up. Evan read out extracts from those rules that indicated a good deal of what has been claimed does not fall within them.

    Also, one element of this farce that has been overlooked is the impact of the politicisation of the civil service. Surely any civil servant examining these claims for payment who was worth his salt would have thrown a good many of them out. If any of those people concerned are qualified accountants their professional bodies should be examining their competence.

  • Comment number 64.

    Too many MPs have been proved greedy and unscrupulous. Too many feathering their own nests at our expense. The 'expenses' racket must stop. Let them vote themselves a rise in pay - they will of course - but
    take away their expense accounts. The "2nd homes" scam has proved too much of a temptation to too many.
    Too many , of all Parties have shown themselves to be untrustworthy, willing to commit near fraud for personal financial gain. They are disgusting.

  • Comment number 65.

    It is easy to deplore the exaggerated expense claims and the quite overt manipulation of what can only be described as an incompetently organised and operated claims system.

    However, our indignation needs to be balanced by an understanding of what is expected and what is acceptable.

    I think the prevailing level of remuneration received by MPs is perfectly adequate for the task in hand. It need not be increased.

    I have no problem with members with constituencies outside easy commuting distance of Wetsminster having a second home close to Westminster funded by the taxpayer. Only when I mean funded I mean the property is paid for but not the internal arrangements, not the domestic help and not the council tax. In no way can these be considered as legitimate expenses. Once this second home is sold then I would expect Capital Gains Tax to be paid on any surplus.

    I also have no problem with members having their transport funded between Westminster and their constituencies and within those constituences. However, this should be based on the same criteria as applied to the general public by the Inland Revenue.

    I also have no problem with members employing their family and friends as servants of the House on the basis that this employment is formally audited with measured outcomes.

    What is apparent is the abuse of a feeble system. This says all that we need to know about the character of the worst abusers and how they should not be re-elected. It is not a case of who do they think they are but a case of who do they think we are. We should be fair but also very firm in our judgements.

  • Comment number 66.

    Er I thought the Govt was saying it was the fault of greedy bankers?

  • Comment number 67.

    Whatever happened to moral values. Just because the claims are " within the rules" the MP's must realise this is morally wrong.
    Harman was on the BBC this morning. Can't she answer a direct question.
    She said that the government was changing the system. No one asked her if this had not come to light would the system have been changed.
    Brown has leader should do the decent thing and resign but I suspect he is having an extra layer of Teflon sprayed on this morning.
    What I would like journalists to find out is what directorships the labour government have got lined up after the next election.

  • Comment number 68.

    Nick,

    You and the BBC's coverage of this story is an absolute disgrace. Time and time again, you have reassured us that most Mp's are honest, that everything was within the rules etc

    And here you are doing it again: "what's been revealed so far looks unlikely to force anyone from office and compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer."

    Point 1 I know that ministerial fraud is widespread in certain countries on the continent, but that's one import, we in the UK could do without. Besides, fraud is fraud and a fiddle is a fiddle, whatever the amount claimed. It's the principle, something you seemed to have forgotten.

    Point 2 As has been mentioned elsewhere. How is the Mandelson claim not a resignation matter? He claimed monies for the renovation of his constituency home, after he announced that he was standing down as an MP. Clearly, he was intending to sell the home (as he has done) and the renovations (we paid for) were designed to maximize the sale price on this property. Or are we supposed to believe that Lord Mandelson was intending to live in Hartlepool for the rest of his life?

    Get real Robinson, and start reporting it like it is. These people might be your friends, but we the license-fee and tax-payers of this country pay your wages and expenses. We want honest reporting of the facts. And before some Labour troll has a moan. Yes I want Nick to be tough when he comes to sleaze from all parties so when the Telegraph reveals the scams of the shadow cabinet, which are no doubt as bad as the real cabinet I expect searching questions etc

  • Comment number 69.

    Shall we all stand back and wait until the details of ALL parties expenses are revealed...before we begin our protestations at this LABOUR Government...just a thought.......??

  • Comment number 70.

    Nick

    You made the following statement:

    "Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics".

    Maybe not directly, but you forgot to mention about the second jobs, consultancies, Wives as Secretaries, kick backs from the Lobby groups etc.
    Oh, & dont forget about the rather flexible expenses system that allows money to be made on second homes hundreds of thousands of pounds sometimes.
    Im not allowed any second job because Im supposed to be committed to my employer by contract.
    Blair has made Millions since leaving office & Cherie seems to have done rather well out of the Human Rights legislation - glad somebody has.
    You need to look outside of the box Nick; nobody goes into politics for the right reasons any more.


  • Comment number 71.

    "compared with allegations of fraud that politicians have faced in many other countries this would be regarded as small beer"

    So are you saying that it's OK if our MPs are corrupt because they're not quite as corrupt as MPs in some other countries?

  • Comment number 72.

    Perhaps an investigative journalist could push for Brown to release the original contract with his brother so it can be forensically tested for the age of the ink and we can all confirm that this contract was not manufactured, or doctored, very recently.

  • Comment number 73.

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

  • Comment number 74.



    From the Telegraph today an updated story with Downing St comment.

    "Downing Street today released details of the contract for the cleaning at Mr Brown's flat.

    A spokesman said there was nothing "unusual or wrong" in the arrangement, under which the Prime Minister's brother Andrew paid the cleaner directly for work.

    Downing Street said that, for "a number of years", the brothers shared a cleaner. Andrew Brown paid the cleaner and then Gordon Brown paid him his share.

    The contract shows that the cleaner was paid £357 a month - a rate of £4,284 a year - from December 2004 for work at both of the brother's flats in SW1.

    The cleaner spent seven hours cleaning the then-chancellor's property and three hours on his brother's.

    But the revelations from Number 10 are likely to give rise to questions as to why the Prime Minister did not simply lodge receipts directly from the cleaner. He has directly employed other cleaners."

    7 hours cleaning a week seems a bit excessive especially when they are in recess for nearly half the year. That is unless she spent her time repainting the walls after nokia impacts.

    This really is interesting, why would someone have a share of a cleaner knowing that he would claim on expenses, it would have been far easier to invoice directly. Unfortunately the way the this claim was submitted makes it look as it was a bogof deal, which is unfortunate when the person concerned is guided by his moral compass.

  • Comment number 75.

    Post 62. Agree 100% Harman should have been asked about the Court of Public Opinion on MP's expenses.

    I imagine the answer would have been short and sweet. "Send them down".

  • Comment number 76.

    ianmac46 @69

    principally you're right, but it's an eyeopener to see what the best paid politicians are up to

    and you're so 'egassem no'

  • Comment number 77.

    Nick,

    Here are some questions that you might like to raise. Hat-tip to Dizzy

    1) Between 2004 - 2006, Gordon Brown was Chancellor of the Exchequer, and lived in the flat above Number 10 Downing Street having swapped the Number 11 residence with Blair some years before. So please, pray tell, why did his private flat need cleaning so much?

    2) For a cleaner to clean a three bed Victorian terrace house it's going to take a cleaner a couple of hours a week at around £10 per hour. That's £2080 over two years. Brown's bill was £6577 over 26 months, why?

    3) Given we're talking about a flat, not a house, that works out to a cleaner charging £30 per hour, for two hours per week. A tad steep, no?

    4) Of course, it may be that actually the cleaner cost less. Reporting suggests that Gordon was just covering half the cost of the cleaning bill with his brother Andrew. What size property was Andrew having cleaned? Could it be Gordon just paid half the cost with our money for a quarter of the actual work?

    The bottom line here is does a cleaner, where one half of its job is cleaning somewhere that is hardly lived in, really cost £12,000?


    http://dizzythinks.net/

  • Comment number 78.

    wouldn't it be reasonable to just pay MP's a decent salary and get rid of all expenses bar travel to and from constituency. We wouldn't then have the farce that is the expenses system.

  • Comment number 79.

    First, while I can see the logic of expenses for travel and daily subsistence, I fail to see the logic of expenses for furnishings, home improvements and (heavens above) services like cleaners. Why not EITHER have the HoC authorities buy a 600+ bed hotel for the use of MPs when in London and dispense with all T&S and other expenses (bar travel between London and the consttuency) OR accept that MPs - like the rest of us - often have to work away but don't need the full trappings of glorious cultivated living to do it. I am amazed at the brazen cheek of MPs who think it acceptable to bleat about their 'selfless lifelong commitment to improving the lives of ordinary people in Britain' on the one hand, while signing expenses claims for new Italian silk designer curtains for the penthouse with the other. And by the way, given that their jobs are not permanent - they can be thrown out at regular elections - what in heavens name is wrong with RENTING a 'second home'? Oh, and while we are at it, can we set a radius limit to this nonsense of the 'London residence' in the first place? While the MP for Orkney clearly needs one, it isn't at all clear that an MP whose constituency and home are both within a one hour commute does. Reform sitting hours so that the House sits only between 0830 and 1800 for more weeks of the year and everyone can go home with the rest of us weary commuters - you know, the ones working to pay the taxes that support this sort of insanity...

  • Comment number 80.

    Sure it needs sorting out but the fact that it is now being aired via the politically partizan Telegraph (who despite their enthusiasm for freedom of information will not identify their sources) will generate lots of heat but not much light. Apart from the odd inconsequential sacrifice do we really expect any major Conservative embarrassment?? What should have been a non-partizan cleansing of the stables will now become cheap electioneering as the Telegraph periodically dribbles out whatever toxic revelations it deems necesary to keep the Cameron bandwagon rolling..
    When the dust settles and the bodies are dragged away will we be any closer to a situation where MPs from outside Greater London are permitted "reasonable" (as in Clapham Omnibus, or as in Argos Catologue) reimbursement of out-of-pocket expenses incurred by having to come to the capital and little else? Don't hold your breath.
    Maybe we should go back to the good old days when only toffs of independent means went into politics.

  • Comment number 81.

    Why does no journalist,yourself included ask the simple question of any MP to justify their expenses on the,above reproach rule that they are supposed to abide by?
    Asking Andrew Walker to justify some of his actions as head of the department that scrutinises(?) these claims would make for interesting viewing.
    As for politicians not getting rich by entering politics it seems Blears seems to be able buy plenty of houses on her paltry salary.

  • Comment number 82.

    "Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics. They'll tell you that they need to live in two places to do their job properly and that costs money which they're entitled to re-claim" Nick Robinson.

    Excuse me, Nick, but isn't your job as a journalist to challenge what you are told rather than meekly repeat it in the media?

    If an MP told me that I'd ask him/her to point out any poor MPs, any ex-MPs now living in poverty. I'd point out a large number of ex-MPs who have gained financially enourmously from politics. I'd say that I know people who commute from as far afield as Bouremouth to work in London and they would NOT be allowed to claim a second home under HMRC rules nor would 'normal' people be able to do the same if they worked in two different places and I'd ask why MPs should be treated preferentially to those they are supposed to be serving. I'd ask whether any other group of people could set their own rules on tax-free, taxpayer funded expenses and again ask why MPs think they are different. I'd ask whether defending themselves by saying 'they were in within the rules' really had any moral weight when they now admit that those rules were wholly inadequate.

    In other words I would do the job YOU, Nick, are supposed to be doing. Of course, by doing so I might lose a cosy relationship with politician chums but at least I'm sure I'd know I was doing the right thing.

  • Comment number 83.

    Nick - because you are in the Westminster bubble I rather think you miss the point. Virtually all of us in the real world would be fired if we so much as added a few pounds onto our expense claims.

    The excuses I'm hearing 'it was within the rules'; 'it was cleared by the fees office'; 'I paid it back when I was alerted to it' just do not wash with us. We pay for these expenses; and we have had enough of it.

  • Comment number 84.

    Nick

    Here's a question next time you interview the PM. Did all of the £6k cleaning claim paid to his brother find its way to a cleaner?

  • Comment number 85.

    "Questions that MPs dread"

    Clearly wouldn't include any questions they are likely to be asked by Nick Robinson.

  • Comment number 86.

    Nick,
    before you get too deep into political apologist mode, consider the following.

    MP's are elected to represent the interests of their constituents.
    They are paid a salary for doing this, just like any other employee in this country.
    They are expected to be honest and open in all their dealings.
    Now when it comes to expenses and the rules it seems there is a deliberate campaign to defraud the public of money. The system is being blamed becasue it is too lax and open to abuse, yet this is the system that they have devised.
    Apparently all the rules have been followed and unnamed people have approved payments that are found to have been wrong. Have these unnamed people been sacked or disciplined in any way, as would happen in the real world? - we pay for our mistakes. If an MP mistakenly claims for payment of council tax, who checks that the correct amount has been claimed? Why is this allowed to go unnoticed for 6 years?
    Why does a well paid Chancellor of the Exchequer (who lives in an official residence in London) feel the need to claim from the state for cleaning of a second home which, by definition, does not get used much?

    There is an Augean stables of a mess here which even Hercules would baulk at trying to clean up. What we need are 635 men in white suits to stand at the next election and get rid of the corrupt many who are treating us so contemptibly.

  • Comment number 87.

    Nick,

    It is clear that the publicly funded EBC is incapable of reporting impartially on the abuse of public funds by members of the Government. I suspect that is because you are an employee of a publicly funded organisation that does not appear to have any particular regard for transparency, accountability or efficency. It must be hard to criticise GB when you know that the Beeb and its employees are milking the taxpayer.

    Why don't you declare a conflict of interest, and let the taxpayers judgement hold sway on this and related topics?

    All the best

    PS - when the Lib Dems and Conservatives come to the fore in this debate, try not to make more of an example of them just because you can. It is the government that needs to be called to account first and foremost.

  • Comment number 88.

    International comparisons are irrelevant. These hypocrites have been plundering the public for all they could, while raising our taxes and lecturing us on how we should live our lives. Most taxpayers are a lot poorer than them.

    Their pensions are a scandal too.

    Your insider's complacency misjudges the public mood.

  • Comment number 89.

    69

    Many on this blog are calling for MPs of all parties to be held to account. But the simple fact is that Labour have been in power for nearly 12 years and appear to have been complicit in creating an additional salary for MPs via the expenses. Would the Tories/Libs done anything if they were in power - probably not - but it matters not because Labour did nothing. To claim to represent the "hard working family" or the "working class" whilst claiming an amount equivalent to the average UK salary for a second home, on top of the £65K salary is a disgrace. And then they tried to block publication of these details. If this govn was in the business of serving the people they would have been open and honest - after all they have the majority in the HoC.

  • Comment number 90.

    When writing: Ask any MP and they'll insist that you don't get rich by going into politics, Im not sure if Nick Robinson was in agreement or simply stating yet another lie promulgated by our politicians.
    Rich, of course, is a relative value, but just one example: John Prescott. How does a Merchant Navy Steward end up owning an 8-bedroomed house in Hull, valued at about £500,000, plus a £450,000 London flat? Additionally, he will receive a £100,000 resettlement allowance following his retirement, and a pension of about a £120,000 a year.
    What would have been the value of his home (singular) and pension as a Navy Steward?

  • Comment number 91.

    Oh! How I'd like some of your " Small beer"
    Are you intent on insulting the public of the UK with this ridiculous defence of the indefensible?
    I suspect , if you were a Chinese polician found fiddling the books , or even a Thai one, that no one would be putting forward the " we're not as bad as..... "argument.
    I suspect the politician would be publicly hanged or shot!
    Small beer?? Add the whole lot up and we'll find out just how much
    " small beer" this lot have been swimming in!

    The BBC really has lost its integrity ,just like the politicans at Westminster.
    Time for the public to STOP paying the salaries.

  • Comment number 92.

    44. ColonelDigby
    Well spotted. One set of rules for the governed, another set for the governors.

    The "within the rules" arguement is a nonsense. They are well aware of how tax and benefits are regulated in the real world, why should they be treated any differently?
    From the cases already appearing the question of fraud must come into play. Here is the official port of call for complaints:
    http://www.sfo.gov.uk/cases/guidance.asp
    Good luck!

    On politicians in general and the esteem in which they are held:
    Nadine Dorres on QT last night; "Trident is not a weapon of mass destruction."
    Where do they find these people?!? Perhaps there should be an entrance exam.

  • Comment number 93.

    Some excellent posts today.

    But no-one has pointed out that MPs have been given a whole month to go through their expenses to ensure that they are correct!!! Hmmmm. Just another dodge in a whole dodgy scandal, with everyone concerned doing all they can to cover their backs.

    If any of us posting here - MPs and spin doctors excluded of course - were to give these excuses to the Inland Revenue they would wipe the floor with us, and quite rightly.

    The Inland Revenue, allegedly, approach their cases from the position that you are guilty and must prove yourself innocent. The general public has taken the same position with MPs and other people in power. Quite rightly so in my opinion. They must prove themselves innocent to the "The Court of Public Opinion."

    As for "small beer", to someone with little income - pensioners, the poor, etc, this is "very big beer indeed". And while what happens elsewhere may be "enormous beer" and just as fraudulent as benefits cheating.




  • Comment number 94.

    It matters not that the claims were within the rules - the British have a good sense of what is right and what is wrong, and the British public have a right to expect their cabinet ministers to exercise that sense of right and wrong.

    Using taxpayers' money to pay thousands to your brother for a cleaner, or using a loophole to claim 2nd home expenses on multiple homes is plainly wrong. Simple as that.

    Our cabinet seem intent on taking as much of taxpayers' money as they can for their own benefit, instead of for the benefit of the country. Such appalling irresponsibility is frankly unacceptable in a modern government.

  • Comment number 95.

    There are dubious machinations afoot here.

    The information arrived in the hands of the Telegraph by nefarious means. This has been picked up as a leak to a Tory supporting newspaper by some quarters. Anyone who reads the broadsheets regularly will know that the old Torygraph stopped being that some considerable time ago.
    That being the case what are we to read into the publication of the Cabinets expenses first?

    Looks like an elephant trap for the Opposition to me. Or it could be that the public outrage will escalate with the increasing ludicrousness of the claims yet to be revealed.Be sure there will be damage to the Tories to come.


    How much of this did Gordon know before hand? His Youtube horror show is now being used by the likes of Harriet Harman and Liam Byrne to say that he was aware of the problem and trying to fix it, but the nasty Opposition wouldn't back him. Another trap sprung.

    All this is more damaging to the country as a whole than any individual or party. Viva la revolution?

  • Comment number 96.

    Nick - I just wonder whether you may have become too close to the Westminster Village. You are too kind to our MP's over this matter. Take the cases of Browns double claiming for plumbing and Straws over claiming on Council Tax.As someone who woked in local govt for many years I can assure you that such claims made by any local govt officer would have resulted in dismissal for gross misconduct on the grounds of fraudulent use of public funds - indeed as a Personnel Manager I have indeed been involved in sacking people just for that sort of offence. For Brown to wring an apology out of the fees office when it was him who signed off the double claim is disgraceful.For Straw to claim it was done in error and when he found out about he corrected it ( waa that when he realised it would be published by the way !) it doesn't wash as he again was the one signing off for the claim. I can really really assure you Nick that such excuses would not wash for any other public servant making these claims and I am not sure you have really recognised just how serious these matters are.I could also mention the quite disgraceful practice of some MP's doing up second homes, selling them off at a profit, pocketing the money and then repeating the practice over and again.
    Harriet Harman, kept saying ad nauseum this morning that it was all within the rules, but there is a preamble to the rules talking about the spirit of what should be claimed which would seem to negate much of what has in fact been claimed.Evan Davis was absolutely brilliant this morning in pessing the hapless Harman on this matter without sadly any success.
    I'm a Cameron supporter but I don't kid myself that the Tories (or indeed Lbi/Dems) will come out any cleaner on this matter than Labour - it will look worse for Labour though as they will (foolishly) keep prattling on about having a moral compass etc etc and I'm not sure how impressed their core vote will be with their Leader and Foreign Secretary claiming for cleaning expenses and gardening in these troubled times.

  • Comment number 97.

    NIck, I think that was you on Today this morning, saying that people don't go into politics to earn money, or words to that effect. Let me give you a few names; M. Thatcher, J. Major, and T. Blair. A nice little list of people who discovered a whole heap of nice little earners when they left politics. But who would have wanted ladle out money to these three if they hadn't been politicians in the first place?

  • Comment number 98.

    I think Harriet Harman's phrase "The Court of Public Opinion" is about to turn on her and her cronies.

    Just another Labour sound-bite coming back to haunt them. Ask Woolas, Joanna Lumley and the Gurkhas.

  • Comment number 99.

    When I worked for British Steel (back in the dark ages!) we were given what was called "out of pocket expenses" if we had to travel away from our home, stay in hotels, eat out etc. Now, it was up to us if we stayed at the expensive places and used the mini bar or stayed in a B and B and used the rest to buy whatever we wanted. Not without flaws I know but it was a blanket amount and up to us how and where we spent it.

    Moving on, and a bit flippant, but the thought occurred to me that we could do with Joanna Lumley, Daniel Hannan, Carol Vorderman and Kirstie Allsop in the next Government! At least they are in touch with the situations in the public. -;)

  • Comment number 100.

    The gravy train is about to arrive at its final destination but only because the engine has run out of steam without a driver, the tracks have disappeared and all the wheels have fallen off.

    MPs expenses and their general arrogance should be seen in the same light as the culture which existed within the banks, the public sector, the regulators and establishment which have led us to the current situation which is the Credit Crunch.

    Everyone, even those state run economic and political editors, attempt to forensically analyse the actual cause of the Credit Crunch such as the removal of Glass Seagal, the sub prime toxic debt, Thatcher selling council houses.....(blah, blah, blah).

    However the main cause of our current woes was the failure of our establishment to notice that anything was wrong because they had accepted that it was right and this goes for all parties.

    When I hear politicians, bankers, the public sector regulators and other establishment figures, (and fellow bloggers) saying that no one could have seen the present economic events coming, it is because their noses were so deep in the trough of the plenty that they were oblivious to the inevitable crash that was happening all around them.

    This expenses scandal is not 'small beer' and Nick should be ashamed of himself for belittling what is in reality a 'constitutional crisis' but then he too, like many in the media who feed off politicians, are blind to the corruption and immorality that infects and permeates all parts of public life.

    The solution to this problem is very simple. MPs should appoint an all party committee of Lords to further appoint an agreed independent person outside Parliament to look at what goes on in the private sector with large blue chip companies such as BP, Shell and so on.

    These companies have employees who have exactly the same issues as MPs such as distance working and working in two work places and have done fro years. This problem is not peculiar to MPs; after all Nick, you too work away from home all the time.

    This independent person should also look at work practices such as working normal hours like 9 to 5 and no night sittings (except in emergency), and fewer holidays. MPs should also be compelled to attend more debates; if not let's close Parliament and have a teleconference debate between the three or four MPs who do turn up (we'd not only save money on second homes here, you'd also save the travelling expenses too).

    There are several luxury flats and houses dotted all over London and if MPs need one on a permanent basis because they live far away, that's fine.

    It's also fine if they need a luxury flat for one night because of urgent business and they live a few miles away. No one minds expenses being claimed, just so long as no one is out of pocket whilst doing company business.

    These flats are available for rent, for one night or three years, it's your choice. The only proviso I would say here is that the rental flat must be owned by a non-related person. This way you won't get an MP renting a luxury flat from their relative or friend at top rate.

    What annoys everyone and this is why Nick's commentary and others in the media completely miss the point is the fact that MPs are using their expenses as another income stream; small beer indeed.

    This expenses problem is not hard to sort out. All it requires is for MPs to realise that freebie world is now far behind us and as hard as it will be to give up their money churning ATMs, the time has come to stop misbehaving and taking all of us for a ride.

    Politicians are the new greedy monarchs who Cromwell and the will of the people got rid of in the 17th Century. It's now time for them to shape up or ship out if they don't like it.

    And another thing.....

    If MPs continue to live without ever having to dip their hands in their own pockets, how on earth can they make meaningful decisions regarding the public finances. I mean if politicians don't feel the pain of paying money away, they have no idea what is like to foist an endless tax regime on the citizens they are supposed to represent.

    This is the point; constituents are not being represented by their MPs. .

    If the media want to earn their keep right now, they should be supporting the people and putting forward suggestions as to how improvements can be made, not brushing it aside as if it is an irritation.

    And finally.....

    This expenses scandal is starting to make Fred Goodwin look like Mother Theresa!

 

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