Tuesday, 28 July 2009

MPs' Expenses - The Scandal Continues

After months of jaw dropping revelations – the MPs’ expenses scandal has hit a new low.

Reports in the media today confirm that far from cleaning up their act – MPs are actually being encouraged to stick their noses ever deeper into the Westminster trough.

Under new ‘rules’ created by MPs themselves honourable members will be entitled to claim £25 subsistence when staying away from their designated main home.

But, crucially, how they spend this money will not be subject to public scrutiny – unlike most expenses regimes where claims have to be backed up with proper receipts.

The new rules have been published as the House of Commons broke up for its mammoth 82 day summer recess – thereby avoiding a damaging debate – but the rules now state:

“Members... may claim a flat-rate sum of £25 for subsistence. No receipts are necessary for this claim to be made. How members spend the subsistence allowance is for them to decide.”

The new allowance is almost double the previous £4,800-a-year limit for claims submitted without receipts – and is to be paid on top of expenses for mortgage interest, rent, council tax and utility bills.

The Daily Telegraph has led the way in exposing the MPs’ expenses scandal and reports that under the new system MPs can theoretically claim £775 - if they said that they stay away from their main home for an entire month – or £9,125 a year.

The main party leaders have all made public statements over recent months – promising that the new system would be a clean break with the past – and help restore public confidence in MPs and politics more generally.

But on this evidence – they must think our heads button up the back.

Council staff and other public service workers must provide receipts for every penny they claim in expenses - and rightly so.

So, why should MPs be a law unto themsleves?