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Parliamentary Expenses Scandal

Sue MacGregor brings together key figures from Westminster and Fleet Street involved in the protracted battle over releasing MPs' expenses to the public in 2009.

Sue MacGregor brings together key figures from Westminster and Fleet Street involved in the protracted battle over releasing MPs' expenses to the public.

The MPs' Expenses Scandal was one of the biggest political upsets in living memory, centring on the abuse and misuse of allowances and expenses. More than half of MPs were forced to pay back a total of more than £1million and the scandal led to the biggest clear-out of politicians in decades, as well as the first forced resignation of the Speaker of the House in three centuries.

Freedom of Information campaigners had been trying for years to get MPs' claims for second homes, travel and office expenditure into the public domain. But time and again they were blocked by parliamentarians who believed the public had no right to see how MPs were spending this taxpayers' money.

And then, in spring 2009, the information was leaked to the Daily Telegraph, who published damning evidence of MPs' spending. From dog food to duck houses, the public were appalled and MPs were united in shame. Some had taken deliberate efforts to defraud or mislead and six ended up in prison.

In this edition of The Reunion we hear how FOI campaigners like Heather Brooke were repeatedly thwarted by legitimate requests which were refused, an expensive High Court appeal, and even an attempt by MPs to exempt themselves from their own law. Andrew Walker, who was head of House of Commons finances, said MPs were on tenterhooks wondering who would be next to be exposed by The Telegraph, and Ann Cryer, then Labour MP for Keighley, and her son were both accused of claiming expenses on the same flat which belonged to her daughter. She said that Labour Party whips were on “suicide watch” as traumatised MPs battled through the mire.

Producer: Karen Pirie
Series Producer: David Prest

A Whistledown production for BBC Radio 4

Available now

42 minutes