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Count it, don't follow it (redux)

Stephanie Flanders | 11:17 UK time, Tuesday, 13 October 2009

I knew we hadn't heard the last of fungibility.

duck houseThe latest chapter of the MPs' expenses saga revolves around the issue that I wrote about when the scandal first broke - which was then only lurking in the sidelines.

Put bluntly, an economist would say it doesn't matter what MPs say they spent their expenses on. What matters is how much they got.

Why? Because as I explained in that earlier post - economists (and lawyers, and accountants...) tend to think money is fungible. If you give me a pound to buy a newspaper, you don't expect me to buy it with that same physical coin.

You can't even guarantee that it's the newspaper purchase you are making possible. I might already have a pound in my pocket for the paper - and use your pound to buy chocolate. You can't say for sure, even if I give you a receipt.

The parallel with MPs' expenses - for any who missed it - is that all you can say about an MP who receives £20,000 towards their mortgage payments is that they have £20,0000 more to play with, and that they have mortgage costs of £20,000 to pay.

They might have had enough money to pay the mortgage already - and the money from the taxpayer is actually funding an exorbitant cigar habit. We will never know.

The MPs who received much less than £20,000, but are being forced to pay back money, grasp this concept implicitly. That's why they think it's unfair that mortgage payments are not being limited retrospectively - though it looks like they will be in future.

"Fungibility" is an ugly word (someone commented at my previous post that it wasn't a proper word at all). But you can't understand the true madness of the expenses story without it.

Comments

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  • Comment number 1.

    A much better posting that Nicks if I may say so Steph, maybe you could try and explain this concept to him to see if he could question a few of the ministers about the issues you've raised here.

  • Comment number 2.

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

  • Comment number 3.

    This story regarding MPs expenses appears to be never ending.
    How much have these public servants claimed from us?
    What I don't understand is this......
    Why has the office which dealt with MPs claims not said "No!" to some of these claims?
    For anyone who has worked in the commercial sector it is well known that there are certain expenses that you can claim for the persuance of your company's business. There are also expenses which are not acceptable.
    All the office for claims had to do was walk down the road to any office building in London and ask "What is acceptable as a business expense and what is not?"
    Now the MPs find themselves facing this P.R. mess.
    They only have themselves to blame. This should have been sorted out months ago!

  • Comment number 4.

    Yes but it is taxpayer not private money and there is the little matter of accountability and misuse of funds.

  • Comment number 5.

    The fact the MPS made these claims, whether they were within the rules or not, tells me all I need to know about the type of people they are.

  • Comment number 6.

    The true madness of the 'Expenses Story' is that none of those involved have admitted to the duplicity of the expenses system as implemented in the HOC.

    Some time ago, when they, the MPs, were discussing their own remuneration they decided that their employers (the public) would not allow above inflation wage increases.
    Rather than accept their employers feelings on this matter they then decided to increase their pay by other (hidden at the time) means.

    This is the same as me going to my boss and asking for a rise only to be turned down, because I don't agree with my boss I then decide to supplement my income by stealing (on an ongoing basis) his pens.

    They managed to disguise their dishonesty for so long that new incumbents were easily led to believe that it was ok and that 'this is the way we do things round here'.

    When some of them realised what had been going on, rather than open it up, they decided to try to hide the system that they had developed.

    That some of them still think that they did nothing wrong, that they were following the 'unwritten' rules just shows that they have little moral fibre and even less moral standing and should not be in a position to pass judgment upon others.

    All public spending should be publicly accountable, that means publish the lot, if there is nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear.

  • Comment number 7.

    Sorry, I don't think this has anything to do with "Fungibility" it has everything to do with reimbursing MPs for expenses _necessary_ for the job.
    I can't see why the tax system has allowed blatent profitering from the allowance system - I must be missing something, do MPs pay tax?
    MPs have an unusual set of circumstances and have two bases of operations. I would expect any relevant receipted expense to be paid back. I would expect any fiddling of the system to result in the person losing their job.
    When I was a civil servant I had to live in Paris for a year as part of my job. The cheapest way to do this was to rent an unfurnished flat and buy furniture. At the end of my stay I sold the furniture, settled my expenses and then gave the remaining money back.
    If we can't trust them to be honest in their expenses, how can we trust them to run the country?

  • Comment number 8.

    BobRocket (#6) "All public spending should be publicly accountable, that means publish the lot, if there is nothing to hide then there is nothing to fear."

    As when taxpayer's money goes (via MPS and Civil Servants) to the banks and the banks lend it on....(to whom and for what?).

    #2 Appears to being sniffed at by blogdog ;-)

  • Comment number 9.

    Not really Steph, I think you (and 'an economist') have both got it skewed. It must lie in the thinking processes.

    It DOES matter what the spend is on. It is ethically important.

    For example, two MP's claiming the same total amount (say 20k).

    MP A claims his money on proper and necessary and allowable and reasonable expenses.
    MP B claims his 20k on 7 supersized wall mounted TV's scattered around the home (an 'allowable until now' but unreasonable and unnecessary spend).

    Both claim 20k but only MP B is laughing at, and ripping off the Public with his 'vanity spend'- so he should be sent to Prison for robbing the People and possibly then hung drawn and quartered to avoid any future rip-offs.

    So Economists might need to examine their underlying assumptions

    and additionally, Economists evidently need to take a course in Ethical behaviour - so sign yourself quick and don't be swayed by their avoidance of responsibility in the real world.

    ps And following on, if Economists discount ethical behaviour, then does robbing Banks seem like a sound business plan to Economists ????
    What next from Economists - mug a Pensioner for a short term improvement in cash flow ?

    If not - why not other than it is against the Law ?

    Those economists you are keeping company with sound more and more like the irresponsible Bankers - 'it wasn't illegal to claim rip-off expenses and therefore we and the economists propose doing whatever isn't illegal'.
    Not illegal but anti-societal.

  • Comment number 10.

    Given the right climate (incentive) the whislte blowers eventually spill the beans. I hoping the UK public back-lash will not give any major party preference over the other, lets have a truly hung parliament. Albeit the operative word here is HUNG! then perhaps DRAWN & QUARTERED! With heads stuck on London bridge spikes!

  • Comment number 11.

    ...and another thing Steph (following on from #9)

    It might be that you and the generic 'an economist' misunderstand the difference between salary and necessary expenses incurred in the performance of duties.

    Salary is for discretionary spending - 7 wall mounted TV's, etc

    Necessary and allowable reasonable expenses are for ..well, necessary and allowable reasonable expenses in the performance of duties, as it says on the tin.

    Anyone claiming that expenses are part of salary so spend it as you wish regardless of proper cause, is without ethics.
    (didn't Blair propose that one ?)

  • Comment number 12.

    FUNGI-BILITY

    strategycall (#9) I take it you do appeciate that the ACA is just one of their allowances? Their expenses for running their office is quite another one. The average MP's allowance/expense benefit is £135,600 per year.

    Mushrooms are fungi. ;-)

  • Comment number 13.

    I believe the MP's have a point, in that they applied for and received expenses in line with the rules at the time. Applying retrospective standards is very unusual and would break employment law if applied in the real world.

    The real story is that for years upon years the MP's expenses procedures were without accountability and poorly supervised, I am still not convinced a lot has changed and the overall costs of keeping Westminster going is probably poor value for money.

  • Comment number 14.

    Unusually, I disagree with you in that I do not see fungibility as the issue. Here's why.

    The expenses system is designed to provide recompense to those who would be out of pocket as a result of expenditure they would not have needed to incur were it not for their work.
    In this case, if you look at, say, an MP living in Redditch and staying away to work in London then the case is clear. They would not have needed the London accommodation if it were not for being an MP, and to expect them to commute to work would be unreasonable, so the cost of the stay-away is reclaimable. If they wish to commute then of course the cost of the travel may be a reasonable expense instead (but not in addition).

    Of course limits will be set, but as long as they stay within those limits we don't care which physical pound they use to pay for the accommodation, as long as they use exactly the number of pounds they claimed and provide receipts to show that the expense was actually incurred. That is why I believe that fungibility is not the issue here, but accountability and sensibility, because...

    The cost of the Redditch home was always going to be the MP's and therefore switching it so that the taxpayer pays for their main home is clearly not what was intended. That is covered by the catch-all rule which essentially says that expenses should be incurred wholly and necessarily in the course of their duties and must be proportionate and reasonable. Therefore, anyone claiming to be smart enough to run the country would also know that any such switching is clearly against the rules and so anyone who does so should be asked to repay the money and go to prison.

    If instead an MP claims for mortgage interest on a second home they are within the rules, since these are explicitly stated and are therefore not outside the remit of the catch-all, however it must be said that the rules do need to change, since it is irrelevant that the capital repayment is excluded because as long as housing is an appreciating asset the MP is better off as a result of the expenses claim.

    Less clear-cut are other items. If they are related to a legal stay-away then they are probably legitimate - it is not reasonable to expect you to have to mow two lawns in order to be an MP, but it is reasonable to expect that you do not invest in expensive furnishings and anything you do buy belongs to the taxpayer when you are finished with it. What about meals? Well, you were going to eat anyway, but the cost of eating out 'on the job' can be excessive and so expenses are often provided in all walks of life. However, sensible limits are set and they certainly should not include your grocery shopping, since it is only the cost difference between eating at home and eating out that is really being covered here - so I believe Catch-all 22 applies here too.

    So, in essence, I believe that receipted expenses for items incurred wholly and necessarily in the course of their duties, within sensible properly-defined limits, are fine. Fungibility is not the issue, use any pound coin you like as long as what you received from the taxpayer was based on correct application of sensible rules, properly applied with proper accounting (and accountability).

  • Comment number 15.

    As a few people have already said, to look at the expenses scandal in this way discounts another fundamental axiom in economics; that people are (in general) rational.

    MPs have expenses because they are virtually forced to spend more in order to do their job. To avoid this putting off potential candidates who are not well-heeled, they can then claim back these 'extras' from the state.

    Naturally, when MPs are claiming their expenses, they will aim to make them as easily justifiable as possible. So mortgage repayments come pretty high, as do some other expenses. So there is a difference between MP X claiming 20000 for a mortgage, and MP Y claiming it for HD TVs; Y would have claimed for the mortagage (or any other reasonable expense) if he could, so we can assume he doesnt have reasonable expenses to claim for.

    This makes his expenditure alot less justifiable than that of MP X. Never mind the amount; as long as MPs are rational, what they claim to spend it on matters, because it'll have been the best (read: most justifiable) they could think of and provide proof for.

  • Comment number 16.

    For me the essentials are not about what the MP uses the fraudulently obtained funds for in the future, more about what that money could have been used for had it not been stolen.

    More nurses, policemen, teachers, more life saving drugs for Cance patients etc. instead of cleaning bills, duck houses or anything else.

  • Comment number 17.

    Sorry, but I don't buy this fungibility argument.

    There seems to be an implicit assumption behind it that the money is somehow being paid to the MPs for them to spend on things they want to spend it on. That's obviously true, of course, but it's not how it should be.

    MPs incur expenses as a result of having to work in 2 places. Those expenses will differ from one MP to another. The expenses claims should be simply a means of reimbursing those expenses directly. MPs would then not be out of pocket, but neither would they have gained anything.

    That's how it should work. But that's not how it has worked. MPs have treated their expenses as a top-up on their income (as BobRocket at #6 explains very elegantly). That's when the fungibility argument becomes relevant.

    But by that time, you've already lost sight of what the expenses should have been for.

    Personally, I am deeply outraged by all of this. I will not be satisfied with a few MPs paying back some if their expenses. I don't believe justice will have been done unless we see some criminal prosecutions.

  • Comment number 18.

    All I read from this is that certain MPs are still seeing expenses as perks/salary and not what the real world* sees expenses as.

    (*The world where the law takes effect)

  • Comment number 19.

    If I employed you as a journalist I may feel justified in paying for your expenses in keeping abreast of current affairs - newspapers, journals, subscriptions etc.

    If I later discovered that you had pocketed the expenses, and made do with Robert Peston's cast off newspapers, I may feel annoyed.

    If I later discovered you had used the pocketed expenses to buy assets (shares maybe ) and then ran stories which ramped the value of these assets I may feel the abuse of trust would warrant a call to the police.

    Money may be fungible, but is trust ?

  • Comment number 20.

    Spot on! There appear to have been several ways that the game was played but the net effect was that ACA expenses became tax-free cash in MPs' hands.

    One variant appears to have been to designate the constituency home as the "second" home and remortgage it to the maximum extent possible. The cash released was used to buy a London home which was designated as the MP's "main" home. Other MPs whose main homes were outside London would be taken as tenants. This has the delightful effect of multiplying up the cash which the MP receives through the ACA.

  • Comment number 21.

    In your example, you are right. I don't care whether that actual pound is used to buy a newspaper. I don't care whether the guy intended to buy a newspaper anyway. But I sure do care if he didn't buy a newspaper at all.

    What you seemingly are trying to suggest is that assuming there is an ongoing £x of business expense, it doesn't matter if the receipts are for choclate buttons or christmas tree lights. And I would tend to agree with you... so long as there is concrete proof that valid expenses had been incurred. There in lies the problem, without receipts there is no proof. It is accountability, not fungability that is the key issue.

    BTW, I know it is fun, and trivial and a little bit of a "poster child". But it is ironic that the thing that has come to symbolise the expenses scandal, a Duck House, was actually something the expenses committee refused to pay for.

  • Comment number 22.

    #12 JJ

    'Mushrooms are fungi. ;-)'

    Quite right.
    It is so writ in the MP's Secret Charter for expense claims regarding mushroom management in ripping-off the Populus.

    Keep them in the Dark
    Cover them with ample spreadings of Manure*
    Pick the fruits of their labour Daily - or at every opportunity

    *I would be prohibited from using the OED Anglo-Saxon technical term for Manure so...
    ...clue for crossword lovers- This might be dumped on your head by a flying pig or a flying cow (anagram)
    (answers next week in the fraud section of the magazine)

  • Comment number 23.

    Why is it that non of your colleagues see it in the same way. It makes no difference what MPs spent their expenses on what matters is how much they played the system i.e. how much in total did they claim. Why are so very few people grasping this point, are we so financially illiterate in this country!?
    For the record for those who don't know Brown, Blair and Cameron pretty much maxed out on their allowable entitlement, mostly towards mortgage costs.

  • Comment number 24.

    The bottom line is that the MP's all thought that the gravy train was going to keep rolling for ever, with no outside scrutiny and no control. To see and hear them now variously protesting - or protesting too much - about either how hard done by they are or how squeaky clean they now want to be is equally nauseating. A fiddle is a fiddle and if you get found out you should take the punishment, even if you are an MP. Caledonian Comment

  • Comment number 25.

    I think I heard that the expenses are being scrutinised for the past 5 years so what will happen to those who have left parliament within this time? For instance our ex PM, the one and only Tony Blair who by all accounts shredded his papers pertaining to this issue as he handed over to Gordon.......just a thought to put the cat amongst the pigeons!

  • Comment number 26.

    Steph, your claim that fungibility is important highlights one thing. Economists know the price of everything and the value of nothing. Given the financial chaos of the last two years, why should we take anything an economist says seriously? There is more to life than a balanced book.
    It DOES matter what the money was spent on, as others above me have so eloquently explained.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think people are still missing the logic. Let's take Cameron as an exapmle he used all his expense allowance to subsidise his mortgage and therefore on the face of it it looks like a legitimate claim. But the reduction in the amount he had to pay on a mortgage allowed him to spend money on things people would generally consider an unacceptable claim(say for example a duck house). Does it matter what went onto the claim form? What is more important surely is how much he claims relative to others. You could go further and ask the question how does the lifestyle he achieves from working as an MP compare to other MPs, should the expenses system somehow be means tested? Are we more affronted by subsidising an MP to maintain a valuable country house in Oxford and an expensive house in Notting Hill or by a less affluent MP who claims for a big TV?

  • Comment number 28.

    Yeah, 'fungible' is a word. So's 'counterfactual'. Dismal jargon.

  • Comment number 29.

    #19 superiorsnapshot. No-one cares about trust, they only care about money and power. Surely todays story about the story that is unable to be reported tells you all you need to know in this regard.

  • Comment number 30.

    NeedaFilip (#23) "Why is it that non of your colleagues see it in the same way........Why are so very few people grasping this point, are we so financially illiterate in this country!?"

    Ummmmmm................errrrrrr..

    ;-)

  • Comment number 31.

    vagueofgodalming (#28) "Dismal jargon." See #30 for the vid!

  • Comment number 32.

    13. At 1:14pm on 13 Oct 2009, hughesz wrote:
    I believe the MP's have a point, in that they applied for and received expenses in line with the rules at the time. Applying retrospective standards is very unusual and would break employment law if applied in the real world.

    ========================
    You mean I can sue Brown and/or Cameron if they raise my retirement age, now I'm approaching it?

    Seriously, even though they made rules that only MPs can benefit from (I'd love to buy a Tax supported second home in a number of the places I had to travel to work in) as they actually broke those rules (wholly an necessarily in support of their job to hire Gardners, buy Duck houses etc - I think not) they can complain, but it shouldn't make any difference.

  • Comment number 33.

    Postscript (#30)

    "Our nation’s skills are not world class. We run the risk that this will undermine the UK’s long-term prosperity. Productivity continues to trail many of our main international comparators. ....
    //
    .... we have considerable weaknesses. More than one third of adults do not hold the equivalent of a basic school-leaving qualification. Almost half of adults are not functionally numerate and one sixth are not functionally literate. This is worse than our principal comparator nations. Improving our schools will not solve these problems. Today over 70 per cent of our 2020 workforce has already completed their compulsory education."


    Leitch, Executive Summary December 2005

  • Comment number 34.

    29

    Carter-Ruck caved in - see Guido

  • Comment number 35.

    Yet again Cameron leads the way. Pay up or stand down!

  • Comment number 36.

    Fungibility is a distraction.

    I think chris911t has set the reality out rather well in Message 14.

    The taxpayers were treated as if we are nothing more than a cash machine. By what right did the MP's think that was acceptable behaviour?

    I hope HM Revenue & Customs will be looking at the issue of undeclared Capital Gains Tax, unpaid backpayments of Capital Gains Tax and unpaid penatlies under Capital Gains Tax.

  • Comment number 37.

    armagediontimes (#29) "Surely todays story about the story that is unable to be reported tells you all you need to know in this regard."

    What is this story? ;-)

  • Comment number 38.

    so far as I can see with this story.........MP"s are elected, then have a wage, then expenses, then leave post without doing anything but follow the party line and leave no mark of their passing.
    Or is that me in the midlands missing the point?

    And then they complain the rules have changed! I am still trying to find work because of their failings.

  • Comment number 39.

    barry-white (#38) "Or is that me in the midlands missing the point?"

    That's pretty much it. They have to be very good at doing nothing though. There's quite a lot of skill required to achieve that and stay elected, although dumbing down the electorate via 'education, education, education' (positively skewing the birth rate towards the less able) and mass low-skilled immigration (further high-birth rate amongst the less able) really helps but requires real sleight of hand to get it past the electorate initially!

    I'm not joking....

  • Comment number 40.

    Stephanie,

    The point about expenses is that they are a reimbursement for moneys actually expended. Expense Allowances. on the other hand. are just money (e.g. the round sum daily allowance given for attending the Lords.)

    It does seem particularly unfair to ask that expenses reimbursed for expenses actually expended should have to be repaid when those expenses were within the rules at the time of reimbursement.

    This 'storm' is about MPs' greed, or apparent greed, and they are being punished because they are, like bankers and estate agents hated and despised. The MPs have chosen not to punish the bankers for destroying the National Accounts and stealing money from the poor (with the help of the politicians) so the press and the media want to punish the politicians... Simple!

  • Comment number 41.

    #34 Carter-Ruck? Shurely some mishtake with the spelling?

    #37 It is now being reported

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/politics/8304483.stm

    Much less interesting than MPs expenses.

  • Comment number 42.

    As a professionally qualified accountant with one of the Chartered Institutes I do not "tend to think money is fungible". I tend to ask if it reflects a transaction that is both moral and legal. And the if the answer is immoral and of dubious legality then I tend to lose trust and tend to think there is a duty to report on the lack of trust worthiness.

  • Comment number 43.

    I can't beleive there has been so little ccomment upon Gordon claiming for a second home.

    I know it was within the rules but that doesn't make it right or fair.

    Why is a second home at all necessary when the state is providing you with a perfectly good place to stay free of charge in Downing street.

    He claims to do what is best for the country yet at the same time he is milking the expenses system.

    Again I ask why has there been so little comment about this.

  • Comment number 44.

    Anomaly. Contract an dtemorary workers have a limit of 2 years on being able to claim expenses for a given contract.

    So why are MPs operating to a different set of rules?

    HMRC believe that any longer becomes some kind of de facto employment, or at least long enough that you should be able to move house to live nearer to work.
    I don't agree with them, but the fact is that the average contract/temporary worker gets contracts of 3 months, 6 months or 12 months and so has no idea as to whether they would even still be working there by the time a house purchase completed. An MP gets a 5 year contract! By that token an MP has little justification for the expenses they are claiming under their own tax authorities' rules!

    One rule for all please. Tell HMRC to leave off - expenses for working away from home are exactly that, and the only people who might not be able to claim expenses to work away are those who knew themselves to be long-term employees at the time. And even then... do you want a flexible 21st century work-force or don't you?

  • Comment number 45.

    The only upside to this whole sorry saga is that had the expenses been salary it would have fed through to pensions and no doubt have been inflated at a higher rate than it did

  • Comment number 46.

    In the meantime the debt clock is about 830,000,000,000

  • Comment number 47.

    Surely assets purchased with public funds should belong to the state?
    Shouldn't furniture, TVs, etc paid for by the state, be available for resale or to furnish other residences once an MP leaves office?

    Lavish furniture is nor necessary for the job, indeed ministers with official residences don't "need" a 3rd home. Paying interest on mortgages allows MPs to finance property speculation at the tax payers expense.

    Weren't there declarations related to reclaimed expenditure being "necessary" for the role as an MP?
    If so Sir Thomas Legg would appear to be right in imposing limits on things like cleaning and gardening (guess what, other people have to do that and hold down a job) as these are excessive and not necessary, it could therefore be argues that they were outside the rules, but taken as being inside a very liberal interpretation of the rules by a commons fees office that appears to have been working to help MPs maximise claims rather than acting in the public interest. The office and its employees would seem to have been shown not to be fit for purpose.

    The HMRC test, "wholly, necessarily and exclusively" should be the abiding rule.
    If its required for the job and is therefore an expense incurred in the process of carrying out a job, all well and good; if its there to improve the MPs quality of life, why should the public pay for it?

    Perhaps a clear assessment of what is "necessary" should be carried out, and a basic level of accommodation / comfort defined, only this being financed from public funds.

    Given that many MPs seem to have no concept of value for money and being careful with how they spend taxpayers (and future taxpayers) money, it seems that guidance is necessary.

  • Comment number 48.

    Post 47 (Reaper_of_Souls) commented:
    "The HMRC test, "wholly, necessarily and exclusively" should be the abiding rule.
    If its required for the job and is therefore an expense incurred in the process of carrying out a job, all well and good; if its there to improve the MPs quality of life, why should the public pay for it?

    Perhaps a clear assessment of what is "necessary" should be carried out, and a basic level of accommodation / comfort defined, only this being financed from public funds."

    The point to which this refers (I assume) also bothers me. It does seem rather odd that some MPs second homes (which by definition will not or should not be used all *that* much) seem astonishingly lavish; far more so than is just reasonably necessary for an MP to live when on constituency work. Perhaps the reimbursement of Mortgage Interest should be limited to a constituency - wide average house price. (I'm sure the Land Registry could supply the figure pretty quickly!)

    I am by instinct a "Conservative" but there are times when the party hierarchy strain my loyalties close to breaking point. DC's living arrangements do appear to be more reliant on taxpayer support (i.e. tax paid on my pension) than his own personal circumstances would seem to warrant.

    Perhaps if Sir Peter Viggers' Duck House had been bought on a mortgage nobody would have noticed. Or cared...

  • Comment number 49.

    Stephanie

    I see that you're determined to push 'fungibility' on us all, although I can't see how it can exist on its own.

    My comment that was moderated on Nick Robinson's boring blog today in essence was referring to the view that Sir T. Legg had got it right if his actions and retrospective analysis of expenses claims are in accordance with e.g. the principles of 'natural justice'. What are the principles of natural justice - I don't know for sure, but the concept of 'natural justice' does appear to exist and to most if not all citizens - that is the key issue.

    This is important as any economic theory really cannot exist in a vacuum and assumptions about an economies legal, social and political systems are needed to test any theory like e.g. fungibility.

    Fungibility, I think can can only really exist if there is some process or mechanism for determining which of the expense claims can be viewed as valid and supported by e.g. natural justice in the mindset of e.g. public opinion. Clearly, the concept of fungibility only really applies where the so called expenses rules themselves are vague or do not exist as the other main variable is the individual circumstances of each individual MP s e.g. the location of their first home address etc.

    Perhaps it is just better to say that those MP's who have claimed the most on expenses have the most explaining to do!

    Only by combining an additional concept like 'natural justice' can any measure of fungibility be applied or measured, in economic terms. The 'old economics' was for the learned few to discuss economic principles in a vacuum without accounting for environmental variables and conditions - that all appears to have been proved next to uselesss in the last two years' of economic crises.

    I don't hear any MP's or the media discussing natural justice - despite it being very useful at least in theoretical terms, as is obviously not dependent on any written or unwritten rules, conventions, regulations and laws - Perhaps this is why the MP's are so shaken by the retrospective expenses analysis - that what they thought was a safe claim at the time can later be unravelled and seen for what it actually is.

  • Comment number 50.

    JJ

    If your genes versus upringing/environment argument is worth a salt (which I have no reason to doubt) then it should bring dividends with the gee-gees!

    There is a famous/outstanding race horse called 'Sea the Stars'....should we bet big time on its off-spring???

    Please advise asap!

  • Comment number 51.

    http://www.famousracehorses.co.uk/

    Whoops...I left the best picture off the previous post!

  • Comment number 52.

    JadedJean

    It just occured to me. You very often use this symbol : ;-)

    This is usually taken to mean a wink. A wink is very specific in it's meaning - accompanied with a smile and is meant as a jest, the implication of privately shared knowledge.

    But then I realised, you might be signing your posts like that because you are actually half blind or have one eye missing.

    Please can you clarify?

  • Comment number 53.

    If Stephanie is babbling about fungibility in all probability it means she has been reading about gold or something. You can't have a conversation with a gold fanatic without them ranting about fungibility. This might mean that if people like Stephanie are thinking about fungibility, gold, and currency, then it means people like Brown, Osborne and these other members of the UK administrative kindergarten are thinking along similar lines (if thinking is the right word I hasten to add).

    This can only mean one thing. Though I have no idea what it might be.

  • Comment number 54.

    IN THE LAND OF THE BLIND....

    BankSlickerminustheR (#50) Capitalist running horse!! ;-)

  • Comment number 55.

    I am with post 15 on this, expenses are easy to administrate and are done every day in thousands of companies everyday.

    The MP's and House of Lords expenses system was and probably still is archaic and out of step with modern life. Full disclosure on the internet with receipts is the way forward.

    The fungible angle is really irrelevant.


  • Comment number 56.

    Stephanie, I agree with your analysis concerning MP remuneration and fungibility. They have been encouraged to use expenses as a substitute for salary rises.

    This major issue is only snother piece of evidence that the Labour government has been serially dishonest in a way unique outside the usual totalitarian states. They encouraged liberal use of expenses as a way of supplementing income without stoking wage inflation among the proles.

    The same dishonesty led Gordon Brown to gloat at each budget about his give-aways, while letting the truth about take-backs leak out over weeks. And it led successive home secretaries to issue statistics (remember the saying about those) about crime, police numbers. And other ministers to produce data on nurses, teachers, A-level grades, weapons of mass destruction, immigration.

    A different sort of dishonesty was used by Gordon Brown when he stole our pensions, mortgaging the future to fund his extravagance, and scuppering private investment at the same time.

    The running joke in Private Eye about Labour under Brown being Stalinist is so accurate. All the targets and production figures are so Soviet it is uncanny.

    And looking at "socialists" that I grew up amongst - the student union leaders, militants, socialist workers, angry young sitters-in - I am aghast at their accumulated wealth, achieved while honest people worked for normal wages. Blair's millions! Brown can't be far behind, with his banker chums. And they criticise Cameron and Osborne!

    I read again, the final sentence of Animal Farm and weep:

    "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

  • Comment number 57.

    I don't think the average MP is more dishonest than the average person in the street. Or the average company.

    We used to have company cars. Doctors used to get free holidays from drug companies. Airlines allow their staff some level of free travel. Journalists apparently have nice expense accounts. Shop workers usually get discounts.

    Some of these perks were introduced because taxes became punitive. Employers found a way of making payments in kind. Pension contributions, for example. Governments found ways of tracking down these perks and taxing them. MPs were just lucky. Their perks seemed secret enough that they could take what they wanted to supplement salaries that were being eroded for appearances sake. And they were encouraged to see this as an entitlement.

    I don't know how much most people think an MP should be paid. I don't think most people know what it is like being an MP. I don't think most people know how much it would cost for them to live some of the time in London, while representing another pert of the country. So how could they say that expenses are too much?

    It is time that MP salaries were reassessed. It is time that expenses rule were clarified. If someone comes from Yorkshire to parliament, he or she deserves to have accommodation provided. Halls of residence. Plus travel allowance (travel warrants).

    Let's get this right. But at the same time, let's stop the jollies. No more fact-finding trips to South America (ask the embassy for facts), or Gx Summits or Climate change summits (use teleconferencing). No more photo shoots in provincial hospital wards or African villages (BBC World does it better). Let MPs work here and sort our country out. Then pay them executive salaries and proper, audited expenses - like my company permits.

  • Comment number 58.

    The "Fungibility" argument is tenuous as a justification for the inadequate system and exploitation of it, but it may explain the behaviour.

    MPs believe they deserve more and as they couldn't be seen to get it through pay rises that would have provoked claims of greed, some decided they decided they should take it via other means to get what they thought they deserved.

    Of course an underpaid, hard working employee in a store who took from the till to get what they thought was justified would be considered a thief, fired and probably prosecuted.

    The argument that MPs should be paid more to make up for lost expenses is weakened by their conduct.
    Expenses are to cover costs incurred, the argument that MPs are not paid what they're worth is completely separate, indeed as they are seen to have been dishonest, it surely reduces their perceived value.

    The fact that other sectors have experienced exceptional pay rises only relates to parliament in that it competes for talents; but then parliament seems to offer those who excel the opportunity for considerable increases in future income.

    It seems to raise the question, is politics a career or about public service?

    But using the argument that if MPs stop taking money from us via deceptive means (just because they've been caught) they deserve to be given more via more legitimate means seems inherently flawed and to present a degree of moral hazard, rewarding what could be seen as dishonesty.

  • Comment number 59.

    This issue, more than any other illustrates the childish, feverish character of public opinion in this country, whipped up by the most venal and prurient media in the world.

    All I have ever heard is that 'they are only in it for themselves', often from people who couldn't differentiate Shirley Williams from Margaret Thatcher. This is born out by opinion polls going back decades which show 'politicians' regarded with absolute contempt.

    It is precisely because of this that Tony Blair and others didn't dare to allow MP's salaries to keep pace with the Civil Service grades or other professional groups. The head of the fees office who approved these claims earns £110,000 per year, the attack dog interviewers of the BBC, Naughtie and Paxman earn £250,000.

    G.P.'s have pocketed much of the extra money poured into the NHS, with an average of £115,000, and much more for those who happen to have a pharmacy attached, have abandoned out of hours to exhausted doctors who drive in after a days work from Germany and Poland to get on the gravy train (£1000 per shift).

    And the public reaction? Nothing at all because 'doctors' are goodies, 'politicians' are baddies.

    M.P's often work a 70 hour week, have to submit to scrutiny of their private lives by a 24 hour media hungry for anything they can twist into a scandal. If they change their minds its a u turn, reflect out loud they are indecisive, have a difference of opinion with a colleague there a cabinet/govt/party split. See John Lloyd's book 'What the Media are doing to our Politics'.

    Stephanie Flanders is correct with the idea of fungibility and most people just don't seem to understand what she is trying to explain.

    MP's are obliged to keep a second home on their £67000 - in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. They were encouraged by the fees office to find any receipts for expenses they could, for no matter what.

  • Comment number 60.

    # 59
    davidclach

    Hardly the revised GP contracts were a disgrace... shorter hours for twice the money.

    "MP's are obliged to keep a second home on their £67000 "

    Obliged? - really... how come many MPs don't have a 2nd home?

    I can see perfectly well what Stephanie is trying to explain, MPs felt they couldn't justify paying themselves vastly higher salaries to the public so they chose to do it in an underhand method via a lax expenses system.
    Which if it were the basis for the flawed expenses system would actually suggest deliberate and planned deception which as you suggest the fees office was complicit in.

    MPs are potentially underpaid, although other duties can probably increase their income; but comparison of their salaries to others who are potentially overpaid (let's face it the fees office wouldn't do particularly well on performance related pay out of this) is somewhat flawed.
    It seems from elections that lots of people want to be MPs, therefore simple supply and demand would suggest they're overpaid (i.e. supply exceeds demand at the current price).
    However, conversely, it could be argued that with the current performance of parliament the supply of MPs of suitable quality is dangerously low.
    Whether this is due to insufficient remuneration discouraging better candidates or just the decisions of the electorate is another matter.

    The amounts paid to MPs in total aren't the issue to me, in the overall scheme of the deficit and the cost of financial mismanagement, they're irrelevant. The main issue is the deception and the self serving attempts to prevent the public finding out about it.

    The scandal and outrage is not the fault of the press, they have merely revealed the truth; the blame lies squarely with parliament which set up a vague and inadequate system to serve its members interests and individual MPs who have been seen to exploit it.

  • Comment number 61.

    MPs get deferred pay via their generous pension schemes.

    If they don't get re-elected there is a 'wind-down' scheme.

    The whole system is bizarre, convoluted, misunderstood.

    History play a part, being an MP, in the past, was an add on to a private life that might have included other employment.

    To be frank, when so much is delegated to our quangocracy, I'm not sure why we expect this role to be full time employment unless its to serve as the equivalent of an ombudsman to one's electorate. Even announcements are made first to the press in the form of an announcement that an announcement will be made.

    One could say this about many things, but a return to first principles would be a good idea.

  • Comment number 62.

    Never let accuracy get in the way of using a fancy word

  • Comment number 63.

    Just a thought,

    As Gordan is looking for goverment property to sell off, we have approx 600 second homes in london that we the tax payer seam to have paid for

    Given average property price in london is over 250k thats 37.5million off the national debt.

  • Comment number 64.

    Some people said yesterday that no MP has broken the law in their expense claims. Nearly all seam to have misdeclaired income on their TAX returns, which is a criminal offence, the question is why are none being prosicuted.

    Six examples of fees office approved expenses that can not be justified in any way as necessalary required to carry out the job of an MP and hence would need under the MP's income tax return notes to be declaired and have TAX and NI paid on are:-
    1) Adding Mock Tudor beams to the front of a house.
    2) Treating Dry Rot on a property 100miles in the oposite direction from London to the MP's consituancy
    3) Planting a small wood
    4) Having multiple new kitchens in several flats as you move every 18months
    5) Claiming 800 per month for a non existing mortgage and placing the funds in an savings policy
    6) and of course A Duck House

    On MP's tax return there are two special boxes, one asks for the MP to explicitly declare "regardless of what the fees office approved that the second homes allowance payments where soley, wholey and nessasaly required to preform their job as an MP", the second box allows the MP to come clean and pay tax on the excess income. Of course filling in the second box means that MP is required to pai 40% tax of the amount.

    None of the MP's associated with the 6 examples felt it nessasary to inform the tax man and hence pay income tax on their expense windfalls.

    Penalties for miss filling income tax returns include daily fines, interest, prision and the TAX man can go back 7 years!

  • Comment number 65.

    DISTRACTION

    davidclach (#59) "MP's are obliged to keep a second home on their £67000 - in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world. They were encouraged by the fees office to find any receipts for expenses they could, for no matter what."

    Did you read the link in #12?

    The ACA is just one of their allowances. Their expenses for running their office is quite another one. The average MP's allowance/expense benefit is £135,600 per year.

    The work our MPs haven't done in recent times (look up Monty Slater, Treasury Committee 2003) led to a massively deregulated economy with a debt bill of 175,000,000,000 a year (it's just as well interest rates aren't going up eh?) along with ever greater 'devolution' (i.e. abrogation of governance) to the point of Balkanization, with power moving to Brussels.

    What have they been doing for their money which has been in the nation's interest?

    The expenses issue is a red herring/wild goose-chase and either you don't know it or you happy to reinforce the above!

    What legislation is being worked on to reverse the 2000 financial services deregulative legislation which complemented that in 1999 in the USA?

  • Comment number 66.

    If the cost of living/working in London is deemed to be so expensive that large amounts of taxpayers money must be provided to subsidise the above, move the HOC and HOL to somewhere more central and cheaper, what is wrong with West Bromwich ?
    Turn the Palace of Westminster into a museum and tourist attraction.

    Those complaining that salaries of MPs (64,766 before expenses) are too low in comparison to say a chief exec of local authority or a chairman/presenter of the BBC are wrong.
    Two and a half times the average UK salary or 4 times modal UK salary is more than enough, those publicly paid chief execs/chairman/presenters are vastly overpaid and should have their salaries capped.

    High unemployment/low skill immigration reduces the real wages of those at the bottom, greater competition for 'top' jobs will do the same at the high end.

    No one posting so far has a problem with legitimate business expenses, most have a problem with using untaxed expenses as income.

    All money is fungible
    (come on Stephanie, admit it, you made that word up didn't you :)

  • Comment number 67.

    I suspect that the decision to impose retrospectively (actually rather low*) limits on gardening and cleaning is a deliberate smoke-screen designed to create a mass of 'offenders' behind which the relatively few real culprits who submitted downright fraudent claims can hide.

    I wonder whether the Government "lent on" or "encouraged" Legge in this action. Hearing Harriet Harman on Today this morning squirming trying to avoid a direct question on Jacqui Smith only increases my suspicion.

    * How much gardening or cleaning would you get in London or the South East for these limits? At £10/hour (by no means a top rate), this equates to 200 hrs cleaning, which is under 4 hours per week. Not a lot for households obliged to maintain 2 homes. The gardening limit would barely cover a weekly grass cut.

  • Comment number 68.

    BankSlickerminustheR (#50) "If your genes versus upringing/environment argument is worth a salt (which I have no reason to doubt) then it should bring dividends with the gee-gees!"

    They breed race-horses don't they? That's eugenics you know (evil Nazis horse breeders - stud farms = lebensborn).

    There is no evidence that shared-environment makes a significant contribution to individual differences in behaviour, ergo, 'talking to' (training/teaching) horses, plants, kids doesn't do much other than make the talkers appear a bit peculiar to them and earns the former a bob or two or some feelings of power. It's really all a matter of aelection and shaping of what's already there in emitted/expressed behaviours.

    'Non-Shared environment' matters, but not as most people think it turns out. That is, if you clout said 'horse' around the head a lot head or knobble its legs (CNS etc), you will lengthen the odds in the Grand National etc. That is how environment impacts on genetic expression!

    Hope this helps ;-)


    PS. I am not, hereby, encouraging any cruelty to 'horses'!

  • Comment number 69.

    #65 JJ

    The election is not in the bag yet for any party, the current government might not be re-elected and so don't want to enact any legislation that could provide succour and comfort to an opposing incoming government, however the opposition might just be able to grab defeat from the jaws of victory and so the current government does not want to implement any wrecking legislation as they may be left holding the baby.
    This session of Parliament is currently a Lame Duck, as the election approaches and the result of the upcoming election becomes clearer we should the current lot spurred into action one way or the other.

  • Comment number 70.

    No 11 "Necessary and allowable reasonable expenses are for ..well, necessary and allowable reasonable expenses in the performance of duties, as it says on the tin."

    I think the term you are searching for is "...wholly, exclusively and necessarily for the performance of duty !!" This was a term used by bean-counters that was acceptable by HM Vampires, oops sorry, I mean Honourable Inspectors of Taxes !! :-)

  • Comment number 71.

    FREEDOM FROM GOVERNMENT = MONEY F0R OLD ROPE

    BobRocket (#69) I reckon it would be good to have a party (any party!)which had policies which were clearly about nation-building instead of nation wrecking/sequestration and governance, rather than freedom from responsibility/governance - don't you think? I just don't see one. Anywhere (well, maybe over in the PRC/SCO, but they're quasi 'terrorists' supposedly).

  • Comment number 72.

    #69 BobRocket. Sadly you are wrong. The result of any forthcoming election is clear and the outcome unalterable. it will be a victory for the ruling kleptocracy. Full rein will be given to the financial oligarchy and the reduction of the vast mass of the population will proceed inhindered.

    The people will invited to alternately boo and hiss or cheer on the command of the corporate media. They will dutifully obey the command - and the rich will sneer.

    Meltdown is coming - only the people can stop the march to complete destruction. All they need to do is stop marching, but they wont so the outcome is assured.

  • Comment number 73.

    #71 Jadedjean. Unless you are a multi billionaire no one cares what you think, consequently you are wasting your time. Any credible entity that sought to represent the interests of the people will be marginalised and villified. If that doesn´t work they will be crushed by force.

    Stick to passing comments on duck houses or the etymology of the word fungible - that is all that is required of non oligarchs.

    There is another way - namely to have the representatives of the most odious institutions infiltrate organisations or even ideas. Isn´t it called entryism or something?

    On a completely seperate matter I note that Tesco have aligned themselves with critics of the education system.

  • Comment number 74.

    Message 66

    I have long been suggesting that all government should be moved to Salford: a place of high unemployment with a need for urban renewal. This will make it easier for the BBC to go there then as well. Just think of the savings!

    Alternatively some parts of Glasgow could be similarly improved.

    This will allow London to become a real place again in which real people live and work rather than be the circus of absurd fantasy which it has become over these last forty years. Might also bring the bankers, as they describe themselves, down to earth as well.

  • Comment number 75.

    It's an interesting angle, Stephanie, but I'm not entirely convinced - by your logic wouldn't MPs who live further from London be disadvantaged because they'd have to claim more in travel costs? Strategycall mentioned this back in post #11 - surely it matters what the expenses are spent on as it is this motivation that determines whether or not it was reasonable?

    Travel expenses are reasonable as it is an expense incurred whilst performing the duties of their role, even if they claim more for travel than an MP who lived 10 miles from Westminster who claimed a similar (but smaller) amount for someone to come in and and floss the teeth of their gerbil.

    Economics can be a very insular, self-perpetuating game, and issues such as ethics and morality hold no bearing as they have a minimal effect on market forces. So whilst economists might be able to view such matters neutrally and simplistically it doesn't necessarily make it "right".

    Above all else though, this whole saga is irrelevant until we get see Jacqui Smith in court. This woman cheated us out of more money than I'd earn in over half a decade. That's "cheated" - not earned, not incurred in the process of public service, and not justified.

    No-one in Westminster comes out of this looking good, but for the minister responsible for law and order to be caught blatantly defrauding the taxpayer, only to be let off because she apologised, is a travesty of both justice and democracy.

  • Comment number 76.

    #71 JJ

    Open and accountable government would be a start.
    We cannot start nation-building until we actually know where we are now otherwise we would be nation-building on a foundation of sand.

    The last thing we need is some highly intelligent, charismatic 'leader' with a 'vision of the future' sweeping the country up into the unknown (and usually suppressing the dissenting minority).

    Just open it up and let us have a look, if we don't like what we see then we can discuss alternatives.

  • Comment number 77.

    EXPENSES FRAUD MPs MUST BE BROUGHT TO JUSTICE.

    What is the difference between MPs expenses fraud and the case of 73 year old Sylvia Hardy?

    A retired social worker from Devon became the first woman pensioner to be jailed in England for refusing to pay part of an increase in her council tax.
    Sylvia Hardy, 73, from Exeter, was jailed for seven days after missing a deadline to settle arrears of £53.71.

    Try telling a judge that you misdirected yourself or it was all a unforgivable mistake and hold up a cheque saying you will pay the money back.

    The only people who want a line drawn under MPs expenses conduct most foul, are the guilty MPs. When MPs are tainted the rest are suspect.

    THE MICHAEL MARTIN COVER UP

    Do you know that Michael Martin while head of the expenses committee and speaker of the commons could not be sacked? He did everything in his power to cover-up the abuse of his and other MPs’ expenses. Even whilst in possession of Constructive Notice and Constructive Trust he made a vexatious application to the Court of Appeal in an attempt to keep expenses under wraps. The legal costs, according to his solicitor, was approximately £500,000. Why should the taxpayer pick up the tab? Michael Martin must be brought to justice and made pay these costs.

    MPs EXPENSES UNLAWFUL

    Some arrogant MPs erroneously believe that the letter of the law will support their case not to pay back expenses. But Take Notice, that members of the Crown, which include MPs, Civil Servants and Lawyers, must be subordinate to: the spirit of the law, the law of equity, and to their duty of service. In principle and in law, the letter of the law is subordinate to the spirit of the law. The abused of the spirit of the law and rules demand that the law of equity and reform must prevail. MPs who have abused expenses and refuse to pay back, their conduct is an attempt to oust the authority of the Court. Those MPs who are contemplating Court action would be asking the Court to oust it own authority.

  • Comment number 78.

    In case anyone needs a refresher here is a link to Telegraphs A-Z list of expenses shame :

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/mps-expenses/5297606/MPs-expenses-Full-list-of-MPs-investigated-by-the-Telegraph.html



  • Comment number 79.

    #76 BobRocket. We do know where we are now - Our institutions of state have been captured by a financial oligarchy who are ruthlessly subverting all main organs of the state for their own short term financial interest. The long term consequences are likely to be catastrophic for us all.

    Don´t believe me, consider this from Simon Johnson, a man who has worked closely with the oligarchy. Who no doubt could have joined the oligarchy, but chose not to.

    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 80.

    `The last thing we need is some highly intelligent, charismatic 'leader' with a 'vision of the future' sweeping the country up into the unknown...'

    Yes: I remember Tony Blair.

    Didn't he also start an agressive war for no good reason?

  • Comment number 81.

    "Count it, don't follow it"

    SF: Does this mean that your writings here and interviews and expert media verbal reports elsewhere will focus less on people's mental (intensional) states (and verbal accounts of these) in future, and more on hard nosed aka behavioural 'economics' ;-) ?

  • Comment number 82.

    # 66.

    BobRocket:

    Absolutely, no organisation in its right mind would base operations in London and pay the considerably higher costs, unless it benefited considerably from doing so, either due to the presence of necessary services or perceived benefits due to prestige.

    Of course their is a cost of relocating to other regions with lower costs on the form of initial investment, and there is always the danger of Departments / agencies being used to prop up employment in specific areas where a government wants to cement its share of the vote. Decisions in relation to such bodies can then potentially be influenced by securing seats in the area rather than doing what may be best in the national interest, but provided its done indirectly, buying votes with taxpayers money is considered perfectly acceptable.

  • Comment number 83.

    armagediontimes (#73) "On a completely seperate matter I note that Tesco have aligned themselves with critics of the education system."

    Now that they don't even have to contribute the 2 million to run an Academy (aka made-over failed school), what do you expect? Getting into schools (by breaking up the current system as ineffective) is very good business these days, as these are state property/assets, and the staff are mainly good and trusting, well conditioned, unwitting equalitarians (aka sheep/'suckers') - as for the kids.....well, they're ripe targets for 'market research' and other free-market encouraging propaganda e.g. holocaust studies :-(

  • Comment number 84.

    #83

    Expect check out studies to be on the curriculum soon...

    and no doubt they can get some pay back via "work experience" schemes.

  • Comment number 85.

    No 46 "In the meantime the debt clock is about 830,000,000,000"

    A mere piffle !! We haven't sold our MPs to the salt mines, *YET* !!

  • Comment number 86.

    MP's should be placed in barracks if they cannot afford to buy second properties in London (many of whom can afford it), obviously i dont mean 8 man rooms! But a modest appartment in a secure block, couple of bedrooms, kitchen, dining room and office. Perhaps old army barracks could be used rather than being sold of to developers.

    If transport costs are an issue then perhaps a free public transport card would be a good idea, I imagine that public transport would improve dramatically if more ministers had to use it.

    As for food, unless they are entertaining, what is wrong with a canteen? Mass catering must be cheaper for the country than us constantly paying their bills from waitrose.

    It is way past the time when MP's need to think more carefully about how they spend _OUR_ money. It doesn't seem that they are willing to serve us, they want us to serve them.

  • Comment number 87.

    No 56 I read again, the final sentence of Animal Farm and weep:

    "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."

    That's easy !! Pigs are the ones with their snouts in the public trough !! When the revolution comes, these swine will be to first to catch the 'flu !!

  • Comment number 88.

    No 59 One test of "necessary" is that we can easily do without MPs; we can't do without doctors !!

    1/10 for effort !! Try again !!

  • Comment number 89.

    No 73 "On a completely seperate matter I note that Tesco have aligned themselves with critics of the education system."

    Well, they still need check-out staff that can count to 12 without taking off their shoes !!

    And please, don't mention that most guys can count up to 11. That joke is so old, it's got moss growing on it !! :-)

  • Comment number 90.

    # 85.

    ishkandar wrote:

    " We haven't sold our MPs to the salt mines, *YET* !!"

    Sold? - We wouldn't get much for them.

    I'd be perfectly happy to send them for free for what they've done to the country. In any time spent haggling over price they'll cost us vastly more than we could possibly get for them.

  • Comment number 91.

    No 74 "I have long been suggesting that all government should be moved to Salford:"

    Why Salford ?? Wouldn't the Scottish Outer Islands be better ?? We could send a boatload of haggis over once a week !! And that makes it harder for them to escape into the wilds of Glasgow or Edinburgh, let alone London !!

  • Comment number 92.

    No 77 "Michael Martin must be brought to justice..."

    He is !! He's just been made Lord Gorbals !! Eeeew !!

  • Comment number 93.

    stanilic (#74) Where do you hail from originally?

    What do you think of the government voluntary repatriation scheme? ;-)

  • Comment number 94.

    DUPLICITY

    ishkandar (#87) "I read again, the final sentence of Animal Farm and weep"

    Do you weep over anarchistic (far-right=libertarian) propaganda in general? The source is an example of made-over 'Trotskyism' with Snowball their hero. See their 'about' for what they're really all about (ex Living Marxism of the non Statinist/Statist kind. That's Neo-con Thatcherism that is. That's the original Mr Blair ;-)

  • Comment number 95.

    Stephanie with regard to the fungibility of money,expenses or otherworldly things you say

    'The parallel with MPs' expenses - for any who missed it - is that all you can say about an MP who receives £20,000 towards their mortgage payments is that they have £20,0000 more to play with, and that they have mortgage costs of £20,000 to pay'

    In the real world, I pay 20 grand towards my mortgage and armed with my reciept I approach the expenses office and reclaim such expenditure.
    Ie. I pay for legitimate business expenditure out of my own taxed income and reclaim the same amount (but in different coins) after expenditure.
    In this case the money is fungible.

    In some cases I may be able to convince the expenses people to give me some cash upfront but I will be expected to provide both reciepts and change when I get back, If I use that actual cash to purchase the goods/services then it is non-fungible.


    #80 TB started the war so that he could become a peace envoy (without war there can be no peace)

  • Comment number 96.

    The newspaper analogy is not good enough.

    In the case of MPs expenses, they were retrospective, we do know what they spent the money on - they provided expense claims and invoices. They say it was in pursuit of their duties.

    To say that thy might have then spent other money on cigars really is irrelevant.

    They might have spent other money on Sky subscriptions or handbags, but then they might not and despite collective distaste for the system and the outcomes, that is their choice based on the arrangements in place. They could have made charitable donations! Whatever they spent salary on, they were going to spend it. The commodity purchased is irrelevant.

  • Comment number 97.

    mrsbloggs13c2 (#96) It's all a distraction from what matters. MPs were actively encouraged to claim the money, by whatever means. It was just a 20K salary top up. It is not a lot of money in the context of their overall 135K pa expenses elsewhere. Stop fueling this distraction.

    What matters is the anarchism this country is enduring - i.e abrogation of governance in favour of business/markets ironically aka Natural Selection. Sadly in unmanaged human cultures this is dysgenic because of health-care, political correctness, the universal franchise, equalities legislation, 'education, education, education' and unskilled immigration dramatically messing up the birth rate and thus GDP and debt. This is what these distractions stop people focusing on/waking up to :-(.

  • Comment number 98.

    Stephie,

    I am with DJLazarus (#75) on this one in that the logical processes employed by your 'an economist' can be questioned, as follows

    a) The fact that money is fungible is a given.
    Fungibility is in the nature, the definition and the purpose of money.

    From this it is not logical to leap to a conclusion that if money is fungible then we must ignore how the money was obtained or how the money was spent in relation to expense claims, as only size matters.

    This is not a conclusion which could be based on any valid argument, syllogism or enthymeme.

    The how and what of the expense claim is the real issue, not the fungible quality of money.

    Therefore if one wishes to look at the validity of obtaining cash for expenditure, and if one wishes to look at the validity of retaining that cash....then one needs to look at the acceptability of the methods of obtaining that cash.

    If the cause is justified then the reimbursement is allowable.
    If the cause is unjustified then the reimbursement is not allowable.

    Fungibility is a red herring in respect to validity of claim and therefore your 'economist' is guilty of presenting a misleading argument.

    b) To test out the logic processes it is sometimes useful to insert similar elements into the logical process presented.

    For example, the logic of your 'an economist' goes

    Money is fungible
    For things which are fungible, Economists and MP's state that we must ignore any values relating to acquisition or usage, as the quantity is the only consideration.
    Therefore we must ignore any values as to method and usage in obtaining cash for claims.

    (It is always considered as failed rhetoric when the argument is unconvincing and your 'an economist' has failed to convince)

    However, using the logical structure of your economist and by transposing other items of fungibilty into the economist's logical processes, might give us for example

    AK47 bullets are fungible items in an AK47 rifle
    For things which are fungible, Economists and MP's state that we must ignore any values as to acquisition or usage, as the quantity is the only consideration.
    Therefore..... (need I continue?)

    The obtaining, possession, control and appropriate usage of the bullet is not dependent on the fungibility of a bullet.

    Similarly, the validity of an expenses claim is not dependent on the fungibility of money.

    Therefore the fungibility argument as presented by 'an economist' in relation to claims could be considered as somewhat squiffy.

  • Comment number 99.

    91 ishkandar

    What have the Hebrideans and Shetlanders done to you? They are hardy people who prefer to be self-sufficient.

    The advantage of Salford is that it is an economically ravaged city much in need of some applied economics.

    93 JadedJean

    I am a Cockney: not one of those inarticulate creatures you see on EastEnders but a real one. My father's family is from Bethnal Green and my mother's from Fulham. I would be happy to be funded sufficiently by the taxpayer to purchase the properties my great-grandparents owned in both neighbourhoods.

    However, to go into the deeper past I am largely Caledonian from north of the Highland line, part Irish from the far west, part from the Chilterns (both escarpment and dip-slope) and part Baltic German (some of this might be Roma as they were horse-dealers with a false English surname).

    I have considered all the options and would perhaps like the taxpayer to fund my return to the Chilterns as for a short while there we were tenants of Queen Elizabeth I. I am close to identifying the property and most around there are very expensive. I will defer any return to the Highlands for fear of squabbling with the Duke of Sutherland, among others, over inheritance as I am of a peaceful disposition.

  • Comment number 100.

    No 99 "What have the Hebrideans and Shetlanders done to you? "

    Well, the Hebrideans and Shetlanders have also been much ravaged over the centuries and they, too, are much in need of some applied economics !! :-)

 

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