There is a range of different ways of making money out of parliamentary expenses – and our politicians have milked them all.
Many of the recent revelations in the expenses scandal are centred around claims relating to housing.
Shahid Malik, the justice minister, resigned last week pending an inquiry into the unusually low level of rent he was paying to a landlord in his constituency in West Yorkshire while claiming £66,000 in allowances for his London home.
Elliot Morley, a senior backbencher, was stripped of the Labour whip after “forgetting” that he had paid off his mortgage and improperly claimed more than £16,000.
David Chaytor, a backbencher, was suspended from the parliamentary Labour party after admitting an “unforgivable error” in claiming £13,000 for a mortgage he had already repaid.
Most people are outraged at the extravagance of many of the claims – such as those of Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman who claimed £1,851 for a rug imported from a New York antiques centre and had tried to claim £8,865 for a plasma TV.
But to claim expenses for mortgages that don’t exist takes corruption to a new low.
Anne and Alan Keen kept the scams in the family. The MPs bought an apartment overlooking the Thames in 2002 and have since been claiming close to the maximum allowance.
Records show that in some months they also both tried to claim back the full amount of council tax on the property.
They are claiming for interest on a £520,000 mortgage.
One mortgage for £350,000 was secured on an exclusive apartment block, which is a short walk from the House of Commons, while the other was registered against their main home in Brentford.
This mortgage on the “main home”, just a 30-minute journey away, was worth £170,000.
The two MPs claimed £55 a week for cleaning and also charged £50 for a service call to tune the sound on their Bose home cinema system.
The flat is now believed to be worth at least £650,000.
The complex has its own swimming pool, hot tub, gym, and concierge service.
It has fallen to Labour’s chief whip Nick Brown to investigate the expenses of Labour MPs.
Nick Brown claimed a total of £87,708 for his constituency home between 2004 and 2008. This included a claim of £18,800 for food – submitted without receipts.
Labour and the Tories have been battered as more and more examples of corruption have emerged.
But the Liberal Democrats haven’t escaped the scandal.
Liberal Democrat MP Andrew George claimed money for a flat that his daughter lived in. He doesn’t seem to think this is a problem.
“A third of the flat’s cost was paid directly by me without taxpayer support,” he said in his defence. “Is The Telegraph suggesting that my family should not be able to visit me in London?”
Meanwhile Chris Huhne, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, claimed for the cost of a trouser press which was bought for his main London home.
“The trouser press was taken to my Eastleigh home for use before constituency events, but I have repaid the cost of £119 as my aim on second home claims has always been to avoid controversy,” he helpfully explained.
The following should be read alongside this article:
» Jail these corrupt ministers
» Hazel Blears: no ifs no buts graphic
» The Tories: ‘We needed the cash to deal with dangerous trees’
» Lord ‘felt like Guantanamo inmate’
» House of Commons Speaker resigns – who’s next?
Source: Socialist Worker