Socialist Worker

MPs have their snouts in the expenses trough

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2145

New Labour's home secretary, Jacqui Smith, is overseeing the repressive security at the G20 summit.

While in office she has found time to attack civil liberties, back the police slaying of Jean Charles de Menezes and push for internment without trial.

So she has less time to check through her expenses. That is understandable though, as there are rather a lot of them.

Smith has claimed £782,000 in expenses since becoming an MP in 1997. Included in her £116,000 housing expenses claim are some pornographic films for her husband. He is paid £40,000 as a parliamentary adviser to Smith and pocketed £2,531 in travel expenses.

Smith's annual salary is £140,176, which was topped up by a second home scam that enabled her to claim for a proverbial kitchen sink for £550 and a bath plug for 88p.

While the government tells us to tighten our belts, New Labour chancellor Alistair Darling claimed £9,674 in travel expenses for his family. MPs claimed £93 million in allowances last year, a rise of 6.1 percent on the year before.

Some £11.6 million of that went on MPs' second homes. Among the many MPs availing themselves of this are cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. This married couple claimed over £300,000 last year, despite being paid £141,000 each.

It's not just New Labour at it – but the Tories and the Liberal Democrats as well. The political class's response to the anger at their greed has been contemptuous. MPs argue it is their right to claim these expenses to push up their 'low' wages.

Fortunately, these poorly paid public representatives all received a pay rise of £1,500 this week.

The government has attempted to keep details of how much MPs get a secret. Now a government inquiry has been launched to try to find someone who is attempting to sell a list of every MPs' expenses.

If caught they will be prosecuted under the Official Secrets Act – which is overseen by Jacqui Smith.

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