CRISIS! British politicians caught abusing expense accounts

I remember when Stephen Harper took over from the corrupt left-wing Liberal party in Canada, the first thing he did was to pass the Federal Accountability Act, which requires all expense claims to posted on government web sites for the public to see. Conservative MPs could be seen having business meetings at Subway, while Liberals bilked the public for thousands for various junkets. I was so happy for the Canadians.

But the Conservative Party isn’t running things in secular socialist Britain…

Muddling Towards Maturity posted on the whole sordid story, which appeared in the National Review.

David Pryce-Jones writes:

It turns out that the Blair-Brown Labour government could not bring itself to raise salaries for MPs, but instead set up “the system” of allowances that were privileged and kept secret. An MP could claim thousands of pounds more or less on his own say-so, with shaky receipts for dubious expenditure, and the result is that some have built property portfolios worth a million pounds or more.

Supervising this milking of “the system” was Michael Martin, the Speaker. In the early days of Tony Blair, this man was press-ganged into a job for which he was unfit. An old hardline socialist and trade-union man, he saw himself as defender of entitlements rather than liberty and proper government. He put in outrageous claims for himself and his wife. He did his very best to suppress information about the embezzling and spivery going on under him, in the classic manner of a trade unionist getting whatever he could for his comrades.


And Muddling also linked to this updated story in the New York Post, entitled “The Mother of All British Scandals”.

…A government minister, one of the richest men in the House of Commons, claimed $150,000 from the taxpayer to finance the mortgage on a “second home.” (He already had seven.) A leading Tory repaired the moat around his stately home on expenses.

Sometimes, the claims were trivial and comically embarrassing: tampons, diapers, the repair of leaky pipes, ice-cube trays ($2.50), hair straighteners ($150) and Scotch eggs ($1.25). Taxpayers unknowingly rented two pornographic movies for the husband of another Cabinet minister. A Tory spokesman on “skills and education” hired an electrician to change his light bulbs. (Cost to the taxpayer? About $225.)

The worst claims bordered on the fraudulent — and some stepped over that border. One MP claimed mortgage-interest payments of about $17,000 on a house that had no mortgage. Another took $55,000 in expenses on a necessary “second home” near Parliament, when his primary home was only a few hundred yards away.

Many MPs “flipped” — i.e., changed their homes from primary to secondary in order to receive second-home allowances. One MP flipped three times and got more than $150,000 of public money.

…Prime Minister Gordon Brown claimed $8,000 to pay for his brother to clean his London apartment. My favorite example, though, is the case of Sinn Fein MPs from Northern Ireland who claimed about $750,000 in expenses to attend a Parliament that they refuse to attend on principle.

This is absolutely amazing. Read the whole thing!

Ed West has more on this story. First of all, the British government hands out taxpayer money to lobbying firms, in order to be lobbied for policies they really want to enact anyway. And here, he talks more about solutions to the problem of government entitlements.

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