Sunday, 17 May 2009

Levitt gets his response in first...

Before we an even start work on the blog, Levitt has decided to do some confessing early, and has already posted some details about his expenses on his website*, provisionally dated tomorrow.

We'd like to think this was in response to our initiative in starting this site, but it may be more to do with the fact that something else is going on. That remains to be seen, but it may be enlightening to start with Levitt's comments only 1 week ago** on the whole MP's expenses affair, which you can read below:
It seems everyone is talking about MPs’ expenses again. Those who gave more details or explanations to the authorities than they needed to, up to 5 years ago, are being pilloried. Claims which were never even paid are being held up as examples of bad practice. And the once proud Daily Telegraph has connived with criminals at the lowest levels of cheque book gutter journalism.

Changes in the rules are needed, everyone agrees. Some have been made and more are in the pipeline. The stories doing the rounds are in no way typical. But if the press does not want to talk about our policies, we must be getting them right. That is what really matters at this challenging time for the economy.
Aggressive and dismissive are two words that spring to mind upon reading Tom's column from last week. But as someone once said, a week is a long time in politics, and below you can read the rather fuller and detailed confessional statement Levitt has published only 1 week later:
I wanted to celebrate ten years of the minimum wage this week but events have clearly overtaken me. The MP expenses row raises three questions: are the rules adequate? Were they properly enforced? Did MPs abide by those rules?

The answer to all three is clearly ‘no.’

The rules have been tightened twice since the years to which current revelations refer. They are already being reviewed again by the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life.

The enforcement of the rules has clearly been pathetic. And adherence to them was in some cases poor. As a former member of the Standards committee, I know that we punished MPs for less than some of the offences that have been described. In other cases there is more smoke than fire.

Let me set out my own situation.

I have not received a penny of expenses in respect of my Buxton home. My salary is £64,766, about the same as a deputy head teacher in a medium sized comprehensive school. I have a 40-year old flat in Lambeth on which the rules entitle me to claim legitimate and necessary second home expenses. This includes the interest paid on my mortgage (but not capital repayments). My current mortgage interest claim has fallen to under £400 per month due to the falling interest rates. My other expenditure has been proportionate and legitimate: I have no moat, chandelier, garden or sauna. Some of my furniture is second hand and I have never ‘flipped’ the designation of my first and second homes.

Whilst I have been diligent I have not been perfect. A few years ago I claimed more on my mortgage than I was entitled to. This was because I had calculated that more of my mortgage payment was made up of interest than it was. I immediately made arrangements to pay back the excess over six months and this was done.

You may have seen a Sunday Times graphic on 17 May featuring the ‘20 most expensive MPs over the last four years’. I appear on this list at 8, though several of the colleagues listed below me differ from my total by less than 1%. There is no suggestion in the paper that this spending is illegitimate and it is all within the budget theoretically allowed. Had I not had a member of staff take maternity leave in 2008 I might not have appeared on the list at all, as maternity cover is paid over and above my staffing budget. You can see a breakdown of these expenses at

I want to see full disclosure of our detailed expenses and Parliament will do this in June. But that is not good enough. I will be posting details of the claims I made in the period covered by the recent disclosures, month by month, on my web site This will happen in the next ten days.

MPs generally are neither criminals nor fools; but we are all human and therefore fallible. Parliament has lost people’s trust and we need to win it back. We must not return to only having rich people willing to serve in politics. My job is to try to make the lives of ordinary people better and that’s all. I am proud to be working over 60 hours each week to serve the needs of my High Peak constituents.
Now there's a lot of info in there, which no doubt is already being digested by a lot of people - perhaps even Telegraph journalists. He's even told us he has claimed more on his mortgage than he was entitled to.

Even if the Telegraph doesn't run with it at some point, we will be back to this info later, along with some context that can be gleamed from the Internet. 

Is it me or is it getting hot in here?

*when this link no longer works, try this screen grab
**when this link no longer works, try this screen grab

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