M.P’s Expenses – Legalised Corruption?

Accusations flying across the Chamber like a swarm of hornets, casualties dropping like flies left and right, I am of course referring to the debacle of the expenses row in the British Houses of Parliament.

Today the Speaker of the House of Commons, Michael Martin, has resigned to forestall a vote of ‘No Confidence’, the first time this has happened in 300 years of parliamentary history. It is said he could not offer the necessary leadership to ‘The House’ in order to minimise the fall-out of the M.P. expenses row, and he was also responsible for the running of the office that regulated the expenses.

It is without doubt, the most troubling scandal to hit the “Mother Of All Parliaments” for a very long time, and it’s depth has caught everyone off guard. M.P’s have been willing to go along with the corrupt practices for decades, and the astounding thing is, most of it was ‘within the rules’.

The fact that many of the payments made to M.P.’s were morally wrong did not seem to be considered by most of them. As usual, it all came down to money, and after all, it was only tax payers money!

The fallout has not been limited to any one political party, they are all equally guilty of ‘milking the system’ for everything they can get out of it. Heads have rolled on all sides as the Press continued to probe into the accounting of claims put in by politicians.

The system in place for M.P.’s expenses is extremely complicated to us ‘outsiders’, but the main point, and the one open to the most abuse, are the payments made for ‘Second Homes’.

All members of parliament have a constituency home (i.e. in their home town), and a second home in which they live when in London on parliamentary business. Due to the necessity of maintaining two homes in order to do their work in parliament, they can claim expenses for the running of the ‘second’ home. This is what has led to many of the fraudulent claims made by M.P’s over the years.

Andrew Mackay, (Ex)Advisor to David Cameron the Tory Leader, was claiming second home allowance for his London home, while his wife, also an M.P., was claiming the allowance for their constituency home, as her second home. This added up to somewhere in the region of £300,000 a year between the two of them. They have been doing it for 8-9 years, and he maintains in a BBC interview he was told ‘it was acceptable within the rules’ by the Fee Office (Run by the Speaker).

Some of the more ridiculous claims made, and paid for by the Fee’s Office, were hanging a chandelier with associated electrical wiring work, and in the case of one previous Minister, gardening and swimming pool maintenance, and a housekeeper.

One of the most damning concerned former Labour Minister Elliot Morley, who claimed £16,000 for a mortgage he had already paid off, while he and his wife, both M.P’s, had jointly claimed £170,000 for separate ‘second homes’ over a 4 year period. He has since been suspended from the Labour Party.

Throughout all this scandal there has not been a sniff of these crooks paying back some of the huge sums of money they have “embezzled” from the tax coffers. Some have agreed to refund amounts claimed falsely but the figures are minute in comparison to some of the huge amounts claimed immorally.

In interviews they all claim that the expenses submitted were within the rules and they feel they had done nothing wrong. A few have admitted that some of the claims were perhaps morally unacceptable, but they were still “within the rules”.

As an onlooker, it seems to me the Rule Book needs to be rewritten because it is obviously too much of a temptation for M.P’s to put in a dishonest claim.

What amuses me, is the number of parliamentary members waiting in line outside the TV studios for their turn to wring their hands in sorrow saying “I’m sorry for letting down my constituents, and for the money I took that I shouldn’t have, but it was all within the rules”. So, no real apology there then!

There must also be some very nervous Lord’s in The House, because it won’t be long before they come under scrutiny.

Roy’s Blog expenses (If they can get away with it, why not me!):

Apartment Rent: €800

Electricity: €42.20

Water Charges: €31.40

Telephone (Called Mother for advice): €18.50

Refreshments: €15 (Cups of tea and Pizza)

Wear and Tear (W/T) on computer: €100

W/T on Typing Fingers (2): €25

W/T on Seat: €12

W/T on Spectacles: €10.50

Printer Ink: Nope, didn’t use the printer!

Printer Ink: €25 (I could have done)

Wrist allowance (Mouse): €4.50

Grand Total: €1,084.10

OK! I might have overstated the apartment rent, but it is within the rules! I am however sorry for any embarrassment I may have caused my constituents, my party, and myself. Now please let me get on with running the country!

Winston would have been furious!


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