One of my photos

On the fiddle

February 10th, 2008 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 2 Comments · Politics

If you were writing some sort of political satire, and invented an unlikely and blatant abuse of parliamentary expenses you would give up in despair. Whatever outrageous scheme you came up with would be trumped by a real MP before the ink was dry.

Last week it was the Wintertons claiming rent for a house they owned outright, and this week it is Michael Ancram, the multi-millionaire who owns several houses worth about £8 million all together, none of them with any mortgage. Realistically, being an MP costs him nothing or very little: I imagine he would still run his flat in London whether he was an MP or not. However, he could claim for the council tax and some bills for the place.

What he actually does is that he claims his full allowance for housing (or as near as makes no difference – £22,030 last year) and uses it to do repainting of his main house in Wiltshire and clear out moss from the garden.

He says this is totally within the rules, and he says that so confidently that you have to assume he is correct. ((I very carefully avoided the word ‘right’ there!)) All that says to me is that the rules are in urgent need of revision if they state that doing normal maintenance on your home is something that you would not otherwise have done if you were not an MP.

Someone with an estimated £27.5 million behind them bending the rules to claim for £20,000 is like a normal person with, say, £5,000 in the bank going out of their way to claim for a £3.50 expense. It sounds like someone with a pathological attachment to money, and apart from the scale I can’t see any material difference between this and benefit fraud.

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2 Comments so far ↓

  • Gert

    Although I agree totally with the thrust of what you’re saying, I do disagree with the analogy.

    I have £5000 in the bank, and if I make a rail journey for work to Croydon costing (for the sake of argument) £3.50 , I am entitled to claim back that expense because it is a genuine out-of-pocket expense. If, however, I made that same journey by bus, using my Zone 1-2 Travelcard and thus incurring no out of pocket expense I am committing fraud because I haven’t incurred it, even though I am technically entitled to claim my travel expenses, and even though I might also have popped into M&S for a ready meal and a new outfit.

  • Skuds

    The key word is ‘bending’. At a previous job you could claim for a meal out if you were working on another site. I used to sometimes visit another part of London and could have claimed for eating out at a cafe there.

    I never did because it cost me no more than if I had eaten in the cafe near my normal place of work, but I could have done, and others (my boss included) did. I was not incurring additional expense as a result of my visit – just the same expense in a different place.

    That is the sort of thing I was thinking of – but since I didn’t bother to explain you are quite right to object.

    I did claim for the fares though – I saved them up until I had enough to be worth claiming, which could take months as I would normally just take the 45-minute walk instead of a bus or train – because that was a proper expense.