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Snouts in the trough

GREEDY MPs have secretly granted themselves the right to milk Britain’s taxpayers for yet MORE dodgy expenses.
Parliament’s Green Book bible of the hefty cash allowances they can claim has just had a hush-hush rewrite.
But instead of closing up loopholes and clamping down on excesses they have simply SCRAPPED the strict rules that have tripped MPs up, sparking the recent wave of scandals.
And this shameless move comes only a week after Jobs Minister Tony McNulty was exposed for claiming £60,000 in second home expenses for using his parents’ house—just a few miles from his own London family home.
In future MPs won’t have to worry about meeting stringent criteria on what they can claim back from the public purse. Instead they THEMSELVES will decide if their demands are fair and justified—despite being PROVED again and again that they can’t be trusted to.
Ironically the new rules start on Wednesday, April the first. And critics believe the MPs are trying to take the British public for fools.
The news will outrage hard-pressed, hard-working taxpayers who foot the bills. They will be incensed that just as recession-hit families are being forced to tighten their belts the fatcats running the country are letting theirs out.
On top of the furore over McNulty, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith is being investigated for claiming her MAIN HOME was a ROOM in her sister’s London house. That meant she could claim £116,000 of taxpayers’ cash towards the mortgage of her Midlands “second home” where she actually lives with her husband and kids.
The case is still being investigated by Parliament’s anti-sleaze watchdog. But meanwhile our MPs’ cosy system of running their own affairs has come up with the new Green Book wheeze to sidestep the problem in future.
Under Parliament’s rules MPs who live outside inner London can claim up to £24,006 a year for a second home, either in their constituency or near Parliament.
The current Green Book defines a “main home” as “the one where you spend more nights than any other.”
Mrs Smith used that to justify her claim, insisting she spent more than half the week at her sister’s place.
But the new rules impose NO such restriction, giving MPs complete freedom to decide which house they can splash the cash on.
They can decare a house is their main home even if they are hardly there. Meanwhile they rake in a tidy fortune towards their REAL No 1 pad.
The new relaxed guidelines say MPs merely have to ensure their claims are above reproach, necessary, and only for Parliamentary duties. But it will be up to their consciences to decide if claims are fair!
The revised Green Book also warns MPs they should bear in mind “how comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under Freedom of Information?”
The change comes as a shock when the old rules have been repeatedly exposed for being too lax AND Gordon Brown has ordered the Committee on Standards in Public Life to launch a full review of MPs’ pay and allowances.
As well as McNulty and Smith, husband-and-wife ministerial team Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper were in hot water claiming London was their second home—and qualifying for expenses—even though they spent weeknights in the capital and their children go to school there.
The couple were cleared of any wrongdoing.
Last night Lib Dem MP Norman Baker, who tried to stop the second homes rule change, said: “The new system is a recipe for disaster. Instead of rules we now have a set of principles for each MP to interpret as they wish.”



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