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To think that the MP's have a point?

(57 Posts)
wannaBe Wed 14-Oct-09 09:22:36

now don't get me wrong, I don't necessarily they should have been allowed to claim for all the things they were allowed to claim for, although I do think that some was justified.

But the fact is, they were allowed to claim these expenses, so they did so, legitimately. And I think that anyone told they could claim for things as part of their job would do the same.

Now I think that expenses should have been reviewed and what MP's can and can't claim for should have been changed. But I can see why they are annoyed at being told to pay back retrospective payments for things they weren't actually wrong for claiming at the time.

People switching second homes to avoid tax/claiming mortgages that had already been paid etc is of course another matter and should IMO be being dealt with in court.

WinkyWinkola Wed 14-Oct-09 09:30:22

I'm undecided.

I can see that it's annoying the goal posts have been shifted.

But I do get some schadenfreude from this situation because it revolts me that for many of the MPs, this was a money making opportunity.

So, in a way, I'm kind of pleased they're getting it tough.

But I think bankers should get it even harder.......

notwavingjustironing Wed 14-Oct-09 09:35:08

It will be interesting to see which policitians decide to move out of politics now that they are doing it for love not duckhouses.

6feetundertheGroundhogs Wed 14-Oct-09 09:37:33

2 Words.

MOAT CLEANING.

YABU.

quidnunc Wed 14-Oct-09 09:43:42

YANBU. Glad to hear a less jaundiced view.

Flipping houses, disingenuous nomination of of primary residences and more boradly, any ridiculous claims (duck houses, etc.) and other genuinely dishonest claims should be a matter for the law courts, as you say, but many of these MPs abided by the rules as they existed at the time and they should be left alone.

quidnunc Wed 14-Oct-09 09:45:07

10/10 for spelling there, Mr Q...

CornishKK Wed 14-Oct-09 09:46:41

YANBU - the rules were slack and expenses paid were approved, to change the rules and ask for the money back is not really fair BUT any MP with common sense will realise they need to just bite the bullet and pay it back in order to try and change public opinon.

Why they don't just get paid a decent basic with very limited expenses I don't know. And how about buying a block of flats for MP's to use in town - then there's no need for a second home? Organisations I have worked for own property so that employees that are working in the London office have somewhere to stay - cheaper than hotels and definitely cheaper than this 2nd house expense malarkey.

As for bankers, well, yes there were big bonuses paid but the reality is if you make money you get paid money. It was the risk/quick buck mentality of the bonus structure that was wrong. The guys that actually get the massive bonuses are in the minority - and if we want to keep the best people in the UK and rescue our finance industry we have to pay market value. My DH works for an investment bank (in IT not a trader) he works incredibly hard, very long hours under a lot of pressure and earns an average London salary. He is being approached by foreign banks that will pay him more and award bonuses - he has not had a bonus for 2 years.

daftpunk Wed 14-Oct-09 09:49:35

yanbu....most claims were probably legit

picmaestress Wed 14-Oct-09 09:57:13

YANBU. Some of them totally took the piss, and it's stopped now, thankfully. But to ask them to pay back what they claimed legitimately under those rules? It's ridiculous, it's such an empty gesture.
To be honest, if I was an MP, I'd be bloody livid.

Mind you, I'm still baffled that they're allowed to claim for furnishing a house. Is it so hard to consider just paying for stuff out of your salary, like the rest of us?

ilovemydogandmrobama Wed 14-Oct-09 10:01:52

You're missing the point. It isn't whether the expenses were legit or not, and no one (at least as far as I've heard) has accused the MPs of fraud, but it's a subjective point as far as what's reasonable.

Phrases such as 'flipping houses' and 'John Lewis list' were unknown to the general public up until about a year ago.

It's one thing to get your expenses approved, and another to have them scrutinized, for instance the same way if Inland revenue are doing an audit.

I find it incredible that (some) MPs are making an issue of it at all. They are in office by the will of the people, after all and it's public money.

But then again, I'm amazed that MPs are allowed to claim on their mortgages, make a profit at public expense and keep the profit. Seems very wrong.

Ponders Wed 14-Oct-09 10:04:43

I think they should have to repay all their food claims. As Ann Widdecombe said, we all have just the one stomach hmm

Deadworm Wed 14-Oct-09 10:05:02

It does seem a bit of a mess. Applying a change retrospectively, does seem to let the venal bleeders off the hook morally, by making them the victims of a minor injustice. And then doing that without facing up to the big issue of flipping and Capital Gains means that the whole thing is rather footling anyway. Do you think this Legg bloke is just a bit incompetant? Or is there some other reason?

Repayment seems a bit of a minor issue anyway. Better to think about reinvigorating parliament and its relationship to govt and party -- so that MPs have more purpose and authority, and more to think about than oiling their wheels.

Ponders Wed 14-Oct-09 10:06:17

Repayment firmly establishes the principle though, deadworm (threadie, is that you?) - prior to reinvigorating etc.

Bramshott Wed 14-Oct-09 10:08:41

YANBU, but I can see why the party leaders have by and large encouraged them to pay up and draw a line under the affair.

Frankly I am fairly outraged that there's a notice on the staffroom noticeboard at school saying "mileage claims will be paid at 49p per mile", but if they changed their mind tomorrow and said "oh no, it should only have been 30p, please pay the extra back over the last 5 years", the teachers would be justifiably pissed off.

It is lazy journalism by and large (except for a few cases, where they have clearly been on the fiddle).

Two things spring to mind:

1. Douglas Hogg has always maintained that he didn't claim for his moat cleaning, it was just featured on a bill with other things he DID claim for

2. The flipping thing sounds bad, BUT, what has come out with this Jackie Smith stuff is that they HAVE to designate their main home as the one where they spend most nights during a year (and they have to count them), so quite feasibly, a house could be someone's main home one year, and not the next year.

BadgersPaws Wed 14-Oct-09 10:20:53

What also came out with the Jacqui Smith thing was that she was at best disingenuous with the truth, and at worst lying, that her main home was a room in her sister's home in London.

She scrabbled through her diary desperately trying to prove that her neighbours claims that she was hardly there were false, she thought she'd got away with it, she forgot that she has a Police guard who keep records as to where they are.

So the Standards Commissioner concludes that her main home was in fact her family home in her constituency as that was where she spent most of her time.

Smith's response was that she was "disappointed that this process has not led to a fairer set of conclusions".

Fairer? How could concluding that the place you spent the most of your time was your main home not be fair?

She claimed over £100,000 for that fiddle.

She got away with apologising.

That is the disgusting thing about these repayments, that so many people haven't been made to pay the money back and when politicians like Smith are caught out they claim that it's not fair.

wannaBe Wed 14-Oct-09 10:20:58

but IMO the only reason we're really annoyed about expenses is because they're in public office. But imagine if companies started to do this.

Imagine if your employer suddenly said "we've decided that employees should no longer be entitled to a company car/free petrol/subsidised canteen/private medical insurance. Therefore all employees will be retrospectively charged for the costs of these things since they commenced their employment.

Or if the government decided that say, people earning over £50000 should no longer be entitled to tax credits, therefore they will be required to pay back all previous payments received...

I think it's totally fine to change things as of now. But retrospectively I think they do have a right to be pissed off.

scaryteacher Wed 14-Oct-09 10:24:15

If anyone in the Armed Forces tried to do with their expenses (and what they can claim is limited) what the MPs have done, they would lose their jobs and their pensions.

The nub of the matter is trust. The public trusted the MPs not to fiddle. Some MPs abused that trust. I too find it appalling that if they are claiming for a second home they can sell that home when they leave parliament, or trade it upwards, and the taxpayer picks up the bill!

Paying the money back might be symbolic, but symbolism can be important; they need to be seen to be doing 'the right thing'.

Agree with Cornish re: providing accommodation for them in London. They need to have somewhere like they make the Armed Forces live in (a wardroom/mess) run along similar lines (Chelsea Barracks springs to mind), and they can also pay the food charge that the Forces have to pay when living away from home, and having a get you home package that only covers three weekends out of four.

BadgersPaws Wed 14-Oct-09 10:28:24

The second home rules were clearly abused for flipping purposes.

Look at Hazel Blears, within one year she sold three homes having designated each one as her second home and claiming up to the very maximum limit to refurbish and redecorate each one.

Three times in a year!

Moving once every few years is enough pain for me.

Then to make matters worse while telling Parliament that those homes were her second home she told the tax main that there were her main residence and thus avoided paying capital gains tax on the sales.

So yes the flipping thing does "sound bad" but can anyone argue that it isn't?

Bramshott Wed 14-Oct-09 10:51:31

I'm not saying that Jackie Smith wasn't lying - clearly what she was doing was wrong, I'm just saying that they're not allowed to randomly decide what will be their first and second home, and it is perfectly conceivable that someone could spend 190 nights in their London house in one year, and then 180 the next year, and therefore have no choice about whether to 'flip' their homes or not.

I'm really not out to defend MPs who have been fiddling their expenses, but what most of them seemed to have done is claim for the things they were allowed to claim for - no you could make a very strong argument that the rules were lax and need to be changed ASAP, but would you or I really have not claimed for what we were perfectly entitled to claim for?

Scaryteacher - you say "If anyone in the Armed Forces tried to do with their expenses what the MPs have done, they would lose their jobs and their pensions", but is that really true? In the case of vast majority of MPs, who have claimed what they were entitled to under the rules at the time?? I don't see how anyone could lose their job for claiming perfectly legitimate expenses, albeit under an impefect system.

Madsometimes Wed 14-Oct-09 10:53:12

YANBU. If MP's breached the rules, as they then stood then, they should have to pay back money.

But it is totally ridiculous to make them pay back money which they claimed for legitimately at the time. I have no idea what Legg is trying to accomplish, but I think he is being unjust.

notwavingjustironing Wed 14-Oct-09 11:09:19

The thing that makes me laugh is that on one hand they are all bleating about how the outrageous things they claimed for were "mistakes", then on the other, they want us to entrust them with running the country!

AutumnLady Wed 14-Oct-09 11:15:33

I am so pleased to see that we can have a more balanced view on this than has been reported in the press. Most of the claims by most MPs are purely the very basic that they were allowed to claim, and some didn't even claim back things there were entitled to do so as they felt it inappropriate. These were not plastered over the papers as it doesn't make a good story. The rules, whatever you may think of them, were there and most people claimed what they were entitled to. To change the rules is a good thing as they were severly outdated but to try and claim retrospectively is, IMO, ridiculous.

I work in Parliament and it's been an unpleasant time (to say the least!) and even though my boss is perfectly in the clear I still had to read letters and answer calls from people calling him the most unsavoury things. I have also had to defend myself from people who thought I was also 'on the gravy train' just by the virtue of working here. The Press have a lot to answer for in their reporting manner, and I am not saying that some here did not take the p*ss, so I can understand a lot of the anger.

scaryteacher Wed 14-Oct-09 11:19:07

Yes, it's true. The Forces are very limited in what they can claim for anyway, and rightly so, but you do not fiddle the expenses. Receipts have to be provided. It would mean at best demotion, paying back the money, and less salary, and for the Officers, dismissed the Service with concomitant loss of pension. Look at the Major on Who wants to be a Millionaire...he lost his job. If my dh needs to work elsewhere than home, then either we weekend and he lives in the accommodation provided for which there is a charge, or I let my house out and we rent where he is based. The rent comes out of salary.

The MPs do not need the stuff they have been claiming for in order to do their job. How does a duck house help Peter Viggers be an MP? How do blue movies help Jackie Smith? In reality, most of them could have spent their nights in London at a Travel Lodge and saved the taxpayer a fortune. Put it into context...the £116,000 Jackie Smith claimed would fund the salaries of 5 newly qualified teachers.

I can't say that I would have claimed to excess either, and would have looked for the cheapest possible option because it's not their money they are claiming to excess - it's ours, funded by our taxes.

Annner Wed 14-Oct-09 11:19:52

I think that it is perfectly reasonable to reinterpret some of the rules retrospectively, particularly regarding upkeep of second homes.

If your second home is a [PhilnKirstie] crashpad for week nights, then it doesn't need a garden. If you work as late as they claim to while at Westminster, it's a waste of time. And if you DO decide that you absolutely must have a garden, you should blardy well pay for its upkeep yourself. And if you can't afford to pay the gardener? Tough. Cut your coat according the cloth, like the rest of us have to.

In any other job expenses are to cover basic need, not to enable the upkeep of two large family homes. I agree that buying a block of flats for them to use would be excellent. Two bedrooms is reasonable so family and partners can also be around, but why should I subsidise poncy North London pads when I can't afford one for myself?

ADragonIs4LifeNotJustHalloween Wed 14-Oct-09 11:21:09

"But the fact is, they were allowed to claim these expenses, so they did so, legitimately"

I agree. I think there were some that were taking the piss (the legendary duck house for example) but generally speaking I'm not sure they did anything wrong. Apart from, as you say, the downright dishonest stuff like "employing" family and switching homes and the ones who didn't need a second home at all etc.

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