I have been infuriated, as have many of us, by MPs caught with their hands in the till reciting the formula that it was all "within the rules." No, it bloody well wasn't. Here are the "fundamental principles" set out at the beginning of the "Green Book," which is the guide to members' allowances (the emphases are mine);
- Claims should be above reproach and must reflect actual usage of the resources being claimed.
- Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.
- Allowances are reimbursed only for the purpose of a Member carrying out his or her parliamentary duties. Claims cannot relate to party political activity of any sort, nor must any claim provide a benefit to a party political organisation.
- It is not permissible for a Member to claim under any parliamentary allowance for anything that the Member is claiming from any other source.
- Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.
- Members are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.
- Individual Members take personal responsibility for all expenses incurred, for making claims and for keeping records, even if the administration of claims is delegated by them to others.
- The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services – Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious.
- Claims must be supported by documentary evidence, except where the House has agreed that such evidence is not necessary
Test the claims reported in the Telegraph against these principles. There is no way that even a semi-intelligent, semi-literate MP could have failed to know that they were defrauding the taxpayer. Frankly, a decently-reared toddler would have known it.