Socialist Worker

MPs’ new expenses plan shows very little restraint

Issue No. 2108

While many people are finding it ever harder to pay their housing costs, MPs are discussing how to reform their expenses and the second mortgages that we foot the bill for.

For instance cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper stand accused of abusing the guidelines by redesignating their shared Yorkshire constituency home as their main residence.

This means they claim public funds for the mortgage and upkeep of their “second” property, a new £655,000 London home.

The majority of MPs claim a second home allowance and more than 100 MPs are using the allowance to avoid capital gains tax.

MPs are set to vote on new proposals on their expenses on Thursday – the same day they are to decide by how much their annual salaries should rise, from the current £61,820.

The new plan is for a new £30-a-day allowance to cover food and taxi bills – for which receipts would not have to be provided – plus a £19,600 annual “overnight expenses allowance” to cover hotel bills, or rent or mortgage payments on a second home.

This means MPs could claim up to £23,800 under the new system – just slightly less than the £24,006 currently permitted.

But even these generous expenses aren’t enough for some politicians.

Glasgow East Labour MP David Marshall has resigned – triggering a by-election – amid allegations that he wrongly used his commons expenses to pay members of his family.

Scottish Labour Party leader Wendy Alexander has resigned after she broke the laws introduced by the Labour government that ban the receipt of proxy donations and donations by non-British residents.

Alexander was anointed as Labour leader in the Scottish parliament without a contest. Nevertheless she accumulated a campaign war chest of £16,000 with which she toured constituencies to promote her “vision”.

Quite why cabinet minister Harriet Harman, who had similar undeclared donations for her failed bid to be deputy leader of the party, has not resigned is unclear.

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Tue 1 Jul 2008, 18:49 BST
Issue No. 2108
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