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MPs’ expenses: rubbing it in?
Fury, resentment and a general feeling of being hard done-by is reported to be the prevailing mood amongst MPs as they reconvene after the Summer break to find brown envelopes of an unwelcome sort waiting for them.
These are the already infamous “Legg letters,” the latest symbol along with duck houses, moats and mole-catchers of the expenses scandal which did so much damage to all parties earlier this year.
Written as a result of the inquiry headed by former civil servant Sir Thomas Legg, they assess the expenses claimed by each MP between 2004 and 2008 and, where anomalies have been found, they either demand repayment or clarification.
Gordon Brown is to pay back 12,415 pounds, Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg 910 pounds and SNP leader Alex Salmond 700 pounds. David Cameron has been asked to provide more details about his mortgage repayments.
But three things have particularly annoyed backbenchers.
The first is that Legg has imposed retrospective limits on various categories of expenses that the MPs themselves obviously cannot have known about at the time. He has said the maximum allowable for cleaning for example is 2,000 pounds and that for gardening 1,000 pounds, according to newspaper reports.
The second is the perception at Westminster that those MPs who made the really big claims, the ones on mortgage payments, are getting away with it. Saying “sorry” seems to be enough, as in the case of former Home Secretary Jacqui Smith.
And the third is that some MPs feel they have been unfairly singled out for reprisal by party leaders eager to be seen to be taking action.
Do you think they have a point? Is it time to stop harassing MPs and get on with government?