Frank Field MP
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The justice of a roulette wheel

From honourable member to rogue. That, thanks to retrospective and unprecedented changes Sir Thomas Legg has made to the rules on MPs' expenses, is how I feel.

You may remember that last year I was part of the small band of MPs who voted to make details of our expenses public. It was a mystery to me why the then Speaker and his allies opposed being open to taxpayers. They were later defeated in the courts.

As soon as the details of our expenses were given to MPs I put mine on my website. The Daily Telegraph who bought all of this information published a ‘rogues and saints' gallery. Having considered the evidence, they placed me in the latter category.

For the last five years, I claimed, for my home in Birkenhead: £11,250; £12,006; £11,509; £9,573 and, for the year ending April 2009 my claim was £7,303, 30% of the total allowance. I did not claim anything approaching the maximum annual £24k simply because I did not need to claim such an amount.

However, late on Monday I received along with other MPs a letter from Sir Thomas Legg. He recommends I repay just over £7,000: £1,000 housekeeping costs for each year; £1,800 of other household bills, and £230 which I should have claimed from other allowances.

Sir Thomas correctly points out that over the five year period I claimed twice for three bills amounting to £117. The bills shouldn't have been presented twice nor paid. I regret this and have paid the money back.

My concern is that nowhere has Sir Thomas explained why he has changed the rules which have resulted in his recalculations. No matter what the cost of maintaining a second home in my constituency has been, a £3k cut-off point was retrospectively imposed.

Imagine that you have been driving, perfectly legally, through a 30 mile an hour zone at a speed of 25 mph. Imagine then your reaction when, five years later, you receive multiple fines as a decision has been taken to change, retrospectively, the speed limit to 20.

Sir Thomas has also suggested that other household bills were wrongly claimed telling me that the Fees Office had told me such claims were invalid. Sir Thomas is simply wrong. There is nothing in the file to support his assertion. He has misread a letter between Officials dated after this period relating to another issue. The actual file shows that at no point were objections raised to my claims.

Last week I replied to Sir Thomas. I was dazed that, as someone who has always been open about my expenses, his arbitrary decision should link me with the abuses known all too well to voters. I have requested that he withdraws his suggestion, but I am not holding my breath.

I share the electorate's anger with how some have played the system. But the Legg Review does not seem to have taken on the abuses. What he has achieved is simply to move around some of the characters in the honourable members and villains galleries.
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Showing comments 1 to 5 of 15

Mr Field I have just read this BBC News report: and your colleagues have brought parliament and your parties intodisrepute over the last few years by your collective abuse of the expensessystem.Ordinary people cannot claim handouts for housekeeping, gardening, furniture,redecoration, etc, so why on earth should you and your colleagues be able todo so? I run a business and would never be able to claim money from mybusiness for maintaining my own property. Now, please just stop whinging, pay up and get on with what you should bedoing, and stop trying to take advantage of the taxpayer!Look forward to hearing from you.Thanks
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
The Legg Review has avoided dealing with the real problem and this was the massive abuse by flipping second homes and of tandem claims by husband and wife teams when MPs netted thousands while the rest of us struggle to pay our mortgages and others fail. My fear is that Legg was instructed to "get" certain people including you Mr Field. Inevitably in order to get you he had to be even handed and get some others as well but the amounts are trivial compared to the housing "racket" as practiced by members of the "in crowd" like Jackie Smith and of course many others who it seems are to be let off. This reminds of so many other corrupt incidents with this Government including the Hutton Inquiry - just another load of whitewash.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Ah Frank, but your speed limit signs never said "Take up to £24k per year regardless of what you need and sod the tax payer". It said that you should only claim for expenses "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred to enable you to stay away overnight away from your only or main home for the purpose of performing your Parliamentary duties". Many people have to fund alternative accomodation to enable them to carry out their work (supposing they still have work). They don't get their cleaning and repairs done tax free. Hell hath no fury like a socialist forced to be as equal as others eh?
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Frank, if you don't 'get it', then we are truly doomed.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Like most decisions from Mr Brown recently the appointment of Tom Legg has fallen foul of the law of unintended consequences. I agree with most of what you say, and fear for the quality if any future parliament. A great many honest and able people will be leaving with the rogues. Those coming in will lack experience, and there is a grave danger that able people of limited means will be deterred from taking on the job, which is already poorly paid.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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