Sir Christopher Kelly, head of the Committee on Standards in Public Life which is carrying out the investigation into those pesky MPs' expenses claims, has told the BBC that he had been "concerned for some time" about possible abuses prior to the Daily Telegraph's efforts to massively increase its sales...er, we mean expose details. Sir Christopher has also claimed that he was "shocked" by some of the worst examples - we know how you feel, Sir Chris. Just imagine how a single parent trying to raise three children on minimum wage feels when finding out that their taxes have gone towards financing the luxurious lifestyles of people who receive a minimum annual salary of over £64,000.
Harriet Harman MP has made it publically known that a report into the expenses will be published on the 1st of July this year - thus far, it looks likely that this will be in heavily edited form as a cross party Estimate Committee says that there will be no plans to change what is published from a redacted version, from which information that is not protected by data laws will be removed along with personal and bank details, despite questions on the legality of this move from Geoffrey Robinson, the Labour MP for Coventry North West. This will, of course, mean that none of us can be certain we're really finding out what our representatives have been spending our money on.
Sir Christopher suggests that the Committee had been aware that the expenses could flare up into a major political scandal for a long time, saying that they have had their "eye in it." Though he says he is fully aware of the need to act quickly so that what he calls "this dreadful episode" can be brought to a conclusion - and, we hope, changes to prevent further abuse can be made - he also predicts that his report will not be complete until at least Parliament's return after the summer recess in October.
House of Commons authorities have been opposed to making public details on MPs' claims related to the second homes allowance for a long time, in much the same way as a bank robber prefers not to confess details of heists unless forced by capture to do so. However, campaigners took them to the High Court where they lost the case and were forced to compile a list of receipts in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act. The Telegraph obtained its list - from which it has so far published details on around 150 members - prior to widespread publication of those receipts.
Sir Christopher claims that "we proposed doing the study to Gordon Brown before he proposed it back to us," which adds four-star-with-performance-enhancing-chemical-compounds fuel to the growing suspicion (or, in our opinion, confirms beyond doubt the knowledge) that had details not been forced out of the Commons, they'd have all been more than happy to continue ripping the tax-payers off for every penny they possibly could - just like the self-serving, money-grabbing, loathesome little toads the vast majority of them have proved themselves to be (David Howarth, LibDem for Cambridge - you claimed NO expenses and as a result can have one of these yummy biscuits we found in Chris Huhne's office. Don't worry - you're not receiving stolen goods - we paid for them in the first place).
He points out that his Committee is able to make recommendations over what course of action shoud be taken, but at end of the day it is up to the Government whether or not they take his advice on board. However, he also states that if complete transparency is to be achieved, a complete system of audit is required and that the Committee could - and would - take further steps if they decided it was necessary to do so.
Gordon, Gordon, Gordon! You really must learn to listen to what people are telling you - if only you'd listened to what Sir Christopher said to you in the past, you could have avoided all this. In fact, you probably could have put a bit of positive spin on it and made it look as though you - in our interests - were cleaning up Parliament and saving the tax-payer a great deal of money. But then, I suppose it must to be hard to hear what people are saying when you've got your snout in the trough.