You might have thought that MPs had seen enough expenses scandal headlines to learn to err on the side of claiming too little rather than too much. However, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has introduced new rules which allow MPs to register their children in order to claim more expenses.
Some 148 have signed their children up, and some have claimed more than £10,000 as a result.
Children registeredThe figures were revealed by the Daily Telegraph, which gathered them under the Freedom of Information Act. They reported that 148 MPs had registered 300 children with the expenses regulator.
The idea is that MPs need to have a base in their constituency and one in London, and in order to have their children with them in both properties they need more bedrooms - and face higher costs - so the maximum they can claim is boosted by £2,425 for each child that routinely lives with them.
The Independent reported that nine ministerial level MPs were part of the scheme. Those using the scheme include George Osborne (pictured), Danny Alexander, Ed Miliband, and Ed Balls. Every MP who was contacted by the newspaper insisted that they had acted transparently and within the rules, and therefore had done nothing wrong. This is indeed part of the system, approved by the independent body.
Is it right?But it begs the question of whether the system is right. Can you imagine a private sector employee demanding something similar from their boss? While they're at it, why not claim for the costs of childcare or for the therapy the children will need after seeing their parents go through another expenses scandal?
The news comes in the midst of a row over whether MPs should be allowed a £10,000 pay rise after the election - at a time when the rest of the country is facing pay cuts - or taking a job with worse pay after redundancy out of a desperation to work.
The pay rise is being proposed by the independent body, to reflect the cut in expenses and pensions. The chair of the body has insisted this is not being driven by MPs. He added that after this one-off rise it would rise along with average earnings. However, it still leaves a bitter taste for many.
With such an enormous pay rise looming, we are like to see even more scrutiny of the additional perks that MPs receive. Who knew, for example, that MPs can claim the expense of awarding 'modest reward and recognition' payments to their staff. One MP has claimed £3,200 - despite the fact he only has five staff. And who would have thought that they would have been granted up to £3,750 for returning to Westminster after the death of Margaret Thatcher?
While the expenses system has been overhauled to make it more acceptable to taxpayers, you can be sure there will be plenty that will emerge over the coming weeks that will leave us wondering whether this really is any better than the former moat-clearing, duck-house-building system.