Friday, February 05, 2010

MP expenses inquiry costs £1.16m

A year after The Daily Telegraph after published details of British MPs' expenses Sir Thomas Legg has published his report and recommended that 389 MPs should repay £1.3 million. Some complained about the way the audit was carried out and after appeals £180,000 has been cut from the total. It means that only £1.12 million will be repaid, less than half of that claimed for outside the rules. In what appears to be a further waste of taxpayers money, the repaid amount falls below the cost of the inquiry which cost in excess of £1.16 million.

Repayments range from only 40 pence to £42,458. Mike Gapes [above left], a Labour MP from Ilford in Essex was ordered to repay 40p after a 'clerical error' while Labour MP Barbara Follett is to repay the largest sum following a wide range of inappropriate claims. Follett has already repaid £32,976 and told the BBC, "This has been a very sad affair, I'm very sorry about it, I did try to act as honestly as possible but where I failed, I am sorry." Amongst her expenses claims was a security patrol outside her Soho residence in London [pictured above] and an insurance premium on valuable art.
Seventy five MPs and former MPs appealed against Sir Thomas's recommendations. Of these 31 were dismissed, 27 had the repayment reduced and 17 had the demands overturned entirely.

The issue has brought the British parliament into disrepute and is likely to play a factor in upcoming national elections later this year. The scandal has been capitalised by the opposition though many of their own members were also involved in the affair. Conservative leader David Cameron said it was "absolutely essential" that MPs pay back the money. "Those MPs who refuse to pay it back, they should have it taken off their salaries or their redundancy payments - that's got to happen." Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg said he hope that parliament could recover from the long running saga. "I hope it'll be the final chapter in this rotten Parliament so we can look forward to a new Parliament with new rules," he said. 

The story was the lead in many British papers on Friday. The Telegraph headlined with "This Rotten Parliament" while the Times offered the 'full picture'. The tabloid while still covering the story led with other headlines. The Daily Mail's lead is a story about John Terry who faces new questions over his fitness to be England captain. The Daily Mail investigation claims that his personal box at Wembley is being 'touted out' for £4,000 a match. The Express focuses on Britain's weather which may suffer from further Arctic conditions next week. The Sun meanwhile leads with a photograph of Portsmouth boss Avram Grant leaving a building, which the paper claims is a brothel, near his club's training ground [Papers].

For MPs it may not quite be the end. New laws may yet be drawn up and the Crown Prosecution Service says it will announce on Friday whether it will bring charges against MPs and peers over expenses [BBC / UK Parliament: Report / Expenses].

tvnewswatch, Beijing, China

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