Across the Atlantic, a major storm is brewing in the Palace of Westminster, home of the Houses of Parliament. Some members of Parliament, specifically members of the House of Commons, are in trouble for claiming as expenses things not immediately related to their work as Members of Parliament. Members of Parliament receive allowances to help cover the expenses involved with having a second home. They also receive allowances to cover the expenses they incur on government business, such as travel and so forth.
Some members of parliament have claimed expenses related to mortgages, something which is allowable. One recent scandal involved Jacqui Smith, former Home Secretary. The Home Secretary oversees the UK’s prisons, police, immigration, customs, and other assorted law enforcement agencies. She claimed as her primary residence the room in her sister’s home in London where she lived. Thus, she claimed as her second home, which was actually her primary home, a house in her constituency. She claimed all of these expenses for having a second home on something which was actually her primary home, something which is not allowable under the rules. Additionally, things such as her utility bills, council tax (property tax), and even a couple of pornographic pay-per-view movies watched by her husband somehow made their way into her expense report. Some MPs have gone to claim the homes of their children as second homes necessary for parliamentary duties, going so far as to basically use public funds to pay off their children’s mortgages. Not even the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown is above suspicion. He claimed as a parliamentary expense, monthly fees of £36 to add special sports channels to his regular satellite line-up. MPs claimed all sorts of work done to their primary homes as legitimate expenses. One even went so far as to claim a duck house, complete with island which he placed in the middle of his pond, as a legitimate parliamentary expense. This same MP claimed £30,000 for gardening service and manure, a fitting commentary on much of the nonsense emanating from Westminster these days.
All of this would likely have gone unreported had not a mole in the Stationery Office leaked these reports to the press. The mole was particularly enraged that British soldiers, involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, were ill-equipped. Some of them took second jobs while on furlough in order to earn money to buy better armor which their government simply was not giving them.