The gang of Labour/LibDem/Tory crooks who make up the Tweedledee Tweedledum parties in parliament are desperately trying to prevent the publication of figures showing how much taxpayers’ money they have spent on themselves by way of furnishings for second houses.
Taxpayers have already been charged one million pounds for the staff working at Westminster to prepare the expense receipts for publication, but the MPs now look certain to change the law so that the details will not be published at all.
According to one source, Westminster is rife with speculation that several MPs would have been so embarrassed by publication of their receipts that they would have been forced to leave parliament.
Commons authorities began to edit MPs’ receipts for publication after MPs lost a battle in the High Court to prevent publication. Speaker Michael Martin spent around £150,000 of public money unsuccessfully fighting the case.
Commons leader Harriet Harman has revealed that the Government intends to change the law to exempt MPs from freedom of information laws.
The proposals are backdated to 2005, so would nullify rulings that the public has a right to know exactly how MPs are spending allowances for second homes.
Instead, individual MPs’ expenses are merely to be split into more categories than before when published.
The announcement that parliament wants to defy the High Court and block publication of receipts for MPs’ expenses was buried on the day news was dominated by Government statements on Heathrow and Equitable Life.
The extraordinary move is in direct response to a High Court judgment upholding an Information Tribunal ruling that receipt-by-receipt breakdowns for how public money is spent by MPs must be published.
MPs’ expenses and allowances last year cost taxpayers £87 million. Their claims are on top of their £63,291 salary.
Information campaigner Heather Brooke, who battled for years to have the receipts released, said the developments showed a “new level of arrogance. Just when you thought MPs had understood the need to regain public trust they do something like this,” she said. “It is what you would expect from a banana republic.”
In a separate development, it emerged that despite promises of an end to the Westminster gravy train, MPs will still be free to use taxpayers’ cash for extravagant items to furnish and upgrade second homes.
Under revised expenses rules MPs will still be entitled to pick items from the so-called “John Lewis list”, the informal guidelines on how much can be spent on home furnishings.
As now, they will be able to charge for white goods, sofas, chairs, tables, beds, cutlery and crockery, security fittings, cleaners and decoration to kit out their second homes.
Mortgage interest payments or rent for the additional residences will also be met by the taxpayer as will utility bills and council tax payments. Receipts will not need to be submitted for any items under £25.
There will also be flat-rate ’subsistence’ payments of £25 per day when a “member spends a night away from his or her main home on Parliamentary business.”