Some light shone on the spivs' charterBritain's MPs have lost a 2-year battle to cover up their claims for travel expenses. The Freedom of Information Act has finally been applied to these spivs.

Liberal MP N. Baker, a man with a reputation for sleaze-busting, was the source of the request for the release of this information. He commented: "I am very pleased that the principle of MPs being held accountable has been upheld."

To Archive List PageHere are some facts that emerged from the figures released for 2005-2006, when £5 million disappeared into the collective pockets of the nation's MPs.

Not surprisingly, MPs with constituencies in Scotland and the North East of England fill out the top 10 for total travel expenses. Predictably, the Labour PM for Falkirk, E. Joyce, managed to claim £44,985 when the further flung Liberal MP for Orkey & Shetland, A. Carmichael, claimed a more modest £38,559

The Top 10 of taxi users contains 5 Labour, 4 Tory and 1 Liberal MP. R. Bacon, Tory MP for South Norfolk, topped the list with an eye-watering claim for £5,685, which suggests that he lives in a taxi. In contrast, the Liberal MP for North Norfolk, N. Lamb, claimed absolutely nothing for taxis.

Bike-riding Tory leader D. Cameron claimed £1,094 for taxis while Labour leader T. Blair, who is chauffeur-driven everywhere at the taxpayer's expense had the cheek to claim £202 for mileage. Labour minister D. Milliband, who is also driven around at the taxpayer's expense, claimed £154 for taxis. No doubt the regulator will be scrutinizing their claims in due course.

MPs can claim travel expenses for 350 miles per month without offering proof of travel. Claims above the 350-mile threshold require receipts. The mileage rate is 40p/ mile for the first 10,000 miles then 25p/mile. Claims can be made whether or not Parliament is sitting but party political business (electioneering, conferences, etc.) is excluded.

The 5 IRA members, including G. Adams & M. McGuinness, who refuse to take their seats in Parliament, claimed a total of £20,000 for travel.

Labour MP D. Abbot, who lives just round the corner from the House of Commons in Hackney, claimed £2,235 for taxis, suggesting that she has never heard of buses. Her neighbour, M. Hillier of Hackney South & Shoreditch (also Labour) claimed nothing at all.

Sir P. Mawer, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, is looking into some of the more outrageous claims, including the one for £16,612 from J. Anderson (Labour, Rossendale & Darwin).
She reckons that she drove 60,000 miles last year which, at an average of 30 mph for urban and rural driving, means that she had to have spent five and a half hours driving on every single day of the year!

J. Lait (Tory, Beckenham) claimed £6,716 for driving 20,000 miles, even though her constituency is only 10 miles from Westminster. Also facing a grilling from the commissioner are B. Gardiner (Labour, Brent North), who claimed £4,213 for car travel, and D. Abbot (see above).

Bean-counting is the only alternative to a mass swindle

Scottish MPs are always moaning about having to justify everything that goes on their expense account; even down to a pint of milk bought for tea in their personal office. But forcing them to account for everything has reduced their expenses bill dramatically. And it is the experience of the general public that politicians will rob them blind if they are trusted just to think of a number and then put it down in their expenses.

• Parliamentary officials were told to pretend that publishing the details of MPs' claims for travel expenses amounted to a release of personal information about them. But the Information Tribunal threw this lame argument out of court, deciding that release of the information related to people who were acting in an official capacity and that it would not impinge on MPs' personal privacy.

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