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May 17th, 2009 |

MPs Expenses : Over To You , Mark!

One of our readers – “Temple Way Resident” – left a long comment about Mark Francois’ expenses on a previous post.

We think it’s worth treating as a separate item and so we are showing it below.

Fo what it’s worth – we (in this case Chris Ron and Jackie) think that considering the late night sittings that they have in the Commons that it’s quite reasonable for Mark Francois to rent a flat in Westminster.

However, TWR asks about a lot more than that.

Now, we know that our local Conservatives read onlinefocus. In this case perhaps Mark Francois would like to clarify things himself and leave a comment here. He will know that he will get a fair hearing here and there’ll be some thoughtful debate.

So it’s over to you Mark on this one.

” Chris, there IS a local angle here which seems to have been convieniently ignored by the Torygraph newspaper sofar…You can not and should not ignore it either even if it does make you feel uncomfortable.

Our Right Honourable member for Rayleigh claims (excuse the unintended pun)in The Echo that he only rents a flat in London… very commendable some may think?


Westminster is less than 40 miles from his home address in Rayleigh so why would one need a 2nd home? Many of his constituents travel to work in London on a daily basis and do not have 2nd homes AND have to pay their own “expenses”…

Which leads me nicely to his annual travelling expenses for 2007/2008 as stated on:-

* Regular journeys between home/constituency/Westminster: Mileage £640 (548th). Rail £5,319 (173rd).

Please somebody remind me how much a rail season ticket is between Rayleigh and Westminster tube station? I can’t afford the standard return fare and find it actually cheaper to drive in 40 miles each way and pay the Congestion Charge!

I’d be interested to learn how he spends in one year:-

Additional Costs Allowance £20,689 (368th) – Presumably the aformentioned flat rental, utilities, furnishing etc…?

Incidental Expenses Provision £11,739 (550th) – Presumably food?

Staffing Allowance £88,842 (282nd) – Who does he employ?

Centrally Provided Computer Equipment £1,490 (joint 19th) – interesting to note that this expense is a regular annual feature!

As a Public Servant who formaly worked in London on “Detached Duty” from my job in the North of England I was formally entitled to “expenses” from the public purse HOWEVER these consisted and were tightly restricted to:-
1) Rent for a basic 1 bedroomed furnished flat capped at a local market rate.
2) Utility bills and Council tax (reduced by 50% as this was judged to be my second home) – despite the fact that I only actually got “home” to my house in the North of England for about 36 hours per month (late Friday night to Sunday lunch time)
3) £5 Incidentals allowance per day.
4) Standard class rail fare to/from my main home once a month.
These “allowances” were all TAXABLE and only payable on the understanding that I had a “double commitment” i.e. that I had a mortgage and bills to pay at my “home” address in the North.

It beggars believe that MP’s working for the same public that I worked for have such grossly extravagant expenses which are also TAX FREE! I am extremely angry about this.

In the end sheer fatigue eventually caught up with me and I elected to move to Essex – at my own expense… For exactly the same salary and tripled my mortgage. I now commute into London on a daily basis again at my own expense obviously. Please tell me why on earth the rules that I had to abide by and were strictly regulated by HMRC are not also used by MP’s? Why are they above the law? Why are their bloated allownaces tax free?

Politicians thus far still don’t appear to appreciate the seriousness of this crisis despite their mealy mouthed apologies. Ordianary people are jailed for less. Theft from the public purse should be treated seriously as the fraud that it is. I agree Chris that we shouldn’t (just) be debating it we should be ensuring that legal action is taken…”

38 Responses to “MPs Expenses : Over To You , Mark!”

  1. 1
    Temple Way Resident:

    Thank You Chris for taking this issue seriously and giving us the opportunity to debate this very serious breach of trust…This really isn’t a time for Politicians to hide…

    I’m sorry but I don’t agree that the occasional late sitting at Westminster justifies spending taxpayers money on the rental of a flat. I could however stomach Mark spending the occasional night in a reasonably priced hotel should this be absolutely neccessary i.e. Missed last train at 00:50hrs. His car in Rayleigh not Wetminster. Late finish followed by an early start.

    I work long hours in Lambeth starting at 06:30 and although I am supposed to finish work at 22:00 I invariably work until gone midnight – another reason for me to drive rather than waste money on a rail season ticket. IF I choose to socialise in London after work – I don’t have the added benefit of subsidised Westminster bar tariffs I hasten to add! – I either get the train home or very occasionally I treat myself to a hotel. I don’t expect the taxpayer to pay for socialising.

    I wonder if Mark could also explain why he claims for BOTH a flat and costly travel between Rayleigh and Westminster?

    We’re waiting….

  2. 2
    Temple Way Resident:

    Admin, another post from me caught in your spam filter I think?

  3. 3

    The universal language people from all races and back grounds understand is the truth the damage done to peoples faith in politicians and New Labour and Blue Labour(cons)is going to hurt them come the General elections for sure. did anyone catch the African lady on Vanessa Feltz BBC on Friday? She is so disgusted with the behavior of politicians she says she is voting BNP! she says at least I know were i stand with them they call a spade a spade (her words not mine). They say what they mean & mean what they say. I have too say it’s not been a bad week for calamity (clegg) now he too has paid back some dosh to the long suffering public from troughminister.

  4. 4
    Chris Black:

    Geoff, I’m very disappointed with the last week. A few MPs may have broken the law; a lot of more seem to have ‘used the system’ and are totally out of touch with what the public expects (and I include some Lib Dems MPs here). But I think a lot of it is down to MPs getting elected and being told ‘you can claim this, you can claim that’. si they do it.

    I don’t think any parties are immune – some UKIP people have got into serious troble in Brussels. As for the BNP – they don’t have any MPs or MEPs. But in one of their strongest areas, Barking and Dagenham, their councillors have been claiming an average of £1635 per meeting they attend!

    Councillors expenses, though, is another issue for another post.

  5. 5
    Mike Nobes:

    Chris, I don’t think this is about MP’s being told what they can and should claim on expenses. I think the term is they can claim expenses if what they are claiming for is necessary, absolutely necessary to carry out their duty as an MP. If you are told you can claim expenses for something, should you not first ‘ask your brain’ to compute if you are morally and ethically in the right to claim expenses.

    Just saying sorry is not enough. lots, not all, of MP’s are riding the gravy train in the UK while lambasting the MEP’s for their expenses, talk about the pot calling the kettle black!

    I wonder if Mark Francois employs any of his family to carry out duties.

  6. 6

    Chris, As you and i know their are some councillors who need to have their wages cutmore (excuse the pun). They are normally new or blue Labour – oynk oynk!
    Changing the subject slightly, It is nice to know that the banks are still up to their old tricks! Halifax apparently now send couriers out to have loan documents signed for loans at a cost of £70 a go – this is a one of rip off, also nearly all banks are abusing the typical APR system, which is designed to bleed the most vulnerable who have already suffered at the hands of these leeches! I would like to see the useless FSA do something to rein in this unsavory practice instead of constantly naval gazing.
    Your opinion?


  7. 7
    Sid Cumberland:

    I look forward with considerable interest to the comments our local MPs will make in due course …

    Meanwhile for comparison, here’s a link to how our only Essex Lib Dem MP manages:

  8. 8
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    My husband is due to renew his annual London season ticket this week at a cost, to him personally, of around £3,600. I therefore assume Mr Francois has the First Class version!!!!

    There is a reasonably priced Premier Inn just opposite “The House” – the odd night at £74 could be justified perhaps but it really annoys me when these MPs have chosen to go into politics knowing they would have to work in London and assuming that we will all foot the bill for their excesses. Shame our husbands who have to go up there day in and day out with just four weeks off a year do not get such luxuries for doing a decent days work!

    Also, all this money and how many days a year to they work?

    Rant Over!

  9. 9
    Mike Nobes:

    Our original lawmakers will be turning in their graves! Maybe its time to look into some of our councillors ‘junkets’?

  10. 10
    Sid Cumberland:

    CCR – Henry Porter in The Observer says: ‘In the current session, Parliament will spend 143 days in recess. MPs took 24 days holiday at Christmas, 10 days in February, 17 at Easter and now they have the prospect of 10 days at Whitsun plus a summer break of 82 days. Not bad for basic pay and allowances of £180,000 a year.’ Hmm …

  11. 11

    I hope that Mark does reply and answer some of the above questions. Although I disagree with his politics I am no Tory less still a Thatcherite I think he is a good MP. If he rents his flat then at least he is not looking to make a profit on it. I believe that the press have been though all the claims of the shadow cabinet and Mark’s name has not come up as having made any of the ridiculous claims we are hearing of.

    While I have no time for people who have abused the expenses system when it comes to these forthcoming elections I hope people will vote on policy as it is very important who runs the services of our County Council. These services include things like Social services, Education and care of the Elderly. You would not want these being run by someone with extreme views who got in on a protest vote.

    It is also very important who represents Britain in the EU. Like it or not we are part of it and need good representation to both look after our country’s interests and work together with others on things that concern us all like the environment.

  12. 12

    I’m sure I’m not alone in the view that despite the fact that I really do value my right to vote I will be abstaining in the local elections. I believe that’s the best route for me to express my extreme disgust at the greed that seems to have sucked in many, many MP’s, rather than to vote for one of the more ‘unusual’ parties

    I do hope that there is an MP or 2 out there from ANY party, who can actually be held up to be a shining example of someone who has stuck to their own morals and only claimed what’s morally right. Think of the example that could set and the flood of votes that would probably give them. However I can’t see all this bad news going away any time soon. Hopefully it will eventually be something of a turning point for UK politics and something good will arise from this dreadful situation.

  13. 13
    Sid Cumberland:

    BigBry: not voting for the European parliament and Essex County Council because of bad behaviour by Westminster MPs is like … well, I don’t know what it’s like – but does it make sense? As Angelina says, we don’t want our representatives in Europe and Essex County Council to be elected on the whim of those who are committed to extreme views, do we?

  14. 14
    Canterbury Close Resident:

    Thanks Sid – I must be in the wrong “job”!!


  15. 15

    BigBry, I respectfully urge you to use your vote. I am sure that there are many of us who are grateful to our ancestors for steadfastly working for the right to vote and the right to keep it. There are millions of people the world over who either do not have such a right or whose lives are in danger if they do not vote for a certain party. Treasure your vote Brian. :-)

  16. 16
    Sid Cumberland:

    Alison – hear, hear!

  17. 17

    Thanks for the comments. I do treasure my vote and I don’t take this viewpoint lightly. However it is an opportunity to register my disgust at what’s obviously been happening for years. Local elections are often seen as a barometer of what voters feel about national politics. I appreciate it may not make logical sense but it’s an understandable view that I believe thousands of voters will take. How would you register your view on national politics now?

  18. 18
    Sid Cumberland:

    BigBry – two points, if I may …

    1) Westminster MPs have behaved badly. These elections are for the European parliament and Essex County Council. Withholding your vote will not affect Westminster at all.

    2) If you withhold your vote, power will go to those who do vote – probably the extremists.

  19. 19

    Wot Sid said!

  20. 20
    Mike Nobes:

    What does the public have to do to get our MP’s to realise how strongly we feel regarding their abuse of the expenses system? There are still many who feel they have done nothing wrong. Its like a TV soap going on, the latest was the ‘de-frocking’ of Michael Martin, The Speaker. I think he had to go, he lost the confidence of the House of Commons and of the public. He couldn’t even ‘keep order’ in the House. The MP’s now think that they have someone to blame for this debacle and to look and listen to some of them, they think that all will go back to ‘normal’

    I think that all MP’s, whether they broke the rules or didn’t break the rules but were excessive and abused the system, should be de-selected from their constituency parties and be banned from becoming an MP again. That is the only way our MP’s will realise they face sanctions if they ever fail us again.

  21. 21

    Nigel Farage, £2millon in expenses! I think that will sink UKIP. Although the Press have been strangely quiet on this? Did anyone catch the SKY poll this week? The BNP beat the LIB/DEMS for third place! Something for nick Griffin to talk to Prince Phillip about – apparently they share the same sense of humor!


  22. 22

    I don’t think that getting rid of the Speaker was the answer. I think that whoever is chosen there should be another vote on it after the next general election. That way the new intake of MPs would get a say.This would also allow MPs like Ann Widdicome who are standing down a chance. For that occasion there should be the option of keeping the man or women in place (if he or she has not stepped down or been voted out) or selecting someone new. After that it should be considered if the role of Speaker should be fixed term or for just one parliment. I think that it would be a good thing to change Speakers more often than we currently do.

    It’s a pity that Vince Cable does not want the job.

  23. 23
    Temple Way Resident:

    We’re still waiting for a reponse Mark…

    We are angry and disgusted. Not at all helped by your Westminster colleagues who continue to bleat that they do not deserve to be treated this way… I actually agree, what they actually deserve is to be arrested and prosecuted like any other benefits cheat or fraudster. Now more than ever Politicians should not be hiding from their public. That means YOU Mark!

  24. 24
    Temple Way Resident:

    For all those considering abstaining from voting please reconsider. Failure to vote does not send a message of disgust or anger to Politicians it sends a message of apathy, that you couldn’t care less…

    I can’t remember a time apart from possibly the Miners strike when Politics has been debated more widely or passionately. You don’t have to vote for any of the big three there are other options… The English Democrats make some good points for instance. Whatever you do please vote!

  25. 25

    TWR, I don’t agree. The level of ‘apathy’ as you suggest WILL be seen as a vote of no confidence by the elctorate in Parliament. I know it’s not a general election etc, etc but I beleive in all probability many, many voters will insted vote for more ‘unusual’ parties. In my area there’s certainly a BNP candidate and I think many people will unfortunately vote for them. However I’m sure that’s a measure of the disgust people have about MP’s and whether people don’t vote or vote for an ‘unusual’ party Westminster WILL get a loud and clear message. Unfortunately at a local level we will obvioulsy all have to put up with the consequences for a few years hopefully until the local electorate can vote once again on local issues not national disgust.

    Before anyone tries once again to consider my view I’ve already shredded my postal vote papers.

    Parliament has a lot to answer for and thank goodness it’s not a general election yet, can you imagine what could happen then?

  26. 26

    To all those people who feel very strongly that things have gone seriously wrong in public life. If you are not already so, please consider getting involved yourself. Politics is not going to improve by people turning their backs on it. If politics is realiy not for you then how about any other kind of local organisation or a church.

    Getting involved locally may not change the world but it can brighten up your little patch of it. More can be achieved with more people involved rather than the same few people having a hand in everything because no one else wants to know.

  27. 27
    Sid Cumberland:

    Chickens coming home to roost, BigBry. For decades politicians of various colours have encouraged us to use local elections to ‘send a message to Westminster’ – ignoring the fact that these elections are actually for electing local councillors. So – Westminster ignores the ‘message’ we have sent, and some nincompoop ends up being elected to represent us.

    At the same time, local government has been stripped of more and more power, to the extent that it sometimes doesn’t seem to matter who’s elected, as they have no real power to get things done. Time to reverse this process.

  28. 28

    I have just read the echo website and I was astounded to find Lord Hanningfield,s allowances and expenses totalled nearly £98,000 for county and house of lords duties .Dispite that his voting record was less than 25% .The gravy train rolls on !We can thank Bob Russell for that information .

  29. 29
    Chris Black:

    The Echo article on Lord Hanningfield is here

    But I can’t see how you can adequately combine being the leader of the County Council with being in the House of Lords.

    I just can’t see it.

  30. 30
    Mike Nobes:

    Agree Chris, How can he be adequately doing both jobs at the same time. I feel short-changed that he is allowed to conduct both positions. I would like to hear how he can demonstrate how he divides his time and wouldn’t it be good to hear it on this website? How about it Lord Hanningfield. Maybe he and Mark Francois could do one together?

  31. 31

    Angelina and Sid
    You are both right . What a good idea to be involved with your local communities .there is so much that can be achieved with united action .For example, can we repeat, the Friends of St.Nicholas Church needs everyone in our village to get behind the setting up of a permanent safeguard to maintain the church for the future generations .
    This is the time when our hard fought for democracy needs us to take back our power from the faceless ones who are appointed to enforce dictacts from central “government” .Get rid of the EERA and cascade power down to the people ,elected councillors must stand up to officers if their advice is against your electors wishes.They are after all public servants, time after time councillors cower behind officers reccomendations wring their hands and say they can do nothing .I know officers have much valuable experience and wise council but ultimately Councillors must take the final and wisest decisions and be only responsible to the electorate .
    My thoughts on Europe have been as a supporter but I am still waiting for a strenghened Parliament and a considerably weakened Commission .Unless this happens then I fear for the future as the population will not tolerate the policies put together without proper democratic agreement.There is so much flawed thinking coming from Brussels that it sends out the wrong message to the man on the street who then understandably will look to extreme Parties who will exploit those fears in all of our minds .Look at all your options for the european election and make your own decision with regard to who will reflect your true beliefs disregard Sheep in Wolves clothing as they can only bring chaos ,think back to the 1930s where a Party called National Socialists came to power filling a vacumn left by failed economic policies ,.sounds familiar! Use your votes wisely the are valuable and a duty to your country.

    ADMIN NOTE: Alistir actually wrote this a few days ago, it was caught in our ‘spam trap’

  32. 32

    Wondered where it went! thought it was me !

  33. 33

    Great post Alistir. Also good to have some good objective comment on the EU. To me it is a shame that other matters have over shadowed these forthcoming Euro elections it is a lost opportunity to have had plenty of debate on it. A brief summary of my thoughts on it are:

    I am in favour of having the links with our neighbours on mainland Europe as I believe it has helped keep peace between us. There are many matters like the environment where it is essential to work together. I agree with your point about too much power being in the hands of unelected commissioners and that this needs to be addressed. I would rather we kept our own currency and I do not want a shared Army.

  34. 34

    Some good comments on this thread!

    I have written a pastoral letter about the importance – and,I hope, genuine resurgence – of local politics and civic engagement. It is in the Rawreth parish newsletter that is just out…If you cannot obtain a copy but want to read it nonetheless, it is also published on the new parish church blog, at

  35. 35
    Gloria Gutteridge:

    Why? Why? Why? can’t we have a: “None of the Above” on the voting papers. I, personally, don’t want to vote for any of the them, but I do want to use my vote. I want to be able to say: “Out of the “Common Market” oh, sorry, that is what was sold (lied) to us in 1973/74? what I mean to say is: “Out of this corrupt organisation that calls itself the European Union (unelected).” We can come together to deal with issues such as global warming (if you believe that), global recession, crime, drugs, etc., etc., without this great big corrupt gravy train. I’ve asked this question so many times, but have never received an answer. How much do we contribute to the EU per annum and how much do or European masters grant us in return? Anyone out there have that information please? And, how many years is it now that the auditors have not signed off the EU accounts? Ten? Eleven? Twelve? More? I worked for a very large financial institution where every year auditors would descend on you without warning, and God help you if there was a query with the accounts!!!! How come an immense ‘organisation’ like the EU can get away with it. Sorry, forgot, it’s only the taxpayers’ money, more where that came from. Get rid of the EU and let us just work together on major issues.

  36. 36
    Sid Cumberland:

    Gloria: according to the Conservatives’ European Parliament website:

    “This year, for the first time, the court has been able to provide an unqualified (clean) opinion of the consolidated accounts, saying that they give a fair representation of the financial position of the EC.”

    I really don’t know why people think MEPs are unelected – you have a chance to vote tomorrow!

    And yes, we do contribute more to the EU than some of the more recent, poorer members – but encouraging growth in these countries will provide benefits for us later. Like all investments.

  37. 37

    Sid – Will always stand corrected, but what is ‘fair representation of the financial position of the EC’ – not fiddled too much? Have the accounts been ‘signed off’?

    Again, when the only Referendum held in this country ?74/75 (sorry, not sure of exact year but can remember voting ‘NO’) did we have MEP’S then? What do these MEP’S do? (apart from having very good expenses that they don’t want disclosed).

    I have voted Sid, but only because it is my democratic right which I take most seriously, but I oppose the EU most strongly.

    I still would like an answer to my question. How much do we contribute to the EU per annum and what do we get back????? (£.s.d figures please, or anything but EUROS!). Sid, I like your response to my arguments, but it was ill advised to compare our financial EU ‘benefits for us later’ with: ‘like all investments’! In the present financial climate any of our ‘investments’ either in good old pound sterling or EUROS isn’t too good. I know my ‘investments’ aren’t what they were (I’m talking good old British ‘pennies’ here, not MEP EUROS!). Sorry Sid, I will always be one of the ‘uncoverted’ or should that be ‘convertible’?

  38. 38
    Temple Way Resident:

    MEP’s may well be elected but the EEC laws are created by the European Commission NOT the European Parliament. The Commission is full of unelected quango’s and beaurocrats… The British Parliament then chooses to interpret these European laws. As per usual The Brits take the extreme line and our interpretation is usually more “politically correct” than that of our European neighbours – who choose to pay lip service to these laws and do not get as tied up in red tape etc… ECHR being a prime example.

    Not only do I want “out of” Europe – the recent quotes about the benefits of been “in” Europe are in my oppinion misguided. Non-EEC neighbours are not at all disadvantaged from not been “In” Europe but I also would like to see an English Parliament… I’m all for devolution IF it also benefits the English – no sign of those benefits so far… apart from our taxes subsidising free university education for the Scots and free NHS prescriptions for the Welsh and the Scots and free residential care for the elderly in Scotland etc, etc, etc…

    It just seems to be an endless merry-go-round of take take take by our Politicians and not a lot of giving back or serving our English communities…

    Good Luck to you Chris, I wish you every success BUT I do not support the Lib Dem stance on Europe BUT that said show my a Political party that you can agree with 100%!!!

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“Rayleigh was the birthplace of Britain’s first surviving quintuplets, but that’s just one of its many claims to fame”

When the Olympic Torch came to Rayleigh, Chris Black wrote about the town in the Guardian - read it here

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If you would like email updates on what the Lib Dems are doing nationally, click here.
If you would like to join the Lib Dems click here.