For what it's worth, I do think that Jackart's position is technically correct.
At the moment the Tax Man cannot retrospectively charge you for taxes that you paid correctly last year. (I know the appalling misuse of the 'Proceeds of Crime' act by the HM R&C can bankrupt you for a £400 VAT tax error, but that's a different matter). Nor can an employer claw back wages if you turn out to be rubbish at your job.
That is, a Government cannot come in and say "it's appalling that income over £100,000 isn't and wasn't taxed at 50%". There are a lot of people—a lot—who think that high salaries without high marginal tax rates are "unfair". Immagine if the revenue could say that not only were they taking the new, higher rate taxes on your future income, they were applying it retrospectively to the previous couple of year's income too, on the basis of "fairness", were delivering a bill to you for money you'd already spent on the mortgage and the Kids' school fees?
For that is what is happening to MPs. The rules they "obeyed" were grossly flawed and they have been changed. That is not in question. If you're pissed off with your MP (mine's squeaky clean, I'm pleased to say) then there's an election coming and you can stuff envelopes for his opponents, effectively firing the bastard. But just as the Tax man cannot go after income you earned in the previous year after you've been taxed on it, MPs should not be forced to pay money already received if it was within the rules as they existed at the time.
So now, of course, we are forced to give MPs the benefit of the doubt.
No, your humble Devil might be a terrible old cynic, but I cannot help thinking that that was the entire point of this measure. They have quite deliberately told Sir Thomas Legge to go beyond the remit of his report and, again, quite deliberately to apply the rules retrospectively.
In this way, all of the actual cases of disgusting fraud get obscured, obfuscated and buried beneath the deluge of claims and counter-claim. The report is then declared a waste of time, and our wastrel MPs opine that to hold another would be a waste of taxpayers' money—and we cannot possibly allow that in these straitened times.
The results, of course, are that the public can never be sure quite who is guilty of fraud and theft and who is not (bar the few who have obviously been thrown to the wolves); the majority of MPs have to repay precisely bugger-all; and there is no fall-out for the honourable members, apart from the tedium of having to mutter a few meaningless platitudes about how they are shocked at all this troughing and that they are sorry for any "honest mistakes" that they may have made.
But we cannot let this pass: we really can't—for the reasons that The Appalling Strangeness articulates.
Yes, I know I am a zealous ranter when it comes to the issues of MPs' expenses fraud, but they did rinse the public purse for all it was worth under the guise of being public servants. Frankly, they deserve as much abuse as we can throw at them. The thieving fucks. Particularly when they are quick to get out the world's smallest violin and start manically playing it for a bit of completely undeserved sympathy:One unnamed MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "An accountant will always find errors in the expenses claims especially on claims of such magnitude over a long period but the only ones publicised are the over-claims, no-one ever mentioned the under-claims."
No. No-one does mention the under-claims. Because the point of expenses isn't that you have to spend them - rather, there is an allowance there if you need it. And given MPs work directly for the public purse, and are supposed to represent the British people, you might have thought they'd be less keen to spend, spend, spend. When your expenses are paid by an already grossly over-stretched taxpayer, frugality becomes a virtue."The need to please the press and get back in their good books has produced a total over-reaction and it has been very badly handled. We were treated despicably today when we were waiting for our letters, we felt as though the sword of Damocles was hanging over us."
I don't give the first fuck whether MPs get back in the good books of the press - they should want to get back into the good books of the people they have so badly betrayed. And expecting MPs to pay money back to the public purse isn't an over-reaction; it is actually quite a moderate response. I'd like to see everyone of them who abused the system sacked and facing prosecution, and the worst offenders locked up. And that isn't an over-reaction either; it is what would happen to anyone who got involved in this sort of swindle but didn't have the good fortune to be employed as an MP.
I really couldn't have put it better myself. It is that first quote that so absolutely enrages me—so here it is again.
One unnamed MP told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "An accountant will always find errors in the expenses claims especially on claims of such magnitude over a long period but the only ones publicised are the over-claims, no-one ever mentioned the under-claims."
I really don't think that this cunt has got the point of expenses, has he? Look, you terrible little bastard, let me explain the concept of expenses to you.
Expenses are just that: they are a recompense of the monies expended in the direct pursuit of your work duties. If you spend £2.50 on a train ticket to your constituency, then you can claim £2.50—not fucking £50! Do you see?
If the rules say that you can claim up to £10,000 on communicating with your constitutents, that does not mean that you have to spend the entirety of that £10,000, you feckless fuck. If you only spent £10.40 then you only claim £10.40; but if you spent £12,468 then you can still only claim £10,000. Do you fucking get it yet?
The idea that you should get some kind of prize—or even any fucking credit—for not spending the absolute maximum (or, in many cases, way over the maximum) is absolutely fucking laughable.
It is this kind of fucking arrogance and quite blatant sense of entitlement that makes your humble Devil want to abandon his principles and hang the lot of you whether the rules have been retrospectively applied or not.
Don't you understand? It. Is. Not. Your. Money. It is our money.
Every few pounds that you spend is an hour of a someone's life spent working rather than playing.
Every few pounds that you spend represents yet another hour that someone must toil in order to put food in his mouth, or to afford a roof over his head, or to buy an unsubsidised drink.
Every few pounds that you spend is another waste of money, another punch in the face for an ordinary person, another fruitless period of someone's life passed.
So don't think that you will be able to bury your misdemeanours in a mire of confusion; don't think that you can obscure your crimes in a slurry of retrospective excuses.
You have been revealed as thieves and liars, charlatans and harlots, bullshitters and conmen. Our time will come, and then you had better be ready to defend yourselves with something rather more concrete than limp excuses and whining rhetoric.