Gordon Brown promised we are entering a “new chapter” in British politics with the election of Tory MP John Bercow as the new Speaker of the House of Commons.
MPs hope that Bercow can restore some credibility to parliament which is still reeling from ongoing revelations over MPs’ expenses.
Yet the new broom is not so clean himself. Bercow has repaid £6,500 after confirming that he didn’t pay capital gains tax on two properties in 2003.
Bercow’s election follows the final release of the details of MPs’ expenses last week.
Disgracefully the documents were censored in a way that would have allowed the MPs flipping their homes and avoiding paying tax to remain secret.
There is some information available though.
For example we get a hint of Tony Blair’s love of secrecy – one of the last things he managed to claim for was £305.50 for the shredding of documents.
And then there is Tory shadow chancellor George Osborne who had us pay £47 for a DVD of his own speech on “Value for Money”.
More importantly the documents showed that ministers and MPs have been scamming thousands of pounds in council tax on expenses.
Former home secretary David Blunkett, government whip Mark Tami and recently resigned-minister Beverley Hughes are among those who made “phantom” claims.
Blunkett uses his second home allowance to rent a cottage in Derbyshire.
He added an extension to the property, so the council charges him two sets of council tax. In total, he claims up to £200 a month.
Tami claimed for council tax at his property in Bromley, south east London – and received about £1,500 more than he was actually charged.
Hughes, who resigned as children’s minister earlier this month, overclaimed by £2,000.
Tory MP David Willetts admitted over-claiming at least £500.
This is the same MP that billed us £115 plus VAT to replace 25 light bulbs at his second home in west London.
Eighteen MPs have repaid money wrongly claimed for council tax – including Labour’s David Kidney, Linda Gilroy and Michael Meacher.
Every week people are jailed for council tax fraud – why not the politicians?