Monday, May 25, 2009

The more they dig

The scandal over MPs expenses goes on and on and the more the newspapers dig, the more they find.

For example the Telegraph today exposes Alistair Darling, along with others including Hazel Blears, Geoff Hoon and Jacqui Smith who have all claimed for the costs of accountancy advice using expenses intended to fund their parliamentary and constituency offices.

In total, the taxpayer has spent more than £11,000 on accountants for Cabinet ministers. A bill submitted by Mr Darling in February, 2008, included the cost of receiving tax advice for “the treatment of rental expenses against income”. During 2007, Mr Darling rented out his London flat after becoming Chancellor and moving into a grace-and-favour apartment.

In total, the Chancellor claimed more than £1,400 for accountancy bills in two years.

Other ministers who claimed for personal tax advice bills included David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, Hilary Benn, the Environment Secretary, James Purnell, the Work and Pensions Secretary, and Douglas Alexander, the International Development Secretary. The Prime Minister has not claimed for the cost of accountancy advice.

Mr Hoon, the Transport Secretary, who did not pay capital gains tax on the sale of his London flat, was the biggest claimer, submitting accountancy bills totalling almost £3,000. Other more junior ministers and backbench MPs have also claimed thousands of pounds for personal tax advice.

and there is more:-

Three members of the Cabinet claimed for a media trainer to advise them. Harriet Harman, the deputy leader of the Labour Party, charged more than £10,000 to the taxpayer for Scarlett MccGwire to offer advice.

Eight ministers, including Yvette Cooper, the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, and Miss Blears, bought digital cameras or camcorders using their office expenses.

Several ministers were warned by the Commons authorities for attempting to use parliamentary expenses to fund overtly political campaigning.

Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, bought a £240 Apple iPhone for her husband on expenses. He works as her assistant.

Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary, attempted to claim for two Remembrance Sunday poppy wreaths. The claim was rejected by the fees office.

You get the impression that, by the time all has been revealed, there will only be a handful of politicians left who are squeaky clean. Following the next election, there could well be a lot of new faces on the benches. Let’s hope they are honest ones.

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