Friday 15 May 2009

Ten letters that will cost some careers

The Malik case, and this afternoon Nadine Dorries spirited and forthright publication of her own correspondance from the Telegraph, highlight the central issue which MP's on all sides seem to have forgotten in their quest to take public money from the fees office.

The Additional Costs Allowance begins with the word A-d-d-i-t-i-o-n-a-l. That is, the overriding intention is to cover costs which an MP incurs over and above the costs that he or she would have to bear if they were not an MP. Those costs must be wholly, exclusively and neccesarily incurred in the course of being an MP, and they must not be extravagant. Easy enough to understand, which is why the voters get it but the MP's still don't.

Our MP's are pretending to have read the detail and not the introduction. If you do not have a "main home" as that phrase is normally understood then it follows that you are unlikley to be incurring additional costs at a "second home". Likewise, if you choose to pitch a tent on St Stephens Green, rent a room from your Sister (Jackboots), share a dodgy subsidised rental with a constituency worker (Malik), occupy your wifes "second" home (MacKay) then you dont even get to base one for putting in a claim for costs on your additional premises. The fees office should not even have been troubled. The costs you incurred are the normal costs of living, and attempting to charge them to the taxpayer under ACA is a misrepresentation.

The Green book says that the location of the main home will normally be a simple matter of fact. Indeed it will. But it is not normal for a middle aged professional Cabinet Minister with a husband and a family to occupy a single room in her Sister's house. Such an arrangement is cheaper than the cost of a normal main home and, if made electively, can have only one purpose - to increase the net amount received from the Taxpayer. Likewise it is not normal for a man of Maliks undoubted talent and standing to live in a house rented for £100 a week (as alleged by the Telegraph) - never mind the the obvious concern that the discount might amount to a secret profit at the expense of the taxpayer who is paying the same Landlord for office accomodation.

However many times you hear it, the rules do not need to be changed to sort this out. The rules are already quite clear, and half of the culprits are Lawyers anyway. Additional Costs are what they say they are - and, incidentally, they fit perfectly with normal practice of out-of-pocket expenses which is to reimburse the Employee but never to put him in a better position than he would otherwise have been. That is why they are not taxable, and our MP's are very well aware of this.

ACA received by someone who is not, somewhere, already incurring the reasonable and normal costs of a main home is money which was wrongly claimed, wrongly received, and must be answered for.

It always was, and what's more they knew it.


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