By Bob Duncan
An SNP MP has called for public scrutiny of a little-known allowance paid to former prime ministers which can be worth up to £115,000 a year for life.
While MP’s expenses are properly subject to scrutiny by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), claims under the Public Duties Cost Allowance are not published.

Parliamentary questions have revealed that over the last year Gordon Brown, despite poor participation levels in parliament, claimed £114,998.17 in addition to his parliamentary allowances, while Tony Blair – despite reputedly earning millions from business interests – claimed the maximum £115,000 per annum, as did Lady Thatcher and Sir John Major.

Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart, who tabled the questions, said taxpayers had a right to know that claims are being used to support genuine public and charitable work and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

Mr Wishart said:

“As long as former prime ministers’ draw on taxpayer funded allowances their claims should be open to scrutiny.  People have the right to know that any funds are being used to support genuine public and charitable work and not to subsidise former politicians as they cash-in on lucrative lecture tours and directorships.

“In the case of Gordon Brown, given his poor participation levels in parliament since losing the election, eyebrows will be raised that he is claiming both parliamentary and public duties allowances.

“MPs’ expenses have properly been put under the microscope, and that scrutiny should extend to the public duties allowance as well.  Taxpayers have a right to know how this money is being spent and claims should be regularly published.  It would seem sensible for administration and audit of this allowance to come under the umbrella of the independent parliamentary standards authority.

“David Cameron talks about transparency but, as someone who will benefit from this allowance, will he commit to shedding light on how this little-known allowance is being spent.”

This isn't the first time Mr Brown has benefited from generous expenses allowances.  At the height of the expenses scandal it emerged that Mr Brown had used his Parliamentary allowances to boost his expenses claims by switching his designated second home shortly before he moved into Downing Street upon becoming Prime Minister.

In the aftermath of the MPs expenses scandal, Mr Brown was heavily criticised for the way in which he had made use of the expense system in existence at the time.

Taking advantage of the opportunity presented by the grace and favour apartment at No 10, Mr Brown signed a declaration stating that he wished to transfer his claims under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA), which MPs may use to fund a second home, to his Scottish constituency house.

By doing this, he was entitled to claim most of the running costs of the detached property in North Queensferry, Fife, including a gardener and cleaner, and carry out extensive repairs and redec­­­oration at public expense .
He made the transfer on Sept 17, 2006 – 10 days after Tony Blair announced that he would resign as prime minister the following year.  Until then, Mr Brown had declared a flat in Westminster as his second home for the purposes of his allowances, despite having the use of a taxpayer-funded apartment in Downing Street.

It was there that he and his wife, Sarah, paid his brother, Andrew, a high-flying executive, £241.30 a month for “cleaning services”. The payments later increased to £262.

Mr Brown claimed £9,000 to have his kitchen refurbished in 2005. In common with other senior ministers, Mr Brown claimed public money for a second home even though he is provided with a grace-and-favour home in Downing Street.

When he was Chancellor, Mr Brown also made claims including £372 on subscription fees for satellite television; £723 for “cleaning services”; £650 on food; and £1,396 for painting and decorating. He also claimed £15 for lightbulbs.

The Westminster system of benefits and expenses has proved to be particularly lurcative for many Labour politicians, including another former PM, Tony Blair.

Documents show that Tony Blair remortgaged his constituency home for £296,000, almost 10 times what he paid for it, months before he bought his town house in London for £3.65 million.  Mr Blair was able to claim on his parliamentary expenses for the interest repayments on almost a third of the new mortgage on his constituency home.

The amount loaned was sufficient to cover the deposit on his house in Connaught Square, west London, one of five properties owned by the former prime minister, valued at £10 million in total.

Although Mr Blair did not break parliamentary rules, dozens of MPs appear to have used similar strategies to build property portfolios, which has given rise to suggestions that they "played the system".

Mr Blair dodged possible fire over his housing deals after hundreds of expenses claims were 'accidentally' shredded.  Documents itemising some of the then Prime Minister's receipts for 2001-02 were destroyed by Commons officials 'by mistake'.

The details were only published following a four-year freedom of information battle, but the 'black hole' in Mr Blair expenses claims raised questions over what details the destroyed documents might have contained. To increase suspicions, Westminster officials shredded the files even though they were the subject to an ongoing legal challenge.

The two former Labour Prime Ministers were not the only high profile cabinet Ministers to beneft from the lucrative Westminster expenses system.  Alistair Darling was guilty of 'flipping' – making four separate second home designations covering three different properties in the space of as many years.

That meant that when he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 2007 and moved into a grace-and-favour flat in Downing Street, he did not miss out on lucrative, taxpayer-funded second-home allowances.

The biggest shock came two weeks into the expenses scandal, when it emerged that Mr Darling had charged the taxpayer for the cost of working out his complicated financial affairs, putting his accountant’s fees on his office allowance.

Mr Darling claimed £70,000 in five years for his family home in Edinburgh.  He obtained taxpayer funding for mortgage payments, household bills and furnishings by classing the £1.2million townhouse as his 'second home'.

Before he became Chancellor, Mr Darling had claimed that a small London flat - worth only around £150 a week in rent - was his main home.  He lodged with Lord Moonie - one of the Labour peers in the 'cash for amendments' affair - in a flat in South London.  He lived there from around 2003 until January 2005, listing it as his 'main' home.

This enabled him to claim a total of £45,954 on his 'second home' - the family house he bought with his wife Maggie for £570,000 in 1998. The imposing building stands in the heart of Edinburgh's most desirable area.

Before 2004, all ministers had to declare London their 'main residence'. But even after this rule changed, Mr Darling continued to list the flat share as his 'main home'. In 2004/05, he drew another £15,341 for his Scottish home.

In September 2005 he eventually classed Edinburgh as his 'main home', but only after running up an estimated £9,000 more in expenses.

Designating which are 'main' and 'second' homes can let MPs claim higher sums in expenses.  The second-home allowance - currently a tax-free £24,006 a year - allows for much bigger claims on larger properties.

As well as his rent-free Downing Street flat, Mr Darling, 55, has access to the 21-bedroom grace-and-favour country retreat of Dorneywood, Buckinghamshire and co- owns a family retreat - a croft in the outer Hebrides.

Flipping between his various properties obviously caused something of a headache for the Chancellor, leading to a number of errors in his expenses claims.

He charged the taxpayer for bills relating to his London flat after he had moved out and was renting it to a tenant. The flat had been bought, renovated and furnished with the help of his second-home allowances.


# Big Eye 2012-07-19 06:19
Mr Darling and Mr Brown will no doubt be anxious that Scotland does not exit Gravy City and Westminster anytime soon!
# clootie 2012-07-19 06:21
.......and this is the legal one's. Let's discuss the gold reserves now!

Blair / Brown / Darling - "Scottish socialists" - The Labour party really has lost it's way.
# Macart 2012-07-19 06:49
Who knew????

MPs tryin' tae screw every last penny of public cash they can lay their hands on fer thir ain benefit??

Yer right though clootie, let's move on to the real criminal acts perpetrated in our name. Hundreds of millions squandered on plasma tellies, duck ponds and house flipping is chicken feed compared to the Billions lost through fiscal incompetence and corruption at the highest levels.
# mudfries 2012-07-19 06:39
Shocking stuff, just how much money do these people want! i think by his hand gesture in the picture he may be trying to tell voters what he thinks of them.
# clootie 2012-07-19 06:45

I was going to comment on the hand gesture but resisted.

# mudfries 2012-07-19 17:13
sorry clootie, I couldnt help myself!!
# From The Suburbs 2012-07-19 07:06
Private Eye reported that Gordon Brown, whose appearances in the House of Commons are as frequent as Panda matings, he received £125,000 fee for speaking to Russian bankers and on his annual £550,000 costs of the personal Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to cover "salaries, accommodation costs and staff expenses" from speaking engagements.
# twinpowr 2012-07-19 07:07
if every single one of us writes to our mp's msp's, mep's etc etc. start a petition to get this crazy law overturned we might be successful
# gerrydotp 2012-07-19 07:57
Done - and I provided a link on a blog I frequent to get it to a wider audience.

If the only thing I can be is a thorn in their side, I'll be it.

gerry p
# Roll_On_2011 2012-07-19 07:59
The UK has the best Government that money can buy… and it is bought… time after time after time.

# Soloman 2012-07-19 08:34
Here's me thinking that the picture showed him playing the fiddle, after looking again I realised that there is no fiddle! I'm sure that the word fiddle fits into this story somewhere......
Vote Yes 2014
# UpSpake 2012-07-19 08:44
I think the hand gesture sums up my total feelings on Gordon Brown, the saviour of the world. Total To**er!.
# Leswil 2012-07-19 10:52
labour is rotten through and through, it is littered with money grabbing politicians who only have self benefit at their heart.

Labour supporters need to recognise that
what their party does best is to bleed the "system" dry. All while poverty level in their established voting areas are getting worse, they have no shame.

Labour supporters really need to look clearly and see just how little Labour has done for Scotland and vote accordingly.

Labour voters need to re-appraise what their party actually does for them and Scotland and vote accordingly.
# Dundonian West 2012-07-19 11:17
London's streets are indeed paved with gold----for some.
The reason for being 'BetterTogether'.
I have a plan-----in 2014 Vote YES to independence,an d that stops the Westminster train in a siding somewhere between Crewe and Scotland.
# cokynutjoe 2012-07-19 11:20
Nice work if you can get it for somebody who has been a burden on the public purse since he started school. But then, as he constantly reminded us at every opportunity, he "learned his morality from his father!"
# Giles 2012-07-19 11:45
A Facebook page. LabourforIndepe ndence A very good site I thought. Worth a read. So heartening to see so many Labour people going to vote YES in 2014.

Definately worth a visit
# Dundonian West 2012-07-19 12:37
Thanks. A small start,with the LibDems also setting up a Facebook page on the same independence issue and a return to true liberal values in the Scottish party.
Given the number of 'Likes' both small in number at present.
Disadvantage is every 'Like' is linked to a name,so perhaps there are more,but unwilling to come out of the closet?
CORRECTION. There is an opt-out when registering, to enable your 'Like' details remain hidden
# Robabody 2012-07-19 15:03
Being an old nat (though not the old nat, I hasten to add) and having been exposed to labour for many, many moons, the words Trojans, gifts, and horses spring to mind. So forgive me Giles if I await the 2014 result before I consider facebook pointed to a change in direction for them in 2012. Put it down to me being old (ish - just ish, please note) and cynical.
# Brechin 2012-07-19 16:00
O/T Some rather encouraging news in this article. There's a remarkable bias towards employability of Scottish university graduates, i.e. graduates of Scottish universities. In this Telegraph article, 5 of the top 10 universities for graduate employment are in Scotland. I expect to see this featured heavily in Reporting Scotland this evening.
# Mark 2012-07-19 17:28
Now I know why they are so desperate to stay in the Union!
# peter,aberdeenshire 2012-07-19 20:37
The picture suits Brown perfectly, and I agree with previous comments about Labour politicians. I thought they would as the party of the working man be totally against the honours system but we have Lord Robertson, waste of space, Lord Reid ditto, Lord Prescott, no comment needed etcetera etcetera.
They would recognise neither a principle or a spine if it hit them on the nose.
# Clelland1 2012-07-22 13:40
Who made these awards lawful and how do the public go about changing the law to stop these vile people from getting richer at the peoples expence. If these people think this will continue I can assure them this generation will not let it continue.

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