From the Sunday Times.
MPs are claiming 22% more in taxpayer-funded expenses than they did a decade ago when the scandal was first exposed. A Sunday Times investigation reveals that the total claimed by MPs has risen by more than a fifth to £116m since details first emerged about parliament’s corrupt expenses regime. That 2009 crisis led to a collapse of public faith in politicians, which some critics argue was a catalyst for Brexit.
One of the claimants is Britain’s wealthiest MP. Richard Benyon, the Conservative member for Newbury, should be able to afford to spend a few pennies, but he has come under the spotlight after he submitted parliamentary expenses for a £6.80 lavatory seat from Wilko in August 2017 — only to buy another one a month later for £10.87. Defending his modest claim, Benyon stressed that the items were for his Newbury office. “I don’t claim for any housing expenses or many other costs that I could entirely legitimately claim for,” the MP said. “I hope you will make that clear. I’m sure your readers don’t expect to pay for their office loo seats . . .” The Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn is also a claimant. He spent £180 in March last year on artwork for a “Jeremy Corbyn MP calendar”. Corbyn defended the claim for the constituency calendar. A spokeswoman said the calendar advertised all the Labour leader’s advice surgeries and was useful for constituents. “It’s been produced for many years at a comparable cost,” she added.
With the 10th anniversary of the scandal looming, MPs remember only too well the media onslaught that followed weeks of lurid newspaper revelations about MPs fiddling their expenses and using taxpayers’ money to fund their lavish lifestyles. In response to the crisis, which saw MPs claim £95.6m in expenses in 2008-9, rules were introduced to crack down on claims. They were banned from buying taxpayer-funded second homes and are instead allowed to rent a London flat up to the cost of £1,450 a month, or claim £150 per night for a hotel stay. MPs were also banned from claiming for groceries, home improvements or household furnishings. Although expense claims initially fell to £86m in the first year after the new rules were introduced in 2010, they have been steadily creeping up again and reached £116m last year.
Figures published by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) of approved expenses claims revealed that one of the big increases in spending was on staffing costs, which was in part due to the introduction of a higher minimum wage in 2015, and the decline of unpaid internships. While staffing costs accounted for 63% of spending in 2008-9, this had jumped to around three-quarters of spending (74.4%) by 2017-18. Despite the scandal — which forced six ministerial resignations and led to the imprisonment of five MPs — they have continued to dodge expense rules and claim for first-class travel. Since 2010, MPs have spent £4.8m of taxpayers’ money on first-class train tickets and £2.3m on business-class flights.
According to Ipsa’s rules, MPs may buy a ticket of “any class” but will be reimbursed only for the cost of an “economy class ticket available at the time of booking”. The guidelines allow the purchase of first-class tickets which, if bought in advance, can end up cheaper than open standard tickets bought shortly before the journey. In the past decade, 492 MPs have taken advantage of the loophole and enjoyed first-class train travel at the taxpayers’ expense, according to an analysis of MPs’ expenses by The Sunday Times. Of the 32,521 air tickets bought by MPs on expenses since 2010, 8,212 were business-class flights, the new figures reveal. Although not strictly against the rules, the claims will again raise questions about whether aspects of parliament’s gravy train culture has returned.
The disclosure comes just days after Chris Davies, the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, became the latest politician to become embroiled in the scandal after pleading guilty to two false expenses charges. He faces the prospect of being kicked out of parliament if 10% of his constituents sign a petition demanding a by-election. John O’Connell, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: “It’s deeply disappointing that 10 years on, the overall cost to taxpayers for expenses hasn’t come down.
Is anyone really surprised?
no wonder the countrys going bankrupt , with there trotters in the trough.