STORM OVER MPS VOTE TO CARRY ON CLAIMING LAVISH EXPENSES
Cabinet ministers were among MPs who last night defied public anger and voted to carry on squandering taxpayers' cash on furniture and home improvements.
They rejected moves to tighten the rules on their generous expenses in a Commons vote which sparked astonishing scenes of recrimination.
One Labour MP allegedly told David Cameron to '**** off' for forcing his top team to back the overhaul, while Shadow Chancellor George Osborne was involved in a stand-up row with one of the Prime Minister's aides.
Gordon Brown came under fire for ducking the vote, which came hours after MPs pegged their annual pay rise to 2.25 per cent.
He was also criticised for failing to swing his Cabinet, whose members have a basic salary of £138,000, behind the expenses clean-up.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, Culture Secretary Andy Burnham, Welsh Secretary Paul Murphy, housing minister Caroline Flint and Mr Brown's Commons aides Ian Austin and Angela Smith were among those who voted to keep their 'snouts in the trough'.
They were joined by Ulster Secretary Shaun Woodward whose wife, Camilla Sainsbury, has a reported personal fortune of £100million.
The review was spearheaded by Speaker Michael Martin after a series of recent expenses controversies.
Under the planned shake-up, the second homes allowance would have been capped at £19,600 a year to cover accommodation, with a £30 daily subsistence rate.
As a result of the vote, the Additional Costs Allowance, worth £24,006 to cover the costs of living near Parliament and running a second home, stays in place.
A proposed ban on claims under the so-called John Lewis list was also thrown out, so MPs will continue to be free to charge iPods, dishwashers and improvements for their second homes to the public purse.
Instead of a plan for external audits on expenses claims covering up to a quarter of MPs every year, each member will face internal financial checks just once every four years.
Meanwhile, MPs backed a £6million package to improve their constituency offices, more than doubling the cost of their offices outside Westminster from £2.8million.
Inner London MPs will get a £7,500 annual allowance – up from £2,916 – while MPs representing outer London constituencies will still be able to claim the full Additional Costs Allowance, instead of it being halved as proposed.
The 'John Lewis list' is an unofficial guide used by the Parliamentary authorities to determine how much MPs may claim from the taxpayer for kitting out their second homes.
The list of 38 items is based on prices at the department store and allows MPs to claim for items including a £10,000 kitchen and a £750 TV.
Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: 'MPs have missed a crucial opportunity to restore faith in Parliament.
(From an article in the Daily Mail)