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Monday, October 12, 2009

Expenses again!

Do they never learn? All the media this morning are reporting that MPs are openly challenging the authority of the independent auditor charged with investigating expenses abuses at Westminster. A number are claiming that the civil servant charged with the inquiry has strayed beyond his remit.

The Guardian records that John Mann, the MP who has led calls for a thorough overhaul of the allowances system, raised concern that Sir Thomas Legg's audit of expenses had become too broad, and warned that this might trigger lawsuits that could drag on through the "entirety of the next parliament".

The MP for Bassetlaw, who has been publishing his own expenses in full since 2004, warned that many MPs – faced with paying back sums of up to £200,000 – may "go to ground" rather than pay immediately, and then challenge the legality of the repayment demands.

And now the BBC are reporting that former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been told to apologise in the House of Commons for breaching expenses rules. However, she does not have to pay back the money she received as a result of designating her sister's house in London, which she shares, as her "main home" and then claiming second home allowances on her Redditch family home. She has though paid back the money wrongly claimed for watching films and sporting events "over the basic subscription".

In many ways it is regrettable that this issue has reared its head again. It does nobody any good that politics, which remains a noble and worthwhile pursuit, is being undermined in this way. But it needs to be settled and MPs need to show that they understand public anger and are prepared to eat humble pie to respond to it. It now looks like it will take a General Election to sort this out once and for all. The sooner the Houses of Parliament change their rules the better.
I over claimed 12pence on my expenses last month by mistage. I've had to repay the full amount. Such is life in the private sector. Bugger! It's tough at the bottom of the food chain! Can visulise Gordon now looking down the back of the setee for a few more groats of renumeration. Or maybe a potatoe or two.
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