One of my photos

Belated appreciation

June 19th, 2009 · Posted by Skuds in Politics · 4 Comments · Politics

For the last month or so I have had the feeling that the Daily Telegraph has been getting far too much attention and praise for a simple act of chequebook journalism.  The way I saw it, their exclusives on MPs’ expenses were not the result of investigations but just from having been willing to fork out for some stolen/leaked data.  Now that the details of claims have been made public officially I have changed my mind.Having had a look through some of the expense claims published I realise that it must have taken a lot of work to find the dirt.  The reality is that many, possibly even the majority, of MPs are pretty decent and so a lot of the claims and receipts are perfectly fine.  It must have been a far from trivial exercise to go through the whole lot to find the truly scandalous claims.

Admittedly, the over-zealous censorship makes it even harder to scrutinise the public records, and much of what the Telegraph uncovered could not have been found in the redacted records, but even that would have introduced even more complication to the task: with all those addresses available there was even more to cross-check against earlier/later claims and against land registries.

Obviously I had a look through Francis Maude’s claims.  I wasn’t really expecting to find anything scandalous that the Telegraph had missed, so it was a bit of a boring exercise.  That is not to say that I wasn’t amazed by some of it:

The 2005/2006 claim is quite interesting, because it really looks like he claimed for one bill twice! Page 9 has a phone bill for 12th June 2005 for £71.24 which was claimed for on 30th June.   Hang on though – page 6 is another phone bill, a reminder dated 30th June for £71.24 which was claimed in January 2006, along with September’s overdue phone bill reminder.  I have double-checked and can’t avoid the conclusion that this is a duplicate claim – but with all the blanking out it is hard to tell as the period covered is information that has obvioulsy been deemed sensitive.

Actually I was quite surprised to see how many of Francis Maude’s bills were overdue.  I have to confess to having the odd overdue bill myself, before I moved everything over to direct debits, but then I’m not a millionaire with staff to manage my affairs so I figure I have a bit more of an excuse.  A quick look throgh a few other randomly-selected MPs revealed that waiting for the red bill is not that unusual for MPs.

There might be more in there somewhere, but it hardly seems worth hunting for it – there are a few regular writers to the local paper who are almost guaranteed to be going through it line by line: I’ll just wait and see what they turn up.

I should qualify the earlier statement about most of the claims being fine.  It doesn’t mean I agree with them, just that they are acceptable within the rules.  Its the rules I disagree with.  Every claim form carries a notice that you can only claim for costs you have actually paid for expenses that are “wholly, exclusively and necessarily paid to enable you to stay overnight away from your only or main home for the purposes of performing your parliamentary duties.”

I do not agree that it is necessary to rent or buy a home that is effectively a family home, for overnight business use.  I can’t imagine any other employer in the land would accept most of the claims I have seen as necessary.

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4 Comments so far ↓

  • Gordon Seekings

    I think it’s a ??????? disgrace that L??????? M??????? and other’s can keep so much ??????? stuff secret from us the public who elected them in the first place!

  • Gordon Seekings

    Having stood in the 1992 General Election for Crawley (when it was on different boundaries and contained a large swathe of mid-Sussex) both Laura and myself lost to Nicklearse Soames. So the answer is NO!

    ……….. but then you knew that anyway didn’t you Ash. :-))

  • Hiro

    “Nicklearse Soames”
    having met the guy that is absolutly spot on Gordon