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Explaining MPs' expenses

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Simon Goretzki Simon Goretzki | 15:57 UK time, Monday, 11 May 2009

MPs' expenses - it's a huge story that obviously gets the audiences of most news programmes angry and animated.

But what if your audience can't vote, doesn't pay taxes and has probably never heard of the key players? For Newsround's audience of under-12s, the story is not an obvious "must do". It's complicated, confusing and packed with details of things many children just aren't aware of - things like mortgages, constituencies, and of course, expenses themselves.

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Plus we know that, aside from the prime minister and perhaps David Cameron, MPs don't feature highly on their radar. Why cover it at all, then?

Well, despite the above, kids get as outraged as adults at anything that might be seen as cheating, and have a very strong sense of right and wrong - so we knew that if Newsround could explain it clearly, we could get them on board.

Once we'd decided to go with the story, it was really just a case of Newsround doing what we like to think we do best - boiling down a story to its essential ingredients, poring over every line of script, and asking ourselves "Will this be easy to follow for a ten year old?"

Never heard of expenses? Well, they're "extra cash for things that help you do your job" -not perhaps what you'd hear Nick Robinson say on the Ten O'Clock News, but vital, we think, for a child who may have no idea what the fuss is all about.

Saying that, the BBC's political editor did play his part, grabbed by our reporter Sonali on College Green for a soundbite that made it into a report that managed to get in all the crucial elements in just over 90 seconds.

Our web story was, we hope, also a model of clarity, with links to an online explainer on the workings of Parliament and politics. If the expenses saga helps get Newsround viewers interested in those subjects, that can only be a good thing. If it happens to also introduce them to the idea already held by many adults that not all politicians are whiter than white - well, they were bound to find out one day, weren't they?

Simon Goretzki is the acting editor of Newsround


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  • Comment number 1.

    I learned more from this report than pages of the telegraph.

  • Comment number 2.

    Whilst not wishing to make excuses for MP's over claiming on expenses perhaps a higher salary ought to be considered commensurate with the job that they are expected to do. My grandson, a student at Manchester University, contacted our MP, Ann Widdecombe on a matter of student fees. The speed and efficiency in the reply from her office compared to anything that I experienced in my fifty years plus business career.

    The public should not be too cynical about MP's; the country cannot be run without them! In previous centuries only the wealthy could afford to become MP's, which restricted membership. My own view is that back benchers should receive a minimum of £100,000 P/A, and Ministers £250K P/A with honest expense claims. Any MP taking liberties above what is reasonable ought to face legal charges. Setting up a control body outside of parliament should not be necessary provided that expense claims are made available to the public and media.

  • Comment number 3.

    Too much time and space has been given by all the media to MP's expenses.Since new rules are being put in place let the MP's get on with their proper work and the media should give us some real news.

  • Comment number 4.

    "Well, they're "extra cash for things that help you do your job" .."

    Oh, dearie me, if the MPs had stuck to that definition, then we wouldn't be in this mess. Will Margaret Moran be putting in an appearance ?

    Will Alan Duncan ? Ten year old kids are far smarter than your patronising tone gives credit for. I wouldn't be at all surprised if some of them haven't had a squiz at the Telegraph themselves..

  • Comment number 5.

    If all MPs expenses were available for the public to view online, then the likelihood of ridiculous claims might be reduced.

  • Comment number 6.

    lordBeddGelert (4),

    The vast majority of under 12 year olds (which can go as low as about 5 years old for a CBBC audience) do not read any newspaper, let alone The Telegraph. Although you are right in saying they are far smarter than they are credited for they do not use "Adult Language" for want of a better phrase and have extensive knowledge of "Adult Things" such as expenses.

    The Newsround report is not patronising, it was well constructed and outlined the simple facts of the story in a clear way. To suggest that it is patronising simply because they use simple explanations is wrong. A normal news report would have given them some idea but not as much as this.

    However, I have a problem with one part of the blog;

    "Well, despite the above, kids get as outraged as adults at anything that might be seen as cheating, and have a very strong sense of right and wrong - so we knew that if Newsround could explain it clearly, we could get them on board."

    Perhaps you simply mean "get them on board" in terms of their interest but it sounds as if you are trying to make them automatically think it is wrong. It is not your place to do that and you should be careful not to be trying to get anyone "on board" a certain opinion, your an impartial news service, not a campaign group.

  • Comment number 7.

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

  • Comment number 8.

    Please explain why the BBC are doing the same as the politicians and concentrating on the need to change the rules instead of canvassing for sackings and fraud charges to be brought,if these claims had not been published the MPs would have continued with these claims and the public would be none the wiser.The speaker gets on his high horse regarding the right of individuals to pass on this information he should instead concentrate on getting the House to move towards being a respectable place and commend the individual for their service to the country.not something we can do to our so called Honourable Members.
    Many of us have or have had jobs were we have had to claim expenses,if we had made false claims or tried to play the system like this lot we would have been sacked and prosecuted not been allowed to repay the falsely claimed amount we got caught for as though that made it alright.
    Come on BBC do your job as an independent broadcaster and stop pandering to your political masters.

  • Comment number 9.

    We all should cut spending in this economy. Officals should public funds like money in their own wallet.

  • Comment number 10.

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

  • Comment number 11.

    Perhaps you should explain that adults are extraordinarily selective and hypocritical, and, sadly, very easily led. Why pick on MPs meagre allowances? Which journalist, media exec., banker, lawyer, company director, etc. etc. doesnt employ an accountant to make sure that they exploit to the full all the opportunities to claim allowances and expenses, and avoid as much tax as possible much more than any MP? Isnt this the norm throughout the private sector, where corporate entertaining (a euphemism for greasing palms) buys up the bulk of the best seats in every branch of posh entertainment, sport and transport?

    Who owns the Telegraph and where do they live? On a tax haven where they busy wrecking the economy to the detriment of the majority who voted for things the Telegraphs owners didnt want. No friends of democracy, then!

    The BBC should wake up. What these media hyenas, in the Telegraph, Mail, Express, Sun, etc. want is to so damage democracy that the country gets to be governed by Big Brother style plebiscites orchestrated by a right wing populist media. This why the BBC is second only to Parliament as the target for the poisonous campaigns dreamt up by the print media hacks. Dont believe if you cant beat them you should join them, BBC they want you for breakfast. But their days are numbered the print media are on the way out, and the super rich cant so easily buy the blogosphere. Strike out independently of the print media jackals you can outlast them if you dont give them so much of a helping hand with their project of undermining our national institutions.

  • Comment number 12.

    If an employee in a commercial context were to take advantage of the trust placed upon them by their employers they would be immediately suspended.
    If an employee was the reason for their company's downfall they would not be rewarded.
    Our UK society has been undermined for more than a generation by social policies that fail to build values upon which a stable society can succeed.
    I would not have believed that MPs could stand before the national media and apologise. Quite simply they have stolen from the tax payers and should be dealt with as such. The very least punishment should be that they are required to refund the amounts in full.

    Yes Minister in reality!!

  • Comment number 13.

    I would like to ask the MP's involved in the MP expenses scam - If they had known that, their expense were going to be made public would these hourable people still have presented the same expense claims?

    Can we as tax payers expect to see a repayment of profits made from the exploitation of public funds - if this is an example of recent claims made by MPs how long has this been going on and just how much money has been pilfered away?

  • Comment number 14.

    Regarding MP's expenses I am not sure why politicians are now blaming their system (they designed it after all) and why the media are also buying this story to a large extent. Essentially what is being revealed is that many MP's have been abusing the 'spirit' of their own expense system to inflate their incomes (which I am sure wasn't the intention of those who first designed it). The system may be full of holes but every politician is in a position of trust especially when it comes to taxpayers money. Our expectation is that they spend our money wisely and carefully and this applies to their expenses as well. I do not expect to be paying for dog food, tampax or anything else that clearly is not a legitimate expense - for these are clearly personal expenses, not professional expenses. This I am sure would be the taxman's view and I hope that those concerned are investigated by HMRC - then we will really see if they broke the rules.
    Doesn't it really comes down to a question of integrity - and what we have been shown is that by and large our MP's don't have integrity. Apologies and exuses regarding not breaking the rules or blaming the system should not be allowed to create a smoke screen regarding their lack of integrity. Also the argument that they abused the system to compensate themselves because they believed their salary was too low doesn't really hold water either when it comes to the question of integity. Using this back door method to inflate their salary/income shows that most of them are untrustworthy and are not worthy of the Job. Surely to be an MP and serve the people should be a privilage and an honour. We want politicians who are trustworthy, have integrity and spend our money wisely - how many do we really have?

  • Comment number 15.

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

  • Comment number 16.

    With the left wing bile the BBC throws at us every minute of every day how can you trusted to explain anything clearly, especially anything to do with politics? Ordinary people can claim expenses? Rubbish! Most people do not do jobs where they claim expenses. To have the BBC passing judgement on MPs is a bit rich.

    Less opinion and more (correct) facts please.

  • Comment number 17.

    All MPs who claimed within £50 of the limit of expenses should be de-selected. Simples

  • Comment number 18.

    Can anybody explain if MPs' actually spend any of their own money, whilst they are Members of Parliament.

  • Comment number 19.

    I feel the report was reasonable and certainly achieved its intention.

    However, I am also concerned about certain aspects of "all within the Rules" claims. Children know what cheating is when they understand the rules. If someone offers to "bend" the rules by placing a different interpretation on what they mean children become "confused" and "cheating" becomes less clear as an issue. The Tax Payers Alliance have suggested that the rules on second home allowances are "very clear" but have been consistently "abused". This is as accurate an interpretation of the situation as the other contention that the rules are "not as clear as they should be" and could only be clarified by a formal independent investigation.

    Should the report have made more of the issues concerning rules and their interpretation and application? Rules are very important to children.

  • Comment number 20.

    Following on from my previous point we are consistently bombarded with the idea of role models for children, young people and even adults. Would it not have been apt for the report to have identified the handful of politicians who have not only been completely honourable and honest but also steadfastly tried to bring this matter to the attention of our media?

    That would certainly have given weight to the argument that even when you think you can get away with "cheating" it is still wrong and that sometimes you will not be listened to no matter how hard you try.

  • Comment number 21.

    Great post. I'm sure there are many challenges in getting kids to understand what's going on, and it sounds like you've put a lot of thought into how to get this story across. Keep up the good work.

    I just hope you've not kept up Nick Robinson's apologist tone and portrayed this to this kiddies as just a minor misdemeanour, although I expect it will be hard to explain to the little ones how 600-odd people can have very publicly committed criminal fraud yet escape any kind of consequences. God knows it's hard enough to explain to me.

  • Comment number 22.

    Here's something which even the youngest child can understand, as it has a handy 'picture gallery' to tell the story...

  • Comment number 23.

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

  • Comment number 24.

    Are you talking, like, streetwise ten year olds or those 'sitting comfortably'? Ten year olds I know can argue me into a corner and leave me floundering.
    Still, if you hire folk to do with the news what you say, then I supppose they had better earn their bread - and claim their expences.

  • Comment number 25.

    they're "extra cash for things that help you do your job" - Oh dear, not doing too well with that explanation, are we?
    Expenses, out of pocket expenses, PAY YOU BACK for things you bought (on behalf of the company) that are needed to do your job. Lunch, a nice massage and antacid tablets would all help me do my job, but I'd be reprimanded if I tried to claim them as legitimate expenses!
    Also, the average MP apparently claims almost twice what they earn, as expenses. How is this possible? Are they working 2 jobs and not declaring?

  • Comment number 26.

    Has anyone mentioned the 'free holidays' sorry 'fact finding missions'
    3 days a week, 30 weeks a year, 2+jobs,Euro, Welsh, Scottish, Irish, non-attendees = too many MPs - Let's have half the number working full time and properly rewarded.

  • Comment number 27.

    I think this can be summed up quite easily.

    The MPs wrote the rules governing their own expenses in such a way that they were able to claim tens of thousands of pounds for items not normally considered expenses without ever getting into trouble.

    They did this because they feel that MPs pay is insufficient, even though it is three times the national average wage, and that raising their pay would be seen as profiteering by the general public whereas, until now, expenses have remained an open secret that the mainstream press have not reported.

    The people may change but the songs remains the same: Jobs for the Boys & Snouts in the Trough !

  • Comment number 28.

    A little Biased maybe? Lacked important details? Are you Training the next generation of angry Daily mail readers? I'm sure they will impressed though with your Krazy Camerawork and laughing at the funny fat man and his toilet. I bet that journalist gets quite a lot of crisps and pop on her expenses.

  • Comment number 29.

    Perhaps you will now "boil down to its essential ingredients", the economy, using your model of clarity.
    10 yr olds should have the basic arithmetical skills, and I'm sure would profit from a clear explanation of that political invention "spin" and its effects on numbers. And perhaps a reason why it's not included on the curriculum....?

    It should be the least offered as they are expected to pay for it.

  • Comment number 30.

    At a time where my working week has been taken to 4 days with no shift pay and no overtime, how can an MP who i do not even know, tell me that £304.10 is value for money for getting his pool cleaned?
    It is staggering that my taxes go to pay the expenses that these pompous, arrogant individuals claim back.
    I wonder if i would be allowed to go and watch a TV that i have helped purchase, maybe have a bath and use the plug that i helped purchase or even just take a dip in the pool that i have just helped pay for to get cleaned? I don't think so.
    Do us all a favour, be happy with the wage that you are paid and do the job that you are paid to do. If you can't do that on the salary you are paid, then quit and let someone who needs and wants a job do it instead!

  • Comment number 31.


    You're living up to your name but I couldn't agree more. I obviously don't condone the frivolous expense claims but compared to top earners in some professions (bankers, lawyers, etc) the difference in wages is rather great.


    The only bile I've ever notice from the media seems to come from the right wing rather than the left (do you mean bias perhaps?). Oh and 'ordinary people don't claim expenses?'. Well, as much as I'd like to think different, I'm an 'ordinary' person, earn less than £20k a year and I can claim expenses. It just so happens that if I do, any claims are well scrutinised.

  • Comment number 32.

    I would make MPS occupy public accommodation around London.

    I believe there must be surplus accommodation available at say RAF Uxbridge or Northolt.

    Make them stay there.

    Military people receive no allowances for second homes

  • Comment number 33.

    I can't help feeling that a film featuring 'hands in a cookie jar' and some disappearing 'iced gems' might help to illustrate the scenario rather nicely...

  • Comment number 34.

    Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson has confirmed the Telegraph's report that he had made a claim of £304.10 for the upkeep of a swimming pool.

    But he added: "The pool came with the house and I needed to know how to run it. Once I was shown that one time, there were no more claims. I take care of the pool myself. I believe this represents 'value for money' for the taxpayer."

    - Does this mean as taxpayer that I can pop round and have a quick dip? - know that would be good value for money!

  • Comment number 35.

    I am concerned that the Lord Foulkes interview by Carrie Gracie was misreported by news on While the video at is very clear the accompanying text article truncates and edits a key quote without informing the reader that changes have been made. As a journalist I was always taught that quotes must not be edited for meaning and that if words are removed they must be clearly marked.

    The original quote:
    "to come on television and sneer at democracy and undermine democracy. Look, it is being, it is being cleared up and the cast majority of MPs are not abusing the system. The vast majority of MPs are working hard in their constituencies, the vast majority of MPs are being undermined by you and are devastated because of the kind of publicity you are giving them. And youre paid a lot more than them.

    the reported quote in paragraph 5:
    to come on TV and sneer at democracy and undermine democracy. The vast majority of MPs are being undermined by you.

    I have looked through the editorial guidelines but cannot find a section that deals with how to report direct quotes in text services.

    Please could you explain?

  • Comment number 36.

    16. "With the left wing bile the BBC throws at us every minute of every day how can you trusted to explain anything clearly, especially anything to do with politics? Ordinary people can claim expenses? Rubbish! Most people do not do jobs where they claim expenses. To have the BBC passing judgement on MPs is a bit rich.

    Less opinion and more (correct) facts please."

    "With the left wing bile the BBC throws at us every minute of every day ..." Ermm. This reads like an opinion rather than a "(correct) fact". Can you substantiate your point, KennethM, for example by listing the BBC output of May 12th 2009 and showing at least one cubic centimetre of left-wing bile in each minute?

    Serious as the problem of expenses and allowances is, it's going to be very hard to re-establish the credentials of democracy in the UK if the debate is led by blind prejudice alone.

  • Comment number 37.

    Is Newsround going to follow up its report with further insight, notably the fact that the vast majority of our political representatives appear to be claiming expenses without scruple as if it is a ritual they must go through?

    Is Newsround going to suggest to its audience that no matter how many people "cheat" it does not make it OK and neither does it remove individual responsibilities to people who place trust in them?

    Is Newsround going to canvass the opinion of its audience as to what punishment these errant MPs deserve?

    Is Newsround going to investigate how we have got to the stage where we appear to be both financially and morally bankrupt and offer its audience the chance to suggest remedies?

    When a six year old makes a comment about one of our political leaders "...he sounds just like Daddy when he upsets Mummy and makes her cry more..." we all need to hang on to the precious "naivety" of our young children.

  • Comment number 38.


    Alternatively didn't the Home Office have its eyes on a nice "prison" ship. It could be parked just outside the HoC and serve as a subtle reminder that if you "fiddle" then there are much more appropriate places for you to live than a comfortable second home. Wouldn't that be something much more interesting for Newsround to debate?

  • Comment number 39.

    The phrase Honourable Member of Parliament is dead.All the ill-gotten gains and bogus claims should be paid back in full. All future expense claims should be available for public scrutiny, Any MP who disagrees with this should have to explain why to their electorate, the next time they seek office. It should not be forgotten whilst these greedy pigs had their noses in the public trough, they told pensioners that £2-20 a week rise is all the country could afford. Just how two faced can you get.

  • Comment number 40.

    Am I the only person angered by MPs referring to their bogus claims re. second homes as "mistakes". Mistakes are accidental. This is deliberate fraud and should be treated as such.

  • Comment number 41.

    Surely, most of the BBC's output is aimed at the under-twelves?

  • Comment number 42.

    I do not see why we, the general public, should be paying for the travel expenses of any other party other than the government in power. The opposition is not in power so why should we pay for them to travel around? Surely the ONLY ones who have a valid reason for claiming travel expenses, paid for by the public purse, are those members of the government in power who are travelling around on official business. Also, a salary of more than £60k - which is what an MP earns, is more than enough to pay for their own household items (2nd home et al), expenses and travel. I earn far less than that - £20k, and I can assure you that I have to pay for my own travel, food, running costs, upkeep, petrol, prescriptions, gardening, furniture, kitchens, etc and still have to pay a full capital gains tax if I made profit on a property AND still pay tax on my income without further tax benefits and like many Britons, I have to struggle to get by on what I earn, not expenses claimed to offset any expenditure that is common place and should be expected. Sadly, only politicians seem to have a 'full tolerance' approach to (as Winston Churchill once said) "telling terminalogical inexactitudes" at work and getting away with it. tell you what, lets set up an independent enquiry into something that is so blatently obvious we could all provide you with the answers today, rather than spend more money from the public purse to find out what we all already know.

  • Comment number 43.

    I note MPs are now rushing to pay back illegally claimed expenses - what about the interest?

    I personally think MPs should:

    Have their salary doubled
    Claim for second class travel ONLY (they can top up to business class from their own pocket)
    Admin and Research staff should be employed through the Civil Service
    Accommodation in service flats (much easier and cheaper for security)
    Reduce the number of MPs
    No more looonnngggg breaks

  • Comment number 44.

    I have to work away from home, how do I go about claiming back the expense of running a flat in Bristol and a house in Margate? Maybe Mr Brown could explain this to me as all I ever get from his government is Tax Bills!

  • Comment number 45.


    "I note MPs are now rushing to pay back illegally claimed expenses - what about the interest?"

    Some people are missing the plot here, all of these claims were WITHIN THE RULES, they are paying back these claimed expenses to try and redress the MORAL balance.

    "No more looonnngggg breaks"

    But do they actually take long breaks, don't assume that just because 'The House' isn't sitting that MPs are not working within their own constituencies, also remember that one of the reasons for the long summer recess is to allow building maintenance etc. at Parliament - there has been a few examples were one or other house has been recalled during the long summer recess and they have had to sit in the other house due to work being done in their more usual place of work.

  • Comment number 46.

    £92.000 per year to read the news. That is a scandal - and its our money

  • Comment number 47.

    # 45
    So by that rationale "building maintenance taking place" wouldn't that apply to all public buildings?

    And yes we know MPs are claiming the "Nuremberg" excuse and if they weren't guilty they wouldn't be paying it back!

  • Comment number 48.


    "£92.000 per year to read the news. That is a scandal - and its our money"

    £5.73 per hour to clean council toilets. That is a scandal - and its our money...


    "And yes we know MPs are claiming the "Nuremberg" excuse and if they weren't guilty they wouldn't be paying it back!"

    I claim that the debate is over, "Goodwin's Law" has been invoked...

    As it is, should we all pay any monies ever claimed back, just in case some rule some has was poorly or erroneously drafted at some point in time, perhaps we should go the hole-hog, abandon Habeas corpus, change our legal system over to one of an assumption of guilt, prove your innocence?!

    Sorry but this whole salaries/expenses saga, and the many blogs, are becoming nothing that a witch hunt and zoological park (big cat enclosure) feeding frenzy...

  • Comment number 49.

    One of my Dad's more pertinent maxims was that "in a democracy, a country gets the Government it deserves".

    I hear suggestions of a daily attendance allowance to replace the current "system??". Yes, undoubtedly an improvement....what couldnt be?

    But let me suggest a much more economic alternative. Pay MPs to STAY AT HOME. All MPs would benefit, including London-based "representatives".

    Staff at the Fees Office could be re-assigned to international aid duties where their skills in largesse would undoubtedly do some good.

  • Comment number 50.

    Stephen Fry says RE expenses "it doesn't matter" and "we all cheat on our expenses". Not so Stephen. Also in my experience people who cheat on the little things go on to cheat on the bigger things.OR. If you can't trust someone with the little things how can they be trusted on the bigger issues. That is how our coutry ended up being taken into war.

  • Comment number 51.


    I suspect that most groups of 12 year olds would have done a better job of assessing MPs expenses claims than did the Speaker and his staff. I also suspect that a five year old would have been much better writing the rules in the first place. Newsround could gainfully employ some of its audience to come up with a new set of rules and remedies for breaches. However I am still of the opinion that, for the most part, the problem was not the rules but the bending of them by people who actually knew better but still thought they'd get away with it.

    As for paying it back let them do that whilst at the same time facing criminal charges for misappropriating public funds. Benefit claimants get absolutely no leeway on the rules so why should MPs?

  • Comment number 52.

    Well done Carrie Gracie !
    i watched you interview with the rude man foulks , i know of him ,his old constituancy has the worst roads in britain, just a shame i can't claim expenses for my broken suspension to get to work, hope you've played a part in the end of the expenses gravy train, all i'm hearing about is ministers spending money "doing" up houses, at our expense and not just one ? how many houses do these people need? some countries would jail or worse for these criminal acts, oh and how much has the running scared mp claimed over the past few years £64000 to be exact.
    mark g.

  • Comment number 53.

    Why cant the government sort the expenses out in a simple and straight forward way. If there is an elected MP who needs a second home in London to carry out their business then why doesnt the government provide a "Married Quarter" for their use whilst in London. Let the council tax, furnishings etc be paid for by the government, then when the MP losses his or her seat they hand the keys on to their successor. The property and its contents remains the possession of the government and is not the MP's to keep or sell on and make a profit. Surely after the initial purchase of a few hundred homes, perhaps even a purpose bulit village (built by currently out of work builders and tradesman)and the fact there would not be a need for expense claims the government will start to be in "profit".

  • Comment number 54.

    I work in Local Government and we cannot do anything there unless it stands up to vigorous scrutiny by the Audit Commission.
    It would seem that MPs don't come under the same scrutiny? Why is that?

  • Comment number 55.

    @50 - I don't think Fry's point was that "it doesn't matter" at all - rather, that there are other things that matter a heck of a lot more, and much of this journalistic feeding frenzy is making us forget that.

    I agree the system and the politicians need to be exposed, and yes some of these claims make me angry. However I can also see that much of our sense of proportion is being lost, driven away by journos.

  • Comment number 56.

    I lot of people above and also MP's are now saying that they should be paid more and not get such extravagant expenses, but as tax payers we must be very wary.
    Is it possible that there is a conspiracy in existance, orchestrated by MP's to force through a large salary increase before they lose their seats at the next election? After all, MPs, including the PM, get paid less than some senior Civil Servants, TV presenters and Bankers whose jobs they have saved. Some retiring MPs get more pay after leaving by becoming Company Directors than they were getting as MPs.
    Why the conspiracy theory? It all relates to their Final Salary Pension Scheme, which gives them a pension based upon their Final Salary, and if you increase that salary, you immediately increase their pension entitlement. But does everyone know the cost?
    To finance a Final Salary scheme costs approximately 25% of that years pay, so if we increase a MPs salary by 40k,, we increase that years cost by approx. 10K. However if they have been MPs for 10 years, (and most have, if not more than this) the cost of putting the fund right is 10 times that 10k, or 100k. If we then consider that there are around 650 MPs, then it becomes 650 times 100k or 65billion. We would be better off allowing them to continue to claim questionable expenses, rather than have to pay taxes to fund these massive pension increases!!

  • Comment number 57.

    By the way, am I alone in looking at that Newsround clip - with its wacky props, zany camera angles and informal street-speak - and fearing that what I'm seeing is BBC News for grown-ups as it will be in 10 years time?

    Making it more, y'know, "accessible" and "compelling"?

    (Perhaps 10 years is optimistic)

  • Comment number 58.

    #36. Stuart n

    Have a look at my post history to find plenty of examples of BBC bias and opinions. Finding examples of left wing bias is so easy it is boring. Just listen to the BBC radio, watch BBC tv or go online any time of any day.

    Just think about how suddenly the BBC worries about taxpayers money when it comes to banks and politicians but it is not mentioned it when it is campaigning for more public spending.

    Just think how a conservative MP was lambasted by the BBC for claiming expenses for work carried out by his son and compare with the BBCs first reaction of criticizing the Daily Telegraph when it began with the expenses claims of Labour MPs.

    How about the sniping at President Bush compared to the coverage of President Obama?

    How about this:

    Jane Garvey talking with Peter Allen on BBC Drive (Radio 5 Live) where she reminisced with co-host Peter Allen about the morning of May 2nd, 1997, the morning when Tony Blair became Prime Minister:

    "Ah, well - I had been up for most of the night but I was doing this Five Live breakfast programme with our colleague at the time - it was a bloke called Peter Allen so - I had to get a bit of sleep, and I do remember I walked back into - we were broadcasting then from Broadcasting House in the centre of London - all very upmarket in those days - and the corridors of Broadcasting House were strewn with empty champagne bottles - I will always remember that (Allen laughs) - er - not that the BBC were celebrating in any way shape or form (Allen, laughing - 'no, no, no, not at all') - and actually - I think it's fair to say that in the intervening years the BBC, if it was ever in love with Labour has probably fallen out of love with Labour, or learned to fall back in, or basically just learned to be in the middle somewhere which is how it should be - um - but there was always this suggestion that the BBC was full of pinkoes who couldn't wait for Labour to get back into power - that may have been the case, who knows ? but as I say I think there've been a few problems along the way - wish I hadn't started this now..."

    And what about the recent decision by the Editorial Standards Committee to uphold complaints against Jeremy Bowen and of course, how about the censored Balen Report?

    And how about the buried reports about the misdemeanours of Labour MPs (e.g. Stephen Ladyman)?

    Apart from political parties and NGOs I do not know of any other British institution that takes it upon itself to comment on and campaign about national and international politics in this way. The Health Service doesnt do it. The police dont do it. And so on. Any institution taking public money should respect the fact that we have a democracy and our money should not be used to send out propaganda, and in this case, mainly left wing propaganda.

    And contrast the BBCs efforts at talking up the economy right now with their shameful treatment of John Majors government and their constant talk of gloom in an earlier recession when things were no nowhere near as bad as they are today. For instance, the Bank of Englands further downgrading of UK economic prospects has been relegated to about fifth place. If a conservative government had been in power this would have been at the top of the agenda.

    Perhaps examples are not enough as it is simply too easy to find left wing views on the BBC. Perhaps an even better test is to find right wing views. You may go days and even weeks before you find the BBC putting forward a right wing perspective

    And of course, in the light of the recent investigation by a committee of MPs, the BBC is pushing for pub companies to pay more money to their staff and has accused them of bullying their staff. There was no qualification of this comment. The BBC has decided that they are bullies. And that was just a few hours ago on BBC Radio 4 (You and Yours). Disgusting.

  • Comment number 59.

    I have just watchd Linda McDougall and am appalled at what she is saying! MP's get over 60K per year and she thinks it's "OK" to buy "BRANSTON PICKLE AND GIN" at our damn expense.... is sheMAD!! People walk for miles raising money for Great Ormond Street Hospital etc, and we the public care about making sure our money goes to just causes, she and many others think its ok to abuse OUR MONEY... I am glad she was on air, she has just made millions of us really mad and in total agreement for a call for change. I am so incensed I joined this blog and wanted to make my point. Sick immoral People.. "The peoples representatives"... how veey sad. Think of the hospital services and the poor before buying GIN, Branston Pickle, manure and "Light fittings"... GRRRRRRR......

  • Comment number 60.

    Just a joke. I was going to write something serious but I was reading and it made me realise how stupid this whole thing is. We can't even do corruption properly...

  • Comment number 61.


    [re perceived bias at the BBC]

    "Jane Garvey talking with Peter Allen on BBC Drive (Radio 5 Live) where she reminisced with co-host Peter Allen about the morning of May 2nd, 1997, the morning when Tony Blair became Prime Minister:"

    Well by that 'rational' the BBC have a right wing bias as the BBC Parliament channel have recently been remembering 30 years back at the time when Jim Callaghan lost that parliamentary vote of confidence tabled by a certain M. Thatcher and her party, not only that last bank holiday the channel cleared it's schedule to mark the occasion a certain M. Thatcher and her party winning the 1979 election.

    Bias is mostly in the eyes of the observer...

  • Comment number 62.

    I think it is absolutely disgusting what these politicians are doing, while people are working themselves so hard to pay these taxes it is being used and abused. They should all be charged with theft. They are no better than people commiting benefit fraud. Who do i vote for? They are all a disgrace.

  • Comment number 63.

    If we are going to have history lessons for those who are twelve years old and under then Thatcher's broadcasting policy was as anti-BBC as you could get without pulling Broadcasting House down brick by brick. She made it pretty obvious what she thought of BBC bias; she also began to "die" politically after the Belgrano ("moving away from the conflict zone") affair and public questionning of her role. BBC bias has tended to follow Labour policy and so when Blair became "New" Labour's first PM the BBC followed his centrist policies together with his Tory monetary plans.

    In covering the expenses scandal the BBC has yet to establish just how angry members of the public are. The one big flaw in Newsround's delivery was NR's repeated "all within the rules" which is inaccurate reporting. One of the biggest issues is the feeling of many tax experts that the rules were rather clearer than the Speaker and his staff have made out and that interpretation was "incompetently liberal". Even some correspondents to these pages who are trying to play down the importance of this scandal are engaged in the dangerous game of "degrees" of fraud. Fraud involving public money by public servants is as serious a crime as you can get.

    None of the MPs involved in this scandal should be allowed to stand at the next election - none of them.

  • Comment number 64.

    The Government should buy an apartment building which is fully furnished and serviced so all the MPs from outside London can stay in there. This avoids anybody having to claim for anything. They pay for their own food as all the taxpayers have to. If they want to live in luxury, they fork out for that themselves. Nobody can then accuse them of feather their own nest!!!
    A very simple solution!

  • Comment number 65.

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

  • Comment number 66.

    1. Why 4 years

    2. I live in Whitechapel, worked in Marylebone, fell asleep once and ended up in Harrow, got of the train and went home in time for tea.

    3. If all the MP's give back the profit on their flats to the taxpayer, fine. Enterprise !

  • Comment number 67.

    1. Why 4 years?
    2. Hammersmith and City Line.
    3. Dolphins.

  • Comment number 68.

    Various dilemmas have occurred, who is responsible; The Speaker is a busy man.

  • Comment number 69.

    There is no way any person can claim for expenses and then make excuses. If I had claimed £16,000 for mortgage costs knowing the mortgage was fully paid, I would be arrested and charged with fraud. Same applies to some of the other claims. If this was a commercial business these people would be fired and then prosecuted. Lord Steel, made a very good statement, pay them an allowance (this should be taxable) and they can then spend it on what they want, but the allowance has to be reasonable and not excessive.

  • Comment number 70.

    If I claimed expenses falsly I would be sacked.

    If a civil servant claimed expenses falsly they wouls be sacked.

    Why are these bent MP's not being removed from office??

    Parliament should be abolished and new elections held immediatly.

    Get rid of this shower (of all parties) of bent MP's.

    They are MEANt to be running the country.......What a joke.

  • Comment number 71.

    It's no wonder Jacqui SMITH felt not one iota of guilt in snubbing the independant decision to award the Police the previously agreed pay rise. Then went on to make her own decision in the award amount.

    It's obvious that she can well afford to live comfortably and her salary is an added extra to the position she holds. I on the other hand have to pay my own mortgage, food bills, garden upkeep, household repair bills, etc.

    It is about time that someone addressed the outrageous items that are claimed for by MP's, whether 'within the rules' or not. Surely morals feature higher than just being 'within the rules'.

  • Comment number 72.


  • Comment number 73.

    Pesonally I am more concerned at the waste of public poll tax payers money that is the BBC. £92k pa for a newsreader, much more than an MP? Also Jonathon Ross and his millions probably more than the whole of Parliament. The phone in scams. Criminally abusive phone calls to pensioners. Dubious journalismn standards. Carrying their own adverts but not others. Dummed down output. Thompson and Lyons earn considerably more than the PM and then wheeling out consultants to say that they pay is not out of line. The failure to subject themselves to NAO strutiny. Dubious activities at BBC worlwide including involvement at woolies. The PC snooping madness that is the One Show. The blatant nepotism at the Beeb. The commercial broadcasters have to lay off staff - not so at the BBC. Methinks that this is the pot calling the kettle black! Is this the Beebs revenge for Hutton? Why do the Beeb never report on any of this lot?

  • Comment number 74.

    A simple question:
    If the ministers in question can afford to simply repay £40k or £20k etc in cash, in one lump sum, then why are they being allowed to claim 'expenses' in the first place?

    The answer should not be 'because that is what the rules allow... there should be some common sense applied; not tax-evasive, expense-dodging swindling.

  • Comment number 75.

    I appreciate Hazel Blears writing a cheque to the inland revenue for the equivalent of the capital gains tax she should have paid on the sale of her flat but what of the profit she made and continues to retain?

    We, as tax payers deserve, nay should demand that all profits made by MPs on the sale of second 'homes'and their contents(effectively funded by the taxpayer) should be repaid to the treasury.

    I have no issues with MPs being able to claim for expenses necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties but they should not PROFIT from them.

  • Comment number 76.

    Correct me if I'm wrong... but MP's are responsible for making the laws and guidelines governing expenses, right? How very convenient it has been for them to be in a position to 'design' the laws in such a way that has allowed them to leech all this money from the taxpayer. Any such laws relating to MP's and their remuneration, etc. should surely be independantly pre-assessed as to their relevance to the MP's and particularly the British Taxpayer.

  • Comment number 77.

    Now that the expenses gravy train has been (temporarily) derailed (apart from the £10K communications allowance - elocution lessons?), no doubt our honourable MPs will be wanting a £40K pay rise! This would be on the grounds of the need top enable poor people to be MPs. Now poor people don't earn £60K+ plus various other expenses - it would be like a goldmine to them. No, what the attempt to raise pay to £100K IS about is enabling lots of very well paid Accountants, Bankers, Solicitors, Lawyers and Trade Unionists etc to go into Parliament for a rest and make laws to help their own vested interests without losing any pay. EG Human Rights Laws - main beneficiary = Cherie Blair and co!

    When they
    *WORK a minimum of 250 days per year and turn up for debates in the chamber (watch Parliament Channel most only turn up for vote)
    *Have a clocking in/out smart card (or better satellite monitored leg tag) to ensure they are actually present in either their constituency office or Westminster chamber / offices
    *Are accomodated in Government owned flats near Parliament - so no expenses
    *Remove smoking and bar from commons and Lords
    *Reducew number of MPs to less than 300 (70% of laws are EU laws now, so what are this lot DOING?)

  • Comment number 78.

    Hilarious! I await the first edition of my local paper to report the defence of a 'benefit cheat', 'accounting error', m'lud. To see the acts of contrition being acted out by the great and the 'good', as they attempt to explain their, possibly fraudulent or criminal activity, whilst the economy is in virtual meltdown. The extremist and fringe parties are going to have a field day at both the local and euro elections. Without 'heads', BNP in parliament?, the electorate will take some placating.

  • Comment number 79.

    #57: I don't know if it counts as news for grown-ups, but have you ever seen the news bulletins on BBC 3? 10 years is wildly optimistic!

    Still, at least we still have a choice of quality news programmes like Today and Newsnight. All is not lost yet.

  • Comment number 80.

    #61 Boilerplated

    My recollection is the same as yours. The BBC were very pro-Thatcher before and just after her election and they had it in for Michael Foot & co.

    However, two wrongs don't make a right.

    Wouldn't it be nice if the BBC just reported facts and did not have the likes of Nick Robinson Pontificating over our elected government? If they just stuck to reporting we wouldnt have a problem.

  • Comment number 81.

    There are very real snags with the argument that the allowances enable "poorer" people to stand for Parliament. First how does a "poorer" person raise the cash required to stand as a candidate? Second how does a "poorer" person get through the savage party machines that want party clones and not free thinkers?

    MPs are selected by their capacity to stand behind the leader and the policies determined within cabinet government - modified manifesto commitments if you will. Fail that test and you are going nowhere fast.

    No, this is all a fallacious argument designed to cover many red faces and chastened egos. These people would, in more savagely dictated times, have been hung, drawn and quartered with no mercy shown. It would have been no more than they deserved in such times just as expulsion from politics is no more than they deserve now.

  • Comment number 82.



    Call me old-fashioned but those MPs repaying on their fraudulent claims isn't good enough.

    I want them to show real remorse: I want to see wholesale suicides, preferably in view of the paying public with the money raised from ticket sales going to good causes, e.g. those on income support of 53 pounds per week.


  • Comment number 83.

    It is ridiculous that the MPs are ripping us off as these are the same MPs that sent thousand of service men one of which was my son to fight in Iraq without the proper equipment like proper boots etc which they had to buy themselves.
    Shame on them.

  • Comment number 84.


    "#61 Boilerplated

    My recollection is the same as yours. The BBC were very pro-Thatcher before and just after her election and they had it in for Michael Foot & co.

    However, two wrongs don't make a right."

    That wasn't my point (there hasn't been one 'wrong', never mind two), what I was trying to show - by using the two example of recent programming, given by both myself and the quote I used - that the BBC is actually unbiased (as a whole) and any apparent bias is due to the BBC not being biased towards ones own point of view. Hence ending my comment with "Bias is mostly in the eyes of the observer..."

  • Comment number 85.

    Because we don't have an elected Head of State, we don't seem to have anybody in a position of respect above the government who can sound the public's views and speak out with the distaste we all feel. The Bundespresident of Germany is able to criticize the performance of the German parliament has enough clout to have his opinion respected. Who do the top politicians actually fear or even listen to?- the electorate they certainly won't fear until their own seats are at risk down the line.

  • Comment number 86.

    And even now (Thursday evening - 14 May) an 'Honourable Member' stated on the BBC that the last 3 weeks has damaged Parliament. Surely, if a time span is at fault it's the years of 'playing the system' by honourable members that has done this. Or are they ALL 'honorable' unless caught, when of course they can give a sincere banker's apology and keep the dosh! Does Westminster World accept 'get out of jail free' cards? or is that another game?

  • Comment number 87.

    Last night, on Question Time, there was a measure of the public anger over the expenses scandal from Grimsby. There was no diplomacy in evidence just hard hitting candour and Margaret Becket and Menzies Campbell being made to look somehwat foolish. Teresa May was, surprisingly I felt, a little more contrite. One factor that was highlighted by an audience member (which perhaps made light of the importance of this expenses fiasco) is how it may enable the BNP to gain seats in a rebellion vote.

    We really do need to flush out corruption in public and private life if we are retain the values and traditions of the UK. Any benefit fraudster committing the kind of misdemeanours of MPs would be facing a long term of imprisonment. Any person failing to pay their Council Tax would be facing a gaol term. Why on earth should MPs get away with this?

  • Comment number 88.


    Quote: Hence ending my comment with "Bias is mostly in the eyes of the observer..."

    Agreed, and therefore the case with your good self too, and me and everyone else....

    Accepting that it is true we all have our own "bias" does not mean that we should all shut up forever and a day and not make another comment. Bias is acknowledged and accepted as a part of life but when it slips into prejudice or obsession it may be obstructive rather than constructive. Once again we have to trust that everyone has the ability to make their own judgements on bias or we will slip slowly and very surely into totalitarianism.

  • Comment number 89.

    For the past few days I have listened to the excuses and appalling attempts of MP's to justify high living at the tax payers expense. Labour MP's who should have at the heart of their drive the social good of the people not the apparent self help they are trying to protect and justify.
    Justice Ministers that seem to think that because there were no limits set by the Fees Office that it is Ok to spend spend spend. Claiming he would have spent that at home. Well if he could then he was able to spend more that normal folk would as a proportion of the salary he earns doing the job? How does he manage that, use his own private income to support his work, I think not.
    You have to question how so many MP's, who after all are claiming money as a return of an expense, therefore the money is already spoken for can find the cash so quickly to repay the excess. Makes one feel like it was an enhancement of their well being something the Green Book specifically requires that they do not do.
    How is it that an MP can claim for an expense that does not exist? Mr Morley seems to think sorry is good enough, I as a member of the general public think I would have been in custody, charged and being prepared for a court appearance if I had made levels of claims of this nature against the company I work for.
    When will the police act, when will the public be provided with the justice we deserve as the body of people who are funding this excess and catalogue of "ERRORS".
    The government need to act and swiftly to regain public confidence. They should purchase 625 homes in London, furnish them to a reasonable standard, maintain them via a maintenance contract and provide the utilities via a single contract at a discounted rate form a single source. The same way we do for quarters for the armed forces. We consider that good enough for the people who lay down their lives for us at the direction of the same people who are making excessive claims on us. That way each MP would live in a "Tied Cottage" provided with the job. Paid for with no option to make a profit or gain. Furnished via a government contract so as to obtain best contract rates. Maintained to an agreed standard and no need for an expensive "Claims" process. Beyond reproach and considerably cheaper for us the tax payer. It's good enough for the man in the top job so why not the rest?
    No second home allowances for anyone, Hotel stays for anyone going to constituencies where they don't live and only pay expense that are reasonable. Since the number of claims to be processed would be 1/10th of current they could all be independently reviewed by a body who's aim was based on what the PUBLIC would think is reasonable.
    We have MP's who can spend as much as they like of tax payers money on heating lighting etc , while they pontificate over a few pence increase for pensioners to assist them in keeping warm.
    MP's take a long hard look at what you are doing otherwise the public will turn on you and the minor parties will get the votes and this country will end up with 100@s of parties in parliament, nobody in control and the decline of UK Ltd will be complete. Get it sorted ASAP

  • Comment number 90.


    "Because we don't have an elected Head of State, we don't seem to have anybody in a position of respect above the government who can sound the public's views and speak out with the distaste we all feel."

    Well as much as the above is true the rational is a bit daft, if we did have a president who or what would be the "position of respect" above the president were the public could air their views and speak out with the distaste we all feel should support collapse in the elected president - should we, the state, keep building an ever taller pyramid?...

  • Comment number 91.

    There is a culture in this country existing from the Middle Ages,where the people at the top(MP's,bankers etc) feel they are entitled to a lifestyle funded by the rest of us lowly serfs!Margaret Beckett's comment on Question Time that we don't understand their expenses is just another way of saying that MP's think we are too thick to realise that the class divide is still alive and well in Westminster.The rich man is living in his castle(s),complete with swimming pool, and the poorman will be lucky to have a gate to have a gate to lean against after they have finished fleecing us.

  • Comment number 92.

    Do these MPs know the phrase "you can fool some of the people some of the time but you can't fool all of the people all of the time" Have they no concience. The truth is, they claimed expenses they know they shouldn't have. Or is this country being run by a load of idiots. I don't think so. Its no good saying sorry now. The damage is done.


    C Harrold West Midlands

  • Comment number 93.

    I am puzzled by the BBC headlines to this issue. Yesterdays was 'First victim of MP's expenses scandal', which is bizarre, as the BBC do not cover terrorism with 'First victims of anti-terrorism laws'. Or perhaps burglars and shoplifters are 'victims of the Theft Act'? Is it that the BBC are determined to let these freeloaders off the hook, or is this a continuation of the media complacency that allows 19th century regulation in a 21st century democracy? Our parliamentary system is utterly corrupt and degenerate, and it urgently needs to be made fair,transparent and ACCOUNTABLE. The issue of MP expenses is very simple. Jobseekers allowance is about £94 per week, and the pension is about £92 per week, and this, our honest politicians assure us, is sufficient to maintain a household with dignity and without poverty. So assuming our politicians ARE honest, then lets give them £92 a week flat rate, or they can explain in public why they have been lying to us. And we should not forget that this is only an issue because of Freedom of Information Act, a reforming piece of modern legislation from europe, that westminster fought tooth and nail to keep out. And now we know why. If its paid for by the taxpayer, then it should be in the public domain, and the arrogance of our MP's in assuming that they are above the law and can keep their freeloading secret is sufficient grounds in itself to lose any vestige of trust and respect.

  • Comment number 94.

    The revelations are only the tip of 'greed culture' that has been fostered in all walks of life in the UK : Mp's should stop talking and start 'doing' to sort this out : I believe a realistic wage structure needs to be in place ; UK Plc should own and run a 'block' of London homes on behalf of MP's who can stay/live there when working in London from far flung areas - Then 2nd homes are abolished and the 'crookery' goes away - these houses are owned by the state. When parlimentary life is over they go 'Home' and a new MP moves in. Its no wonder so many decent people have turned their backs on living in the UK

  • Comment number 95.

    Just watching news 24, no this story will not go away, the MP's have committed a cardinal sin and upset all the people at the same time when normally they pick us off as disparate groups and get away with it. And thank you the Daily Telegraph for exposing the detail of what we knew was going on. I have yet to hear the BBC give credit to Heather Brook without whose FOI court battles we would never have known. The speaker was a major mover in frustrating her, forcing the issue to the horrendously expensive High Court but she won. Even now they are trying to hide their details away from us, they are still mulling over exempting these details from the FOI, and Sir Sturat Bell said that if the administration of their expenses was passed to an independent body it would be outside the FOI ! I think he is incorrect but it shows his mindset. A medal for Heather? All such awards go through the PM so????

  • Comment number 96.

    Still watching BBC 24, please stop them trying to talk this subject out and be more Paxo like when interviewing the miscreants. I see Ray Mallon has made a formal complaint to the police , as it appears have others. The result , a deafening silence from the police. How many times have you heard the police say after being taken to task over heavy handed investigation of a trivial or spurious complaint that " if we receive a complaint we must investigate it". Well Sir Paul get on with it or make sure that excuse is trotted out again when caught out by bad policing.

  • Comment number 97.

    We,the british public have knone for years that the people in power are only there to line there own pockets!And this proves it.we also need to look at how much the house of lords have taken from the public! we need to get rid of this goverment,and call for a general election.

  • Comment number 98.

    The main Have Your Say blog is still playing up, I find this a bit sinister at this time. I also want to ensure my real name and address does not show on screen, only a fool would want that shown right now, and guess what, cant access the changes segment of my details to check or change, hmmmmmmmmmmmm !
    P.S. Last blog should have said NEVER trotted out again, the never got ommitted.

  • Comment number 99.

    I would just like to point out that these rules thay have all stuck to
    Are rules made for them By them!As for mp's taxs,thay wont pay tax.And if thay do,thay can claim it all back.Any new rules thay think up!will just benifit them even more.There above the law and always will be!.

  • Comment number 100.

    I totally agree with the guy who phoned into the BBC News, who said that we need to get rid of career politicians and get people in who have sampled life, who know what they are talking about. All these out-of-touch types with their airy-fairy ideas, disastrous financial management and their dubious scruples, need flushing out.

    As with so much in life wherever there is no accountability, corruption reigns, or as Charman Mao said "where the broom does not reach, the dust will not disappear by itself".

    This is the 21st century: People are no longer happy to 'know their place' tug their forelocks and say "Yea", as if to the Lords of the Manor.They want fair dealing and accountability and will push to get it.

    Whitehall denizens - the jig is up!


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