Peter Hoskin

And so it rumbles on...

And so it rumbles on...
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Expenses, expenses, expenses.  This morning's Telegraph splashes with the news that the junior culture minister Sion Simon paid over £40,000 in taxpayers' cash to his sister.  How so?  Well, he rented a London flat from her between 2004 and 2008, and claimed against it as his "second home".  Problem is, the practice of renting a property from a family member at taxpayers' expense was banned in 2006.  Simon has since said he'll pay back the money that he "inadvertently" claimed.

Aside from the fact that it's yet another example of, at best, gross error on a politician's part, two other details stand out.  First, as the Telegraph puts it, "Mr Simon’s expenses files suggest he did not submit a single receipt for any living cost between April 2004 and April 2008, when he moved out" - despite the fact that he recevied £1,000s in living costs over that time.  And, second, that Sir Thomas Legg's audit of expenses failed to uncover Simon's dubious claims.

Neither detail does much to inspire you with much confidence in the system, although the first is especially provocative.  Very few private companies would dish out expenses without receipts - and there should be an even greater burden of care when the public's money is involved.  As for the fact that Legg didn't didn't pick up on all this, I imagine that the 80 or so MPs who appealed against him yesterday will take it as more proof that his audit is littered with errors, oversights and falsities.  In that respect, they may have a point.  But I doubt the public will feel much sympathy.