MPs' expenses claims indefensible

AS a national newspaper continues to drip feed MPs expenses from a leaked disc, the public s fury is ever increasing. And now Stevenage MP Barbara Follett has become the centre of the controversy, claiming more than �25,000 for security patrols on her se

AS a national newspaper continues to drip feed MPs' expenses from a leaked disc, the public's fury is ever increasing.

And now Stevenage MP Barbara Follett has become the centre of the controversy, claiming more than �25,000 for security patrols on her second home in Soho.

While she staunchly defends her expenses claims, which also include a �937 annual insurance premium for art on display at her 18th century London town house, and �384 for the cleaning of the eight chimneys in the four-storey house, I really can't see how she can.

You cannot defend the indefensible.


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Firstly, Mrs Follett's main home is in Knebworth - a 35-minute train ride from London. If she joined the rest of the commuters who adeptly manage to make the return trip to the city every day, she would have no need for a second home at all.

Secondly, it is surely impossible to defend spending �25,411.64 of taxpayers' money on personal security when her own constituents must rely on the police to protect their safety.

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At any time, but particularly at a time of economic hardship, it is a bitter pill to swallow to know you are paying through the nose for someone privileged to have a painting at their home insured, or for their chimneys to be swept at a cost of �384.

In a bid to defend her actions, Mrs Follett is taking the same stance as many other MPs caught in the media frenzy - that what she has claimed is permitted under the system.

But does this make it morally right? No.

Instead of forking out a fortune on plush second homes, I don't see why a block of one-bedroom flats, or even bedsits, could not be provided for those MPs who do have distant constituencies.

The taxpayers' money saved could be spent on paying off some of the monumental debt this Government has got this country into.

The MPs' expenses revelations could not have come at a worse time for Labour. As the country struggles to weather a recession, the party's support has plummeted to just 23 per cent of voters, according to a recent poll.

For too long, MPs have viewed expenses as an alternative income - a salary increase without the embarrassing need to ask for one.

It is not something which they are entitled to, but to many it is seen as so.

If MPs cannot claim expenses without taking advantage of taxpayers, then expenses should be abolished altogether.

They are there to pay for things which directly help them to do their job - plasma TVs, bath plugs and toilet seats clearly do not do this.

However, no amount of ludicrous expenses claims will cover the cost of the irreparable damage done to the public's faith in politicians, and Labour is set to take the brunt of the nation's wrath.

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