Sir Thomas Legg has outlined his approach to expenses in a note to MPs which is now in the public domain. Legg confirms that payment of the second homes allowance under the Green Book rules was subject to “fundamental principles of propriety”:
The fundamental principles required MPs personally to ensure that their use of the ACA was: (a) necessary for the performance of their parliamentary duties; (b) not extravagant or luxurious; (c) in accordance with the Nolan principles of selflessness, accountability, honesty and leadership; (d) strictly in accordance with the rules governing the allowance; (e) above reproach; (f) took account of the need to obtain value for money; and (g) avoided any appearance of benefit, or a subsidy from public funds, or diversion of public money for the benefit of a political organisation. These principles together amount to a general requirement of propriety.
Quite a high bar for our porcine political class. Guido has heard a rumour – so far not denied – that Legg has asked for re-payment of the £108,000 wrongly claimed by those gold-plated troughers, the Wintertons. Back in June 2008 Guido highlighted their massive six-figure fiddle. The Standards and Privileges Committee ruled that they had wrongly claimed £108,000 in rent which they paid to a family trust on a property they had previously owned. They were the trustees of the trust and the beneficiaries were their children. Despite being found guilty of brazenly manipulating the system this was, as in the case of Jacqui Smith, another crime without punishment from their fellow MPs. The Standards and Privileges Committee did not require the Wintertons to repay a single penny.
The level of impropriety which anyone with commonsense can see has taken place is verging on grand larceny. When MPs say Legg is “acting retrospectively” what they really mean is that they didn’t expect to be held to basic, fundamental principles of propriety. They thought they would get away with it…