Nothing fishy here
- 7 Feb 08, 12:48 PM
I went to a hearing of the Information Tribunal this morning where the Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke and a couple of Sunday newspaper journalists were trying to get the House of Commons authorities to release more details about what MPs can claim on their additional costs allowance.
This is the money they get for having to occupy a second home, either in London or in their constituencies. They are reimbursed not just for rental or mortgage interest costs on their second home but also a general household expenditure, including items of furniture.
We heard from Andrew Walker, Director General of Finance and Administration, who argued that providing more detail would be an invasion of MPs personal privacy.
A well known Oxford Street store will no doubt be delighted to learn that that the Commons finance department keeps what Mr Walker calls a “John Lewis list” of reasonably priced items. TV sets for instance, which are neither luxury/top of the range nor “the bottom end of the market”.
So Mr Walker’s department would be unlikely to accept a claim for a plasma TV, he told the tribunal, and claims for iPods are rejected on the grounds that iPods are regarded as a personal items, but he said fish tanks “may be claimable”. Although he did know of one case where a claim for a fish tank had been rejected.
If only the BBC accounts were as understanding as this.