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Watchdog brought a halt to MPs' expenses bonanza

UNTIL two years ago, most MPs at Westminster regarded the expenses system as a handy and legal way of topping up their salary with a regular tax-free source of cash.

But when the details of the abuse of the system emerged in 2009 after a Freedom of Information request, the gravy train came to an abrupt halt. The days of claims for duck houses and subsidised jobs for family members were over.

In 2009, a new watchdog body, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority was set up. It is a bureaucratic organisation which has infuriated politicians by operating in an extremely rigorous fashion.

Under the new regime, MPs can still rake in the equivalent of around €230,000 every year.

That's about three times their actual annual salary but they have to justify every expenses item and provide receipts.

The new rules now forbid them to travel first class on trains and they are not allowed to employ more than one member of their family.

Mileage claims for car travel have been restricted to the equivalent of 45 cent a mile and, for politicians who do more than 10,000 miles in a year, the rate is cut to 29 cent.

Their right to get cash for accommodation while they are away from home and working at Westminster has also been tightened up.

Irish Independent