Friday, April 04, 2008

Witch Expenses

Have MPs dispensed with the Tax Inspector?

I went onto the House of Commons Commission's site hoping to find the foi'd MPs expense records they've been forced to release. But after 20 minutes all I could find was:

The House of Commons Commission
Weclome [sic... very very sic] to the House of Commons Administration

Followed by a load of blather about how great they are. So as per, we have to go elsewhere for the details of just how many thousands we've been forced to stump up for Prezza's pie bill .

And the final icing on those bulging overstuffed pies is the ridiculous self-serving claim that this is somehow a witch hunt got up by the media. One of Labour's regular spokespersons says:

"The problem with these deranged witch hunts is that the context gets lost in the excitement. These MPs are often living away from home during the week. It seems to me entirely legitimate that they get expenses for housing in these circumstances. I remember when I lived away from home on attachment at the BBC I used to get paid all kinds of expenses and one of my many bosses told me to claim a lot more.

This is getting dangerous. We need to calm down about those we elect or else no one sensible will stand for election."

Sorry, Steve Richards, as a Westminster/BBC insider you may have known all about these wholly unacceptable troughing practices, but we ordinary taxpayers out here didn't. Because YOU and your insider chums never saw fit to tell us.

So now we've found out, now we know our ever lovin' MPs have been secretly guzzling huge extra helpings at our expense, we damned well want the full facts. And it's nothing to do with being manipulated by the red tops: we are incandescent with rage. These people - these self-important heartbreakers who elbow themselves forward to rule over us - have abused our trust. Simple as that.

Look, we can all understand the need for them to be accommodated while they're away from home, but the arrangements need to be open and above board. Quite apart from the question of why they can't just have a halls of residence style arrangement, why haven't they accounted for their expenses like everyone in the real world has to? And it's no answer to say the rules didn't require it: they are the ones in charge of the rules.

As I've mentioned before, I used to travel a lot on business. I stayed in some rather nice hotels and ate some rather nice meals, all paid for by the company. But I had to submit full receipts for everything, explain what it was for, and get my boss to sign off on it. And I'll bet even Sir Stuart Rose has to do something similar (come to think of it, maybe that's why there's such a fuss about him becoming his own chairman).

MP as victim just doesn't fly. It's winding us up even more.

And as for the idea that "we need to calm down about those we elect or else no one sensible will stand for election", splutter, cough, guh? Are we talking about the same Westminster? The one that has people fighting to the death to clamber into? The one where... er... "sensible" people have been somewhat in a minority these last 300 years?

The people who need to calm down are the MPs, who instead of screaming about witch hunts, should implement that new transparent system of expenses asap.

PS So do MPs pay tax on all these expenses? I mean, they are salary by another name, so should be taxed. If not, presumably they've got themselves a nice dispensation from HMRC (see immensely soporific vid above for how dispensations are supposed to work). But does HMRC give similar dispensations for second homes in the private sector? What's your guess?

PPS Congratulations once again to Heather for her indefatigable pursuit of these rogues. And to the TPA for making sure the pot stays on the boil.

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