"Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman, was forced to pay £2,499 for a 42” plasma television himself after he bought it at the worst possible moment.
Mr Opik, who is renowned for his high-profile relationships, bought the television in his constituency of Montgomeryshire, Wales, on April 24. Twelve days later, he was re-elected with an increased majority, but by then it was too late.
His claim for expenses for his flat in south-east London, which he bought in 1997, was reduced by £2,499.
An official in the Commons fees office annotated his claim form with the words “NOT ALLOWED (purchased during dissolution)”. Mr Opik has claimed a total of £68,031 for the flat since 2004. Last year, he claimed £12,655 for extensive renovation work. This included a new kitchen, repainting throughout and the installation of wooden flooring in his bedroom."
"Sir Michael Spicer, the Conservatives’ most senior backbench MP, claimed £5,650 in nine months for his garden to be maintained. In December 2006, he submitted a detailed invoice which included “hedge cutting ... helipad”, although he claimed last night that the “helipad” was a “family joke”. The Conservative grandee successfully claimed for the costs of hanging a chandelier in his main manor house. "
"Douglas Hogg, the former agriculture secretary, submitted a claim form including more than £2,000 for the moat around his country estate to be cleared. The taxpayer also helped meet the cost of a full-time housekeeper, including her car. The public finances also helped pay for work to Mr Hogg’s stables and for his piano to be tuned."
The most worrying aspect of this whole scandal is not the way that those on nearly three times the UK average wage abused the expenses system to pay for everything from bath plugs to moat cleaning on their country estate. The worst part is that such widespread abuse meant that huge swathes of the House of Commons were, at least in theory, open to the threat of blackmail and intimidation by anyone with access to the information. What better way of getting leverage than the possibility that juicy details about your lavish publicly funded lifestyle would find their way into the public domain?
On the other hand those in charge of the parties must have been rubbing their hands with glee knowing that party discipline could always be ensured via the use of veiled threats that such and such outlay might become the subject of investigation by the people back in their constituency.
"Yes, while I agree with your courageous moral stance on ........... I think that they fact that you are claiming for a second home despite living less than 30 miles away from parliament may look a trifle odd to the voters back home, don't you think? So, let's hear no more of this backbench rebellion nonsense, shall we?"