Socialist Worker

The Troublemaker—Still a big expenses trough available for MPs to dive in

Issue No. 2647

Richard Benyon MP

Richard Benyon MP (Pic: Chris McAndrew/Creative Commons)

Ten years on from the expenses scandal and little has changed.

In response to the crisis, which saw MPs claim £95.6 million in expenses in 2008-9, rules were introduced to crack down on some claims.

They were banned from buying state-funded second homes and are instead allowed to rent a London flat up to the cost of £1,450 a month, or claim £150 per night for a hotel stay.

Although expense claims initially fell to £86 million in the first year after the new rules were introduced in 2010, they have been steadily creeping up again and reached £116 million last year.

Despite the scandal, which forced six ministerial resignations and led to the imprisonment of five MPs, they have continued to dodge expense rules.

In the past decade, 489 MPs have enjoyed first-class train travel, ­spending £4.8 million of our money on tickets—and £2.3 million on ­business-class flights.

Of the 32,159 air tickets bought by MPs on expenses since 2010, 8,210 were business-class flights.

Chris Davies, the Conservative MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, last week plead guilty to two charges of falsely ­claiming expenses after he faked receipts.

Richard Benyon, the Conservative member for Newbury, claimed on his parliamentary expenses for a £6.80 lavatory seat from Wilko in August 2017—only to buy another one a month later for £10.87.

Culture secretary Jeremy Wright and Labour’s Andy McDonald are among MPs who have claimed for air freshener.

Geoffrey Cox, now the ­attorney-general, flew to the Cayman Islands at a cost of £1,836 in September 2014. The Brexiteer European Research Group has received about £331,000 since 2010, funded through Tory MPs’ £2,000 annual subscriptions which are then claimed as an expense

Cabinet Office minister David Liddington has spent £63,000 on hotels since 2010.

He once claimed for soap.

MPs who should know the price of milk—having claimed expenses for it— include chief secretary to the treasury Liz Truss and shadow housing minister John Healey.

Tory MP Leo Docherty claimed £1.99 for a red ribbon for the mayor of Rushmoor to cut to open his office.

If May doesn’t bend, then blame Uri Geller

Spoon bender to the stars Uri Geller is coming to the rescue.

He wrote to Theresa May last week promising many things.

He claimed to be using the power of his mind to ensure that “Jeremy Corbyn never gets the keys to Number 10 Downing Street.

“I will ensure that they bend out of all proportion to ensure that he never takes up residence there.”

When questioned about how that skill translated to the mind of the prime minister, he said, “I can influence her because when she came over to my home in Sonning on Thames, where I lived, she lives in the same village, I took her out to my garage, where I had my Cadillac, my famous Cadillac with 2,000 spoons riveted on its body.

“I told her to touch Winston Churchill’s spoon, then I looked into her eyes and I said you are going to be the prime minister, you will be the prime minister.”

Unfortunately she did.

You pay private school fees for the Foreign Office

More and more of our money is being spent on private education for hundreds of Foreign Office high-ups’ children.

Figures show more than £27 million was blown on 1,600 school places in the UK and abroad in 2016-17.

And that’s £1 million more than the amount spent sending them to posh schools the previous year.

The Foreign Office forked out fees for private schooling for the families of 172 UK-based staff at an average of £23,480 a year per child.

Spending on children of 174 overseas workers averaged at £13,351 each.

Almost £1 million was spent sending youngsters to a host of top boarding schools, such as Roedean and Wellington College, where fees are around £13,000 a term.

About £6,200 was spent on each state school student in secondary education last year.

Chuka Umunna’s banker backers

Chuka Umunna appears to have turned to one of the Tories’ biggest donors to fund his office since setting up The Independent Group of MPs.

According to the latest Register of MPs’ Interests, Umunna accepted a £10,000 donation from Jeremy Isaacs.

Jeremy Isaacs is a City banker who has given over £500,000 to the Tories since 2006.

He was a senior banker at Lehman Brothers, the bank whose collapse helped start the 2008 financial crisis. Isaacs left Lehman days before the bank collapsed.

His own finance firm is JRJ partners, which he set up with Roger Nagioff, one of his former colleagues at Lehman. Nagioff is a major Tory donor, having given the party £440,000.

In February Umunna said he wanted to create an “alternative to the status quo”.

Contempt for claimants

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) has been criticised after one of its officials submitted papers to a benefits appeal tribunal in which they called a disabled claimant a “lying bitch”.

The submission, formally rejecting an appeal by a disabled woman against the removal or downgrading of her personal independence payment (PIP) award, was made public by her advice worker. The DWP official wrote, “In this lying bitches [sic] case she is receiving the mid-rate carers [sic] allowance component.”

  • Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are set to splash out a whopping £50,000 on a soundproofing unit for their new home in order to block out the noise from Heathrow jets. The couple have reportedly spent £3 million renovating their Grade II listed Frogmore Cottage which is situated in the grounds of Windsor Castle.
  • Bookies have ruled David Miliband out of the Liberal Democrat leadership contest, possibly after remembering that he is not a Liberal Democrat. Last week you could get odds of 80-1 on him which made him a more likely candidate than Tim Farron who is currently 100-1.

The Things They Say

‘It’s like the last days of Rome’

A government insider on the Cabinet turmoil over Brexit’

‘If you think it’s been mayhem up to now, you ain’t seen nothing yet’

Tory MP Grant Shapps

‘They cheat. I cheat. I expect you to cheat’

US president Donald Trump on the golf course

‘There were none of the usual agitators and Socialist Worker Posters. This was middle England on the march’

Evening Standard editor George Osborne on the People’s Vote march

‘Most shameful surrender of any British prime minister since the surrender of Singapore in 1942’

Tory MP Crispin Blunt is quite stressed about the delays to Brexit

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