Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Telegraph generates dodgy expenses story

Interesting front page splash in the Telegraph this morning. According to the article,
The Daily Telegraph can disclose that MPs have devised a new scheme allowing them to claim a £25-a-night “subsistence” allowance when staying away from their designated main home.

The allowance, which is almost double the previous £4,800-a-year limit for unreceipted claims, is paid on top of expenses for mortgage interest, rent, council tax and utility bills.

It has been approved without any public announcement or debate in Parliament as MPs leave for their summer holidays. Instead it has been agreed by a small committee of MPs chaired by John Bercow, the new Speaker, and including Harriet Harman, the Labour Leader of the House and Alan Duncan, the Tory frontbencher.
Outrageous isn't it? The dirty thieving bastards etcetra.

I have just one question for the Telegraph though. Why have you only just noticed this in the revised July 2009 Green Book when it was actually in the March 2009 Green Book, a title published before the expenses scandal that you had the scoop on?

Don't get me wrong, in light of everything that has gone on the unreceipted allowance is not exactly the best thing in the world to help foster trust once more.

However, publishing a story that says it was introduced after the scandal (the Telegraph scoop series started in May) when it patently wasn't (March is two months before May) does kind of feed into the idea that you're trying to milk the story just an ickle bit, doesn't it?

Is it August summer by any chance?
Green Book sources

Update: Have just been reading more on this "scandal" by Rosa Prince in the Telegraph who says,

Details of the new arrangements, including a £25 subsistence allowance payable without a receipt, were almost certainly concluded during private talks that were not minuted, held at the height of the expenses scandal in May.

The meeting, at which the overnight subsidy was agreed, seems to have taken place at 9am in the Speaker’s private rooms in the Palace of Westminster, two days after Mr Martin announced his resignation.....

According to the parliamentary website, the committee did not meet under the new Speaker until July 15, two days after the new Green Book was issued to MPs.

At some point between May 20 and July 13, when the new rules were published discreetly on the parliamentary website, the subsistence measure was authorised.
Wow!, "almost certainly concluded", what a wonderful hedge that is! As for "new arrangements", complete tosh! Have any of them actually looked at the Green Book publications on the Parliamentary website?

The measure they are claiming was a secret was published and in place in March 2009 as point, in July it was republished as point The wording is identical, it didn't change at all. Nothing new here whatsoever.

Put aside for a second whether you agree with the allowance or not, this is not something that has been sneaked out. The story is more about selling papers during the slow summer months month of August than genuine scandal in the heart of Parliament.

Note: Oops, did a bit of time travelling by a week there! Clearly the heatwave is mangling my temporal flux capacitors. Clearly it's not quite August yet.

UPDATE II: Even better, as pointed out in the comments below, the House of Commons announced this allowance in January in a press elease here. "New arrangements" my arse.

UPDATE III: Just to make clear to anyone else intending to comment saying the point I'm making is not valid or relevant. There are some pretty clear facts on this "story". First, the MPs gave themselves this allowance in March. Second, the allowance has not changed in July. Third, this makes the Telegraph headline and sub-line about them secretly giving themselves more money in July... 100% bullshit.

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