BBC BLOGS - Nick Robinson's Newslog
« Previous | Main | Next »

Has he got a Legg to stand on?

Nick Robinson | 08:39 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Last night in the Commons, I could not find an MP with a good word to say about the man asked to audit and cleanse their expense claims - asked by the Commons, mind.

Graphic from BBC News - click for videoSenior MPs with a legal background said Sir Thomas would not have a leg to stand on if his demands for repayments - based on rules he is applying retrospectively - ever came to court. They point to the fact that his remit invited him to assess claims by the "rules and standards in force at the time".

I have now obtained a copy of the document that all MPs have been sent by Sir Thomas which explains why he has acted as he has.

Sir Thomas says that "to interpret and determine the rules and standards" applying at the time was "not a straightforward task".

He points out that the Commons Fees Office frequently allowed "disproportionate claims" which "must be judged to have been in breach of the rules".

He notes that "in some areas, such as household furniture and equipment... the Fees Office did in fact impose... limits" - in other words, the infamous John Lewis list.

When it comes to mortgages, he says that "the upper limit of the allowance may normally be taken as the relevant and sufficient control" - in other words, those who "claimed to the max" for their mortgage do not risk having to repay money (unless, of course, their claim contained errors).

However, Sir Thomas notes that in other areas - cleaning and garden maintenance - "some limits must be regarded as having been place to prevent disproportionate and unnecessary expenditure from the public purse".

That is why Gordon Brown has a large cheque to write, whereas David Cameron does not. It is also why Labour MPs were cursing the PM last night for proposing - albeit with all-party support - the Legg Review.

Comments

Page 1 of 4

  • Comment number 1.

    MPs still don't get it! At least Cameron has told his candidates, pay up or you don't stand. Brown, as ever, is silent. One can only presume that his moral compass, once again, is pointing in the wrong direction.

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    I just don't see the problem here! All parties agreed to the retrospective review. If HM Revenues decided they wanted to review my personal tax I could be investigated up to 5 years back, and even though my returns have been agreed they can be overturned during the review

    This is no different! The problem here is that MP's only agreed to a review because of public anger, not because they believe they were wrong in making claims

    I can't wait for one of them to knock on my door and ask my opinion, then they might just get to understand what the phrase 'anger over expenses' means. Never mind their anger!

    They assumed it would be swept under the carpet and forgotten about. Fair play to Sir Thomas!

    What we need now is a list of MP's who say they are looking into legal action to prevent this - and make it public. I wonder how many will be willing to stand in front of the constituency and state it publicly??

    Not a one would be my guess as all comments seem to come from an 'unnamed angry MP'

    Sack the lot and start again

  • Comment number 4.

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

  • Comment number 5.

    I was asked a few years ago, to pay some extra tax (here in France) because the authorities had incorrectly assessed the (correct) information they had been given. In addition I had to pay 10% extra 'for late payment'.

    There does not seem to me to be much difference between that and the Legg proposals - the assessments of expenses, even where made in good faith, have now been deemed to be wrong, and repayment is being demanded. They may not like it (neither did I!), but tough!

  • Comment number 6.

    If the MPs are so sure of themselves, let's hand the whole process over to the Police. They can then conduct criminal inquiries into fraud. The basis being that the overriding rule at the time, as now, was:

    "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of carrying out their duties as an MP"

    Any claim that cannot be justified in these terms the MP should then face prosecution. During the trial they will then have the chance to argue whether a 2000 quid garden set met that criteria in front of a jury.

  • Comment number 7.

    MP's are squealing because they hoped for the usual Whitewash.

    We also have a Prime Minister who is judged to have ripped us off for £12,415. That is more than a soldier on the frontline earns after tax.

    Brown should set an example to other MP's and resign over this - but he won't because despite the pious Presbyterian sound bites, he is actually a selfish, false and vile individual.

  • Comment number 8.

    Hello,regardless of what the honourable members with a legal background say,how many of these same honourable members could stand up in court and state that all their claims were valid under the old rules of being necessary to do their job,not many I should think.As we have seen all they have to do is go to the rubber stamp committee also called the standards committee and get let of by their mates.

  • Comment number 9.

    I noticed that Newsnight did a large piece on the expenses scandal last night. The Labour Party sent two MP's to give over the parties view of developments. The Conservative Party refused to send any one....the Conservative Parties silence speaks a thousand words.

    Noticed Cameron said that anyone who didn'y pay expenses cannot stand for them. Does this threat come from the same stable as "If any MP is found of any wrongdoing whatsoever he will be sacked from the Conservative Party"...up to date not a single MP has been sacked by Mr Cameron..Actions speak louder than words David.

    http://redrag1.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 10.

    If they still don't "get it", then just let them wait till June, or earlier please. Then the people can have THEIR say about this whole sorry mess.

  • Comment number 11.

    For so long MPs touted spin,
    Causing such a hypocritical din,
    But now the effects come home to roost,
    Stop complaining!!!
    Actions have consequences - moral boost

  • Comment number 12.

    Just because the corruption, fraud and amorality of MPs is so rife as to be the norm, does not mean they can excuse themselves as 'just following the rules'. Did none of them have the decency to think that just because their chum had got away with a dodgy claim, perhaps they should show some moral authority and work to the standards we expect?
    Just because your duck house/porn film claim was signed off doesn't make it okay. It just means that the Commons Fees Office was complicit in the fraud!

  • Comment number 13.

    It shouldn't be polite letters containing respectful requests for repayments or further explanations that these MP's should be receiving - it's summonses from the Fraud Squad that should be dropping through their mailboxes. And isn't it striking that no matter how big the repayment demanded - £5,000 - £12,000 - £40,000 - the MP's concerned always seem to have the cash ready to comply. If ordinary members of the public had behaved like these MP's they'd have been locked up a long time ago. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 14.

    What about Jacqui Smith (Labour) ? There was a very good report on Newsnight last night - it showed that the punishment was decided by a committee of 6 Labour and 1 Conservative MPs; surprise, surprise, her party colleagues votes that she apologise, but not hand back the £116000 (one hundred and sixteen THOUSAND pounds) that Leg said she should not have claimed.

    That is outrageous ! The Labour Party has no concept of democracy, justice or transparency (on top of respect for taxpayers' money, of course).

    They can run, but they can't hide. Roll on the election.

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

    MPs should be thanking sir Thomas - without a genuinely harsh review there would always be a residual doubt over honesty. This way the majority of MPs are be asked to repay something so the guilt is shared collectively rather than being dumped on one or two individuals.

    I do however await the prosecution of the most serious offenders.

  • Comment number 17.

    "Last night in the Commons, I could not find an MP with a good word to say about the man asked to audit and cleanse their expense claims - asked by the Commons, mind."

    Ughhhh, this is getting ridiculous. It's probably cost more than Legg can recover to prepare his report.

    Look, the people who need doing-over are those who APPROVED these claims in the first place. These MP have been going on playing the system for years thinking it's perfectly okay to do so. Why not? Their claims were being approved. They knew they were coining it but weren't doing anything wrong.

    Trying to recover money now from the last 5 years is plain barmey unless MPs can be shown to have broken the rules.

    Don't get me wrong - I don't support what's been happening but all this cosmetic surgery to try to make things look all shiny and bright again is a further waste of public time and money.

    If parliament is concerned about abusing public money, let's turn our attention to the sale of state assets.

  • Comment number 18.

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

  • Comment number 19.

    David Cameron was the largest claimer in the commons in his first year as an MP. He currently claims for a mortgage on his home in Oxfordshire. Expenses are supposed to be for where MP's have duplicate expenditure because they are an MP. David Cameron does not because he has no mortgage in London he owns his house. Within the spirit of expenses he should therefore not be claiming. Effectively he is getting the tax payer to buy a house in oxfordshire which if he sells he will make masses of money off. I think he should do three things.

    1 Repay the money he has claimed

    2 He should sell the house and give any profits to help pay off the massive public sector debt

    3 He should resign for so obviously abusing the expenses system

    I was really shocked to find out he was the largest claimant of expenses and that he seems to have such a hardline now.

    I am really unclear as to why the TPA have not made more of this.

  • Comment number 20.

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

  • Comment number 21.

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

  • Comment number 22.

    The MPs might have a strong legal case - but even they should understand that any MP who goes to court to avoid paying back their expenses is unlikely to be an MP after the next election.

    I am not usually one to stand up for Brown but the headlines appear worse for him because he has been told to pay back a large sum, however because Cameron claimed for mortgage payments the headlines aren't so bad for him.

    However, the big difference between Brown and Cameron and Clegg is that Brown had full use of a ministerial home for the last 12 years so didn't really require a second home allowance.

  • Comment number 23.

    At the risk of repetition, here is my take on the scandal.
    If as they proclaim themselves to be MPs had behaved as honourable men and women there would be no need for this review.
    They did not and now they must face the consequences.

    Sir Thomas Legg details why he has set out a limit to gardening and cleaning expenses. Although I fail to see how such expense can be attributed to the execution of the role as Member of Parliament. In a similar way I find it hard to understand how £400 per month could be claimed for food without a receipt.
    The gravy train has stopped. Some must now pay the fare; Jacqui Smith note the spelling please. If they feel that their claims are justified and would like a court or HMRC to adjudicate as to how essential they were to being an MP then go to court. A jury trial would perhaps assist in explaining the public outrage at the behaviour of those elected to serve the people. So on second thought let's not involve HMRC.

  • Comment number 24.

    Conedia

    But why do you think David Cameron is making so much noise on this. It is because people will have their attention drawn to his record on expenses and him claiming for duplicate expenses that he does not have. He has massive personal wealth but still he is using the system to claim money from us to make himself richer.

  • Comment number 25.

    All very interesting but Brown's silence about how Labour MPs should handle the situation speaks volumes. Would also be rather interesting to see Legg's letter to Tony Blair. In the end, OK they have all been told to repay "excess" claims -- so be it and lets move on.

    More importantly from a democracy and legal viewpoint lets have a little discussion about the Damian Green Home Office affair. Good item for an in depth analysis for this evenings news perhaps ?

  • Comment number 26.

    Nick, I can't believe you are criticizing the auditor. At last these expenses are being correctly evaluated. The law states that the expense must be wholly necessary for the MP to carry out his duties. These MP's need to justify or pay back. They are all intelligent enough to know they were taking a chance.

  • Comment number 27.

    it just shows that the PM has no control over his party, or the country.
    now he has to repay an over payment of expenses that does nothing for his reputation or his chances of holding on to his office after the next elections.
    sadly it seems even the most honest person can become greedy when offered easy money.
    the report may well be flawed and not deep enough but it shows there is more to find and the deeper they dig the more corruption they may well find, but how far back should they look ? 10 years, 20 years, or more.
    so the question must remain and that is how many now sitting in parliment are there for the good of the country and how many are there to line their pockets at the public expence?.

  • Comment number 28.

    There was no limit on gardening and cleaning claims excpet the one that it had to be reasonable.All Clegg has done is effectively to say that what they claimed was NOT reasonable.Fair enough.It is a cunning Mandelson spin began yesterday to say that Legg had changed the rules - he has not and he did not - all he has done is to say what was reasonable.

    Can someone please explain to me why Godon Brown claimed a penny for gardening and cleaning as he lived in grace and favour homes at our expense? Where was the EXTRA cost he was incuring? Also what about his Sky sub?

  • Comment number 29.

    NuLab now clearly represents the "old guard" as far as spinning, over-politicising and hypocritical do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do attitudes go.

    2010 will bring a breath of fresh air with a new government (please don't re-elect the NuLab desperados).

  • Comment number 30.

    'wheresMyVote wrote:
    If the MPs are so sure of themselves, let's hand the whole process over to the Police. They can then conduct criminal inquiries into fraud. The basis being that the overriding rule at the time, as now, was:

    "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of carrying out their duties as an MP"'

    On that basis £2000 a year for a cleaner seems more than generous - I don't see how cleaning services are "exclusively" incurred or are they trying to argue that MPs create more of a mess than the rest of us - must be as a result of fighting to get to the trough!

  • Comment number 31.

    Seems perfectly clear to me. The system (i.e. the MPs led by the Speaker they elected) allowed/encouraged a modus operandi to develop that ignored the 'reasonableness' criterion that is stated in the rules. So this little self-regulated club claimed excessive public funds, against the rules. Ergo the 'reasonableness' has to be inserted retrospectively, as requested by the PM. It's a pity the MPs didn't have the integrity to regulate themselves. A bit worrying then that they regulate us. Good for Cameron, by the way. His leadership is shining through. As for the 'incensed', they really don't get it, do they?

  • Comment number 32.

    There are only losers in this sorry business. We the people have lost a lot of money over the years, paying expenses for what are a very mediocre set of public servants. Those honourable MPs who played by the rules have lost out, because they have no more respect than the frauds who have played the system for what its worth. Politics has lost out, beacuse it is now deemed to be the profession of choice for all the three card tick specialists whio have been trying to rip us off for years.

  • Comment number 33.

    Just because it's within the rules doesn't mean it's not obviously wrong. We'll have the opportunity to vote them out soon but my MP, Hazel Blears, looks like she's going to get back in regardless!

  • Comment number 34.

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

  • Comment number 35.

    19#

    Because if they did it to him, they'd have to do it to a lot more besides - Geoff Hoon for one.

  • Comment number 36.

    28. peterbuss wrote:

    Can someone please explain to me why Godon Brown claimed a penny for gardening and cleaning as he lived in grace and favour homes at our expense?


    This might help, pb.


    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5293446/MPs-expenses-Gordon-Browns-house-swap-that-let-him-claim-thousands.html

  • Comment number 37.

    Does Tony Blair come under the expences rules? I would like to know how much he has been asked to pay back.

  • Comment number 38.

    I repeat

    David Cameron was the largest claimer in the commons in his first year as an MP. He currently claims for a mortgage on his home in Oxfordshire. Expenses are supposed to be for where MP's have duplicate expenditure because they are an MP. David Cameron does not because he has no mortgage in London he owns his house. Within the spirit of expenses he should therefore not be claiming. Effectively he is getting the tax payer to buy a house in oxfordshire which if he sells he will make masses of money off. I think he should do three things.

    1 Repay the money he has claimed

    2 He should sell the house and give any profits to help pay off the massive public sector debt

    3 He should resign for so obviously abusing the expenses system

    I was really shocked to find out he was the largest claimant of expenses and that he seems to have such a hardline now.

    I am really unclear as to why the TPA have not made more of this.

    Why are so many bloggers from the right not bothered about this?

    This man wants to be the prime minister of this country but is fleecing us why are people not bothered.

    This is not bachelor claiming - getting someone to do your washing because you are single - this is a slick metropolitan millionaire using the state to leverage extra borrowing that he will then personally benefit massively from - why don't people care?

  • Comment number 39.

    Nick - you ask whether he has a leg to stand on. In the famous court of public opinion he most certainly does. It was interesting listening to Alistair Graham former Chairman of Standards in Public Life on the BBC this morning. He made the very valid point that this was a system set up and regulated by the MPs - with that in mind anything goes. The "rules" were so badly drafted that almost anything could get through. This is no defence for an extravagent claim.
    Of course MPs could refuse to pay up and see where that gets them. Swift deselection before the election in all probability.

  • Comment number 40.

    Expat in the Netherlands - please come home and pay taxes

  • Comment number 41.

    Unfortunately, whether the MPs like it or not, they're judged by far more than 12 members of a jury - the electorate sit in flawed judgement and that's the life they chose.

    What amazes me is that he (Sir Thomas Legg) hasn't really touched on the real issue surrounding expenses.... and that's mortgages.

    Why should those who claimed under the rules for gardening be penalised when those who seemed to manipulate the system to receive more than beneficial mortgage arrangements go untouched and untainted?

    It makes me sick.

  • Comment number 42.

    "REDRAG1 wrote:
    I noticed that Newsnight did a large piece on the expenses scandal last night. The Labour Party sent two MP's to give over the parties view of developments. The Conservative Party refused to send any one....the Conservative Parties silence speaks a thousand words."

    That might not mean anything, I had a friend who was a PA to someone involved in a news story on local TV they were asked for his availability (with about 2 hours notice) for a news story only to be told that he had a charity event. This was portrayed on the news as him refusing to appear for an interview. I didn't see Newsnight but was one of the MPs Gordon Brown as this morning Cameron has addressed the media and stated that any MP who refuses to pay up will not be allowed to stand at the next election.

    "Noticed Cameron said that anyone who didn'y pay expenses cannot stand for them. Does this threat come from the same stable as "If any MP is found of any wrongdoing whatsoever he will be sacked from the Conservative Party"...up to date not a single MP has been sacked by Mr Cameron..Actions speak louder than words David."

    Well Conway lost the whip as a result of his expenses, others were encouraged to stand down at the next election. Others were threatened with the loss of the whip if they didn't apologise.

    However, the key word would be found to be guilty of "wrong doing" most of the claims for expenses WERE allowed under the rules they just took liberties. From memory the cases of MPs claiming for mortgages they had paid off were both Labour MPs (which I think many would agree was a case of "wrong doing")

  • Comment number 43.

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

  • Comment number 44.

    Against the current.

    My understanding is that most MPs have not broken tax law and therefore are under no legal obligation to repay. A minority of MPs may have submitted falsified claims, and these should be investigated by the police and if necessary prosecuted. Of course, given public anger there is a political obligation to repay, but that is a different matter.

    Most journalists knew very well that MPs were supplementing their salaries with expenses. The coverage launched by the 'Daily Telegraph' has the effect, and probably the intention, of weakening politicians and by extension the democratic process in order to enhance the power of the press.

    An MPs salary of £64,000 is small compared to quango bureaucrats, middle-managment council executives, and the BBC (I believe the BBC Director General receives over £800,000 a year). Once honesty has been restored to the expenses system MPs pay should be increased substantially.

    Of course the MPs expenses system should be reformed, as all the main party leaders have agreed, but in the present financial crisis this is a fairly minor issue. No doubt parties outside the mainstream such as the BNP will prove the real winners from this national sanctimonious obsession.

  • Comment number 45.

    Chief exec - how can you say Cameron's leadership is shining through when he so clearly got his snout in the trough? Why is he claiming for a house in Oxfordshire when he does not have too lots of expenditure - he is using the system and it stinks.

  • Comment number 46.

    The Houses of Parliament, the Mother of Democracy: a tawdry and rapacious tart!

  • Comment number 47.

    19. At 09:26am on 13 Oct 2009, balancedthought

    Where is the balance?

  • Comment number 48.

    "SecretSkivver wrote:
    What about Jacqui Smith (Labour) ? There was a very good report on Newsnight last night - it showed that the punishment was decided by a committee of 6 Labour and 1 Conservative MPs; surprise, surprise, her party colleagues votes that she apologise, but not hand back the £116000 (one hundred and sixteen THOUSAND pounds) that Leg said she should not have claimed."

    Really? Wow I am surprised the country could afford all the whitewash as they certainly seem to be slapping it on! Perhaps someone should tell them there is a recession on!

  • Comment number 49.

    Sorry, but there is absolutely nothing retrospective about Sir Thomas's assessments.

    Here are a couple of quotes from the Green Book (the rules governing MPs' expenses):

    "Claims should be above reproach"

    "Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else."

    That seems pretty clear to me. If MPs chose to push that to the limits and take advantage of the lack of precise figures, they are not going to get any sympathy from me. And given that there are 30+ comments published on this thread so far with not a single one supportive of the MPs, it doesn't sound like they are going to get any sympathy from anyone else either.

  • Comment number 50.

    I cannot se why they should complain or indeed have a leg (no pun) to stand on when the expenses repayments are being backdated 5 years - after all they have been twisting, turning and using our money for legal intervention for exactly that long trying to stop the expenses being published in the first place.

  • Comment number 51.

    I don't think the rules are being changed at all. Nick, you should do a little research into how HMRC interpret the 'wholly, exclusively and necessarily...for the purposes...' test on employees in general as the same wording is used in employment tax legislation. You'll find it's a very stringent test and very little gets through. How is a clean house or a tidy garden necessary to carry out the duties of an MP? Clearly they aren't.

    Dare I say it but I suspect that a brief review might even discover that some cleaners and gardeners had been paid in cash, gave no receipts and so couldn't be differentiated from cleaners and gardeners who didn't actually exist.

    Those would be awkward questions to ask, but I get the feeling this isn't the sort of blog where those sorts of questions get asked....

  • Comment number 52.

    38#

    You can repeat it as many times as you like, the answer remains the same, despite your seemingly pathological hatred of Cameron.

    Because if they did it to him, they would have to do it to an awful lot more besides. He is far from being the only one, regardless of the political colour.

    You cant have one rule for one, where it becomes a resignation matter and not for the others.

    Dont you see thats what got us/them into this mess in the first place?

  • Comment number 53.

    I am going to stick my head over the parapet here. For once I agree with Nick Robinson. It is fundamentally unfair to retrospectively apply rules that did not exist. Like it or not, these MPs made gardening and cleaning claims for five years that were approved and paid. They had no opportunity to change or alter their behaviour or expenditure. It is unjust to now ask for that cash back.

    This sets a dangerous precedent. How will you feel when Gordon Brown announces that last years tax rate was 90% because that seems fair looking at the situation now? Or your car excise duty is tripled for the last five years even though you paid within the rules. Will you pay up the difference meekly? I didn't think so.

    The expenses system was a badly framed and implemented. Imposing arbitrary retrospective rules to punish MPs is not the answer

  • Comment number 54.

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

  • Comment number 55.

    "#38 Expenses are supposed to be for where MP's have duplicate expenditure because they are an MP. David Cameron does not because he has no mortgage in London he owns his house."

    Except that it's additional costs, not duplicate costs.Clearly if you go from one mortgage free property to two properties, one with a mortgage, those costs are additional. Whether morally a claim should be made is a different issue. Although you are also wrong when you say that the taxpayer is buying the house. The taxpayer is meeting the interest costs, Cameron has to meet the capital repayments.

    I'm no defender of the expenses system but your faux shock aimed at Cameron might lead people to think you have an agenda. There are far worse cases on both sides of the house than Cameron. Who was that labour MP who designated her boyfriend's house as her main residence despite it being neither in London nor in her constituency and then spent £22,000 on dry-rot treatment? I'm rather more shocked at blatant abuse of the system like that.

  • Comment number 56.

    balancedthought, you don't appear particularly balanced. The fixation with Cameron could suggest that you are another NuLab lacky desperate to fling some mud around hoping that some might stick.

    Cameron claimed interest repayments on a second home. The reason no-one is making a big deal of it is that they are all at it. You want an example, take the odious Mr and Mrs Balls. They have a rather modest house in one of their constituencies and a whopping house in North London. London is where they spend a significant proportion of their time. I understand their children go to a (private, of course) school nearby. Which one would you think is their designated main home and which is the second. I'll give you a clue, if the second home is in London, they can claim (double of course) for the interest repayments in the mortgage...

  • Comment number 57.

    Was Leggy sober when he dealt the cards and was this supposed to be fair, so how did Jacqui Smith escape with just an apology? If this has been me and you we would have been in a cell by now, an apology would have fallen on deaf ears.

    All parties should be made to pay back every single penny with interest and have their pay docked accordingly to crime - thats fair.

    Theses ministers want us to trust them, yet they grab what they can don't they know it is our toil and sweat what provided them... Leggs report stinks to high hell!

  • Comment number 58.

    #53 "wholly incurred in the execution of their role as an MP". That seams perfectly clear to me. The instructions in their bible the Green Book said they should be above reproach.

    It is said they are intelligent people which parts of the above sentences did they fail to understand?

    As for the former Home Secretary it gets worse and we can't comment on the Damien Green affair either.

  • Comment number 59.

    53#

    "Or your car excise duty is tripled for the last five years even though you paid within the rules. Will you pay up the difference meekly? I didn't think so.

    The expenses system was a badly framed and implemented. Imposing arbitrary retrospective rules to punish MPs is not the answer"

    Funny you should mention VED... that was my first thought this morning. When the rise in VED and the retrospective element for that (for older vehicles upto 7-10 years old) was pushed through, once the initial media storm died down, I dont recall MP's making any kind of fuss about what was seen as a retrospective rule change being inflicted on the wider public. We just had to swallow it and pay up.

    And now this... when the boot is on the other foot, they're up in arms.

    Sauce for the goose and all that. If they dont like it, stand down. I'm sure there will be no shortage of volunteers to take their place.

  • Comment number 60.

    "balancedthought wrote:
    David Cameron was the largest claimer in the commons in his first year as an MP. He currently claims for a mortgage on his home in Oxfordshire. Expenses are supposed to be for where MP's have duplicate expenditure because they are an MP. David Cameron does not because he has no mortgage in London he owns his house. Within the spirit of expenses he should therefore not be claiming."

    How so? The spirit is that no MP should be worse off for being an MP. If an MP has no mortgage on their main home (as they have paid it off) but they need to buy a new home due to their duties as an MP they can claim the mortgage interest as an expense.

    The expenses are not to cover duplicate expenditure but expenditure which results as part of the job.

    "Effectively he is getting the tax payer to buy a house in oxfordshire which if he sells he will make masses of money off. I think he should do three things."

    My understanding is that you can only claim for mortgage interest and not capital. In other words thanks to the tax payer he is getting a 0% interest loan.

    "1 Repay the money he has claimed"

    Why? He technically hasn't done anything wrong - he has used the expenses scheme for the purpose it is there for.

    "2 He should sell the house and give any profits to help pay off the massive public sector debt"

    Firstly, he still needs it to serve the people who elected him and secondly thanks to Labour public debt is so high that selling every property owned by every MP would probably not even cover today's expenditure.

    "3 He should resign for so obviously abusing the expenses system"

    Apart from the fact that he hasn't abused the system.

    "I was really shocked to find out he was the largest claimant of expenses and that he seems to have such a hardline now.

    "I am really unclear as to why the TPA have not made more of this."

    You mean the fact that David Cameron is using the expenses scheme in exactly the way that they were designed for? He isn't actually abusing the system (although he is getting maximum use out of it) and his only crime is that he doesn't actually need to use his expenses. And if that is a crime than I am guilty of it as well - I sometimes need to work on customer sites and although I can afford to travel to these sites I still expense them (and with my companies full blessing!)

    Camerons only "crime" is claiming for a mortgage on a house when he could actually afford to meet the mortgage payments without expensing it.

  • Comment number 61.

    I just don't understand how in anyway gardening is a vital requirement to doing your parlimentary duties. Travel to and from parliment, supplies, and food and lodging. Surely thats the only requirements needed for any job.

  • Comment number 62.

    The Legg investigation is nothing more than yet another whitewash.

    MP's expenses should be fully justified, documented and processed; they have not been and are still not compliant.

    This constitutes conspiracy and fraud, and the correct people to be running the investigation are the police.

    This will not go away, and the investigation should go back forty years not four, as it is clear that crimes have been committed since the payment of expenses started in the mid-sixties.

    ALL MPs are complicit, as they have allowed this thieving to take place for decades.

  • Comment number 63.

    Nick I saw your report on the news last night. It seems you have gone native and were arguing their case to much.

    There is only one thing to say.
    This is a ROTTEN PARLIAMENT

    We have an unelected PM

    An unelected deputy PM not even in the commons.

    The Senior law officer of the land has been found guilty of breaking the law (A law she ran through parliament).

    We've had Labour Lords suspended for the 1st time in 350 years "You will have to make it worth my while for me to come on board"

    We've had the first speaker to be forced out of office for incompetence in 300 years.

    We've had the use of the police as a political weapon against the oposition and an invasion of Parliament over the Green arrest.

    We were promised a vote on the Lisbon treaty then it was taken away from us.

    The whole of the political system and political class are viewed with utter contempt by the public and it is down to this collection of MP's that make up this Parliament.

    There is only one course of action that can start to clear the site for rebuilding.

    An immediate election, nothing NOTHING else will do.


  • Comment number 64.

    The expenses row is vexed and difficult one and obviously an easy one to get the voting, sorry all the public animated over.

    However much they may have breached any moral ethical or social code in their claims and we can all take a view on that very few MP's if any broke any law or breached any practice in place at the time. The fact that one should have been there is different.

    We as their employers should have been taking far more interest in all their activities salaries and expenses, hours of work, conditions of employment, objectives etc years ago.

    Now what are we the citizens of this country doing wasting hours of TV and radio time millions of trees in paper and Kbytes of cyber space discussing what has already been discussed at length. There are many major and far more important social and economic issues that need dealing with and until we can get to an election and vote in some proper politicians with a mandate to act according to the will of the people in all issues of welfare economics law and order and yes expenses. Should we not focus our efforts through all our channels of communication in getting the ones that we elected and their mates in Government who we did not, to do what we want to get this country and our lives and our children’s lives sorted.

    Then can we as voters remember in future to vote for the politicians we want to represent us and to tell them if they are not doing so Then might we take a little reasonability for our actions rather than blame others because those who did not vote are just as responsible for the politicians we have governing us as those who did vote and we should never forget that

  • Comment number 65.

    The ACA system was apparently the idea of Michael Foot as a way of circumventing the Wilson government's incomes policy so as to keep MP's sweet and prevent them from voting down that government which had a wafer thin majority. Something notable from the original expenses story was how many MP's of that era like David Mellor and David Steele emphatically stated that the claims during their time in Parliament were nowhere near as extravagant.

    The implication is that things only began to run riot during the Blair years, when expenses was seen as a way of keeping Labour MP's onboard and make Blair's continuation of Thatcherite policies more palatable. This is probably also another impact of having a parliament stuffed full of servile careerists who have no experience of life in the outside world. Traditionally MP's had spent years working before running for Parliament relatively late in their lives, now they come straight off a production line of activist, researcher, SPAD and then PPC.

    I just hope that some MP does try and take Legg to court, the public will probably tar and feather him! They just have no idea about how angry people are about this whole sorry mess!

  • Comment number 66.

    53 see 49!

    52
    'Because if they did it to him, they would have to do it to an awful lot more besides.'
    I have just 4 things to say to that:
    1. Yeah
    2. And
    3. So
    4. What?

  • Comment number 67.

    Yet again Cameron likes to get the PR in first. Just like last time when he threatened to sack any Conservative MP with any wrong doing. He withdrew the whip of Conway months before the expenses scandal broke and months before he said he would sack any Conservative MP's.

    It is the usual thing with Cameron, he likes his face on the tv telling people what he will do, he is great with PR, it is the only job he has ever done so he should be, but when it comes to following up on his words he is found wanting.

    Sacking wrongdoing MP's, telling his shadow cabinet that they must drop their jobs and concentrate on what the taxpayer pays them for.It is great PR and headlines making all these threats and announcements but he never follows them up. Great PR, awful delivery.

    http://redrag1.blogspot.com/

  • Comment number 68.

    #52 Fubar

    Yes, but not everyone is leader of the party that promises to unbreak Britain and to cut the income of those who depend on benefit by 25 per cent or whatever it is.

    Let's not forget that David 'we're in it together' Cameron took out a 350,000 pound mortgage on his Oxfordshire second home and started claiming close to the maximum allowance, he used his own money to pay off the remaining 75,000 pounds of the mortgage on his London home.

    It's been estimated that had he used this sum of 75,000 pounds to pay towards the mortgage on his Oxfordshire home, he could have saved the taxpayer in the region of 22,000 pounds but alas he didn't.

    It does seem very 'strange' that he wouldn't want to reduce the cost to taxpayers.

    It's also strange that he appears to feel able to sit in judgement of so many others, including the impoverished, when he seems to really take full advantage of the expenses system.

  • Comment number 69.

    The rule Legg was interpreting was this

    "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of carrying out their duties as an MP"

    THIS RULE WAS IN FORCE AT THE TIME IN QUESTION

    It is not difficult to see why these troughers now need to pay back loads of money.

    It is however extremely difficult to see why on earth they should be complaining about it. They are bang to rights!!! How can they possibly think they shouldn't repay these amounts?

    Disgusting. There is no other word.

  • Comment number 70.

    They still do not get it.

    Mrs Smith, claimed her FULL mortgage Interest, FULL heating bills, FULL electricity Bills, FULL gas bills and FULL council tax, FULL phone and internet bills and PAID her husband 50-100% above the market rate as her office manager.

    She failed to declare to the fees office that over 50% of those bills were incurred where by her faimily living there scott free when she was at her main residance in London. She failed to this declare the benefit in kind on her MP's TAX return singing a box stating that all her second home allowances was solely and wholely used in her role as an MP. This box is signed by all MP's on their tax returns in ADDITION to the standard decelaration at the end of the form. It is their to allow them to come clean where they have had expenses approved by the fees office but they feel tax is due as they were not actually required in their role as an MP.

    As to the videos I have only heard / seen evidance that she repaid the two adult videos watched by her husband and NOT the faimily movie watched once when she was in london and again when she returned.

    And this is JUST ONE MP's use of the system.

    The PM even claimed for a new kitchen and cleaning a flat thet belonged solely to his wife (He did a leagal transfer of the property such that he had NO tax, Leagal or other claim on it).

    Others have claimed for NON existant mortages, to pay of mortage capital, for mortages on flats their children live in, research grants for ther university kids, the duck houses, dog food etc are trival in comparision.

    We need prosicutions, interest charged and TAX avoidance laws brought in on ALL offenders.

  • Comment number 71.

    "balancedthought wrote:
    I repeat

    David Cameron was the largest claimer in the commons in his first year as an MP. He currently claims for a mortgage on his home in Oxfordshire. Expenses are supposed to be for where MP's have duplicate expenditure because they are an MP"

    You can repeat it as many times as you want it doesn't actually make it true. The expenses are there to cover expenditure which results from their work as an MP (the need for some MPs to have two homes is considered one such expense)

    Under your understanding of the rules someone who worked all his life to pay off his mortgage and was then elected an MP would not be able to claim for mortgage payments on a London house he would need to buy to meet his needs as an MP.

    After all he doesn't have duplicate expense for being an MP (his first mortgage is paid).

    If we are to believe your understanding of the rules this MP would need to take out a small loan out on his existing house in order to claim back the mortgage payments on his second house in London.

  • Comment number 72.

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

  • Comment number 73.

    #55 AndyC

    Yes, I agree, there are worse cases, however, not all of those cases are likely to be our next PM.

    - Not all of those cases are openly sitting in judgement of others.

    - Not all of those cases want to reduce the pitiful income of those on benefits as a priority.

    - Not all of those cases claim that we're in it together.

  • Comment number 74.

    #40 balancedthought

    How about you coming to the Netherlands and paying dual tax?

    I work for a UK registered company and pay tax in BOTH countries, stop whining. It's difficult enough having to do 2 sets of tax returns to claim back the bits i don't owe!!

    I don't mind the UK bit as much as the Dutch though I must admit!

  • Comment number 75.

    "Senior MPs with a legal background said Sir Thomas would not have a leg to stand on if his demands for repayments - based on rules he is applying retrospectively - ever came to court."

    Of course, but that is only because of the law as it stands now and applied then. Once you accept the principle as set out by Sir Thomas Legg however, it is a simply matter of passing a new law to allow retrospective legislation. Then there is no end of fun to be had and, as long as it's not them who is being fined £5,000 for wearing the wrong colour jumper on Christmas day 1975, the public will lap it up.

  • Comment number 76.

  • Comment number 77.

    Poor widdle MPs! After years of earning over twice the average wage of those represent, and having the kind of expenses those of us under the eye of the Inland Revenue could dream of, *they're* furious?

  • Comment number 78.

    How has Jacqui Smith got away without paying back all of the mortgage payments.
    Could it be that the committee of MP's, that sat in judgement, ended up as 5 Labour MP's with only one other from the Tory party.
    Now what on earth is that smell?
    It's still very quiet with regard to McNulty. Anyone know anything?

  • Comment number 79.

    Balancedthought - You are clearly anything but! Cameron has forced quite a few of the Tory grandees to stand down over this issue, so he has taken tough action (and was criticised by quite a few Tories at the time). Despite your bitter comments, his expenses were clearly within the rules, even after Legg's rejigging. Look forward to your similar vitriol towards Jackie Smith who lied about where her primary residence was and was proven to have lied by no less than the police!!

    As for having a go at Cameron's background/purported wealth, Tony Blair went to public school and came from a very well to do family, as do Harriet Harman, Tessa Jowell, Hilary Benn, Ed Balls, David and Ed Miliband, Ben Bradshaw . . . need I go on? To simply smear someone because of their background = to admit losing the argument. Not to mention being a hypocrite.

    Final point: although expenses are an important issue, I am dismayed at Nick's lack of comment at Labour's conniving to bully the police into arresting Damian Green on false pretences. This is a real issue of principle and goes to the heart of what is acceptable in a democracy. It is what (used to) separate us from dictatorship. But any comment? Of course not.

    Bottom line: Nick/this blog is no longer a forum for sensible, measured debate about the critical issues of the day. It's become obsessed with petty stupidities and games. Pathetic when there are so many difficult real issues facing this country.

  • Comment number 80.

    Re: 40 balancedthought

    I pay taxes to a government which supports and encourages a child-friendly society that is less obsessed with surveillance, disproportionate fears, big-brother registers and general nanny-ism than the UK.

  • Comment number 81.

    Dear all sorry I have been banging on about Cameron particularly getting us to pay for his house when it is not a duplicate expenditure.

    Is this Cameron hatred pointing out that he is abusing or stretching the spirit of expenses to breaking point? Perhaps - am I biased could I not mention all other MP's? Perhaps - truth is I don't know them all - he has though personally been saying MP's should all do one thing whilst clearly doing another thing himself. What I am surprised at is that you are not questioning the facts of the case.

    I just think any public figure that stands up and pontificates on an issues needs to be clear that they have not abused the system - something that all the central office comment people have not been able to shrug off although Andy c whatever good attempt at a side step. This is about the morality of stretching the system so that he personally and his family can benefit at the expense of the taxpayer.

    The facts are - allowances are for additional expenditure incurred. Cameron does not have two mortgages - then like me he should pay for his mortgage out of his salary. What is wrong with that?

  • Comment number 82.

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

  • Comment number 83.

    38 may be making a partisan attack, but I share his annoyance at Cameron getting away scott free from this mess when he's as bad as the others. The only reason he wasn't caught up in the whole gardening, cleaning, furniture type mess is that he's claimed the max allowance on his huge mansion. Why does he need such a massive residence at taxpayers expense? Why isn't the press pointing this out as a way to balance the attacks on Brown over his gardening and cleaning claims? It's all taxpayers money going to people who don't need it, regardless of what they spend it on. Praising Cameron's leadership on this stinks of hypocrisy.

  • Comment number 84.

    Young Teflon Blair knew what he was doing when his expenses were shredded. Accidently is the allegation.

  • Comment number 85.

    If the MPs want to moan about retrospective rules not being legally enforceable, then perhaps they should consider going to court over it, because if the courts looked at their expenses in detail they'd say that most of them should have been classed as perks and not expenses, and should therefore have been subjected to tax, which means that most MPs have actually broken tax laws.

    Let the MPs go to court if they want, because they'll win the "restrospective" battle but they'll be found guilty of tax fraud.

  • Comment number 86.

    "endangered_species wrote:
    I am going to stick my head over the parapet here. For once I agree with Nick Robinson. It is fundamentally unfair to retrospectively apply rules that did not exist. Like it or not, these MPs made gardening and cleaning claims for five years that were approved and paid. They had no opportunity to change or alter their behaviour or expenditure. It is unjust to now ask for that cash back."

    That is true, but if it is also true that expenses need to be "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of carrying out their duties as an MP" many of the expenses claimed could be considered to have broken that rule.

    If someone was under declaring their taxes for years THEY would be expected to pay back taxes - the same principle could apply here.

  • Comment number 87.

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

  • Comment number 88.

    Let's just deploy Sections 2-4 of The Fraud Act 2006!
    It is already on the statute book and could have been written to deal specifically with those in this Fraudsters' Parliament who have stolen from the Public Purse!
    Investigate!
    Prosecute where appropriate!
    Sentence when the guilty are found!

    .... and le's do it now!

    And pleeeeaaase! A slap on the wrist from a committee 'packed' with one's political cronies (while members representing other parties make themselves spectacularly scarce) and an 'apology' to the other rascals in this Fraudsters' Parliament will NOT suffice!

  • Comment number 89.

    Who cares what the MPs think or feel? As Hattie said the Court of Public Opinion will decide.
    Reporting against Sir Thomas is frankly disgraceful. He has been asked to do a job, and he has undertaken it extremely well.
    The only discrepancy is the committee that decided who should pay back what (Jacqui Smith) which was mainly Labour. That is what you should be reporting and getting back to us on Nick!

  • Comment number 90.

    fubar @ 52

    despite your seemingly pathological hatred of Cameron

    it's an issue even if one thinks he's a star in a jar

    if they did it to him, they would have to do it to an awful lot more besides

    FINE

    he is far from being the only one

    but he's the only one who's going to be our next PM - we've seen (from the sad decline of Brown) how important moral authority is for a Leader, haven't we? - and Cameron, I'm afraid, has lost his with this fiasco - I won't pretend there was ever anything more than say a 25 pc chance of me voting Clown but that's been reduced to near zero because of this - wonder how many other people feel like that?

  • Comment number 91.

    The rules, whatever their intricacy and options of interpretation, were for the shocked and disillusioned public, no more than 'put your hand in the till and take what you want'. What Sir Thomas has done is to set out what would be fair. Fair to taxpayers, many of whom find it hard enough to pay for one home and refuse to accept that it is right or reasonable that they should pay for their representatives to have two, let alone luxury fittings, cleaning and gardening of which, for themselves, they can only but dream.

  • Comment number 92.

    MP's can complain about Legg, and yet they gave him the authority to conduct his investigation

    At the same time, however, the former Two Homes Secretary does not have to repay anything despite being in breech of the code and made to make an apology...which was neither penitent nor believable.

    The precedent's have been set by Brown, Cameron and Clegg, and whilst Legg may not be totally lawful there may be other repurcussions.

    I would still advocate a complete ban on salaries and allowances for MP's until the next election

    It would therefore mean that the new policies would be put to the electorate and taken out of the hands of the politicians. It might also concentrate minds to find an effective solution, and of course if they continue to whinge they just have to call an election to restore salaries under the new parliamentary structure.

  • Comment number 93.

    Redrag didn't Brown say on the same programm yesterday that MPs should pay up and shut up? Or was I dreaming. I would say he got his retaliation in first. It was just not very good.

  • Comment number 94.

    I can't understand why MPs who acted within the rules that existed now have to repay money because of retrospective changes, but Smith, who actually broke the existing rules, doesn't repay aything. Can anyone please explain this?

  • Comment number 95.

    Dear Mr Balance - I'm looking for Mr Cameron's name on the 'most expenses claimed list' but cannot seem to find it. Could you help me out by directing me to the source of your oft repeated post?

    http://parliament.telegraph.co.uk/mpsexpenses/home

  • Comment number 96.

    #52:

    "Because if they did it to him, they would have to do it to an awful lot more besides."

    And what's wrong with that? Are you suggesting that it's OK for them to get away with it just because they were all at it? A great many MPs were milking the system for all it was worth. I would like to see consequences for every single one of them.

    And I don't just mean making an apology to the house without having to pay anything back.

  • Comment number 97.

    We can go on and on about expenses but it is in the main history

    It’s like talking about Hannibal crossing the Alps we are never going to bring one elephant back.

    Now talking about what should be done next week and the week after in politics might just save an old lady in Watford from dying of hypothermia this winter. It may help some more people invest in business and employ a few hundred instead of making a few hundred unemployed for Christmas. It may even get us to reduce our carbon emissions so fifty thousand don’t die from drought in central Africa. it might just help us beat the recession and start to recover. We can debate expenses until the elephants sorry cows come home it will not take this nation one step forward.

    It is a none debate we all want reasonable fair and proportionate wages hours and expenses so do it from today or are their still some who believe different to that if so then we should have a debate about the future of our nation.

  • Comment number 98.

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

  • Comment number 99.

    38. At 09:48am on 13 Oct 2009, balancedthought wrote:
    I repeat

    David Cameron ....

    --------------------------------

    So you posted exactly the same attack on david cameron twice. Anything about labour? Thought not.

    balancedthought? Yeah right.

  • Comment number 100.

    Governments have imposed retrospective reviews and rules in all sorts of areas, particularly financial services. This was because a minority of people in the sector had behaved unethically and the only way to try and restore the reputation of the profession was to put up with it. Hearing the MPs squeal shows how little they know about the real world.

 

Page 1 of 4

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.