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Newspaper Crowdsources 700,000-Page Investigation of MP Expenses 188

Posted by timothy
from the would-like-to-see-this-for-the-us-federal-budget dept.
projector writes with an interesting project from the UK: "The Guardian are crowd-sourcing the investigation of 700,000 pages of UK MPs' expenses data. Readers are being invited to categorize each document, transcribe the handwritten expenses details into an online form and alert the newspaper if any claims merit further investigation. 'Some pages will be covering letters, or claim forms for office stationery. But somewhere in here is the receipt for a duck island. And who knows what else may turn up. If you find something which you think needs further attention, simply hit the button marked "investigate this!" and we'll take a closer look.'"
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Newspaper Crowdsources 700,000-Page Investigation of MP Expenses

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  • Power to the people! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by rvw (755107) on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:52AM (#28386837)
    Do I need to say more?
    • by jabithew (1340853) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:47AM (#28387111)

      Hardly. This is a set of expenses paid for by the taxpayers, and we have also had to pay to have it censored before it was released. Ostensibly this was for privacy, but it was more likely to hide the shame of our MPs. Some of the most unforgivable expenses-laundering (flipping the status of primary and secondary residences to avoid capital gains tax and to gain a property portfolio at our expense) is hidden in the official release. In the meantime the Telegraph got a hold of the unredacted claims a month before now through a leak.

      Also, the Guardian's claim that there's a receipt for a duck-house in there is false, as that claim was rejected and no rejected claims have been released officially. Arguably this is no great omission, but to see what MPs have tried and failed to claim for illuminates their sense of entitlement.

      • I cheated and RTFA. (Score:5, Informative)

        by TapeCutter (624760) * on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:20AM (#28387591) Journal
        "Also, the Guardian's claim that there's a receipt for a duck-house in there is false, as that claim was rejected and no rejected claims have been released officially."

        The Guardian doesn't make that claim, the summary does. The Gaurdian actually backs up your statement that it was rejected...

        "...he admitted claiming £1,645 for a floating "duck island" in his garden...[snip]...a claim for a floating duck island designed to protect his ducks from foxes. This was rejected by the Commons authorities."
      • The Guardian didn't make the comment about the duck house - that was the Telegraph, who managed to get hold of the complete claims database uncensored months ago. They also mentioned it was claimed for but the claim was rejected. That doesn't stop the claim being wrong.
      • Hardly. This is a set of expenses paid for by the taxpayers, and we have also had to pay to have it censored before it was released. Ostensibly this was for privacy, but it was more likely to hide the shame of our MPs. Some of the most unforgivable expenses-laundering (flipping the status of primary and secondary residences to avoid capital gains tax and to gain a property portfolio at our expense) is hidden in the official release. In the meantime the Telegraph got a hold of the unredacted claims a month before now through a leak.

        Although they haven't published it in full yet, preferring to cherry pick. They claim they're going to publish more details tomorrow - we will see. Having now done my share of inputting on the Grauniad's site, I can tell you that I saw one page (John Austin MP) in which the entire page except the amount being claimed was redacted. So we don't know to whom our taxes were paid, and we don't know what for. As far as I'm concerned that is wholly unacceptable.

  • by ammit (1485755) <fizzgiggy@googlemail.com> on Friday June 19, 2009 @04:56AM (#28386855)
    But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.
    • by uglyduckling (103926) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:00AM (#28386879) Homepage
      Yup, and the job of those who oversee and regulate these things is to prevent abuse, so that the same rules that apply when I fill out my tax forms apply to the people that devise the laws that underpin that tax form.
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by ammit (1485755)
        There is a saying "who will guard the guards". Nobody apparently.
        • by calmofthestorm (1344385) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:15AM (#28386947)

          Clearly the solution is to build a massive database monitoring Parliment then lose it in the middle of Trafalgar Square!

        • by seyyah (986027) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:19AM (#28386963)

          There is a saying "who will guard the guards". Nobody apparently.

          The Guardian guards the guards apparently.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by siloko (1133863)

        . . . and the job of those who oversee and regulate these things is to prevent abuse

        Actually not. The office responsible for overseeing MP's expense claims actually saw it as their job to ensure that Members maximised their income within the stated rules. Most of what has happened happened under advice from the guards - they were guarding MP's interests not those of the taxpayer.

    • by routerl (976394) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:27AM (#28387011)

      But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.

      Categorize this as flaming if you wish, but that is exactly the kind of reasoning unscrupulous people use to justify continuing violation of moral and legal conventions. Other variations include but are not limited to "don't hate the player, hate the game" and "screw or be screwed". All amount to the same thing, and all are inexcusable. Believe it or not, the majority of people entrusted with power over the lives of others live up to the minimal expectation that this trust will not be broken. The word that describes this is integrity, and no amount of fallacious reasoning will erase the fact that you lack it.

      • by dcollins (135727)

        I agree, and would add one more commonly-heard rationalization from the 5% sociopath types: "If you're stupid enough to be taken advantage of, you deserve to lose your money."

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by anarchyboy (720565)
      Except for the large number of MPs that didn't claim for everything under the sun. So apparently not everyone would have or did feel the need to steal everything that isn't bolted down.
      • Yup, my MP claimed a very moderate set of expenses. To be honest, I'd rather he'd claimed more and actually done his job. He has one of the lowest attendance records for votes, and the very few times when he's voted against his party his vote has been counter to the interests of his constituents, the country as a whole, or (most often) both.
        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by anarchyboy (720565)
          Yes to be honest the amount of tax payers money being wasted on these kinds of expenses is nothing compared to the millions and millions being spent on things like identity cards the god awfull new NHS computer system and nuclear weapons. I would have no problem with MPs being paid much more if they actually did their jobs properly, it would probably end up cheaper.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by newcastlejon (1483695)
      I can honestly say I wouldn't. I became a civil servant because *gasp* I actually enjoy being of service to others. I heartily recommend it; the pay is decent and you get the Queen's birthday off.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by CarpetShark (865376)

      I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same

      Which is why we shouldn't be electing just anyone, but testing their ethics and wisdom etc. at least, or better yet, not electing representatives at all.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same...it's called the human condition. You are given the power to abuse something and you think nobody will notice....so you do. Flame away but i probably would have.

      I doubt almost everybody, but yeah a lot of people would. Which just makes it even more important not to let them get away with it. So that you and everybody else will think twice in the same situation.

    • by slim (1652)

      I think it's more that in certain circles it became so endemic that people thought it was normal and allowed.

      In a sense, people felt as if the expenses system was a perk to go with their salary - like a company car or a healthcare package.

    • by itsdapead (734413) on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:00AM (#28387491)

      Flame away but i probably would have.

      Would have what?

      Claimed 39p for a Mars Bar - or continued to claim hundreds of pounds a month for interest on a mortgage that no longer existed? Claimed that you needed to subscribe to such-and-such magazine as part of your job, or played complex second home/primary residence "flipping" shenanigans in order to get both nicely tricked out at taxpayers' expense - but then tell a different story to the revenue when it came to capital gains tax?

      Thing is, when the Telegraph got their original leaked, uncensored information, they did a masterful job of padding out the really serious stuff with lots of trivia. What you say is true of much of the trivia - if you can claim it, why not? But the big money stuff is not excusable.

      Bear in mind that this is the same administration that is putting out the "No Ifs, No Buts" adverts telling the "little people" claiming state benefit exactly how hard the book will be thrown at them if they are not scrupulously honest.

      The annoying thing is that the fallout from this is probably going to be a bureaucracy-laden system that costs the taxpayers 100 quid for every 50 quid claimed and lots of silly regulations that will trickle down to everybody else who ever claims expenses.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by fedtmule (614169)
      I am with you on this one. Especially, since the bad behavior had decades to build up. What I do not get, is why the British don't just pay the MPs a fixed amount for the expense of maintaining an extra home. If they use less, they stuff it untaxed in their pocket. If they use more, they take it nondeductible from their pocket. Seems fair to me. After all, if you want your second home to be a small castle, should you not pay for it yourself? I have heard about this case, only from our local reporters (a l
      • What I do not get, is why the British don't just pay the MPs a fixed amount for the expense of maintaining an extra home. If they use less, they stuff it untaxed in their pocket. If they use more, they take it nondeductible from their pocket.

        That sounds suspiciously like .... a wage! The horror!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drsmithy (35869)

        What I do not get, is why the British don't just pay the MPs a fixed amount for the expense of maintaining an extra home.

        What I do not get, is why the public are paying for an extra home in the first place. Even more so for buyng a second home vs renting one.

        I have heard about this case, only from our local reporters (a live in Denmark, Scandinavia) and they talked of different remedies proposed. And all I could here, was more and more bureaucracy.

        Here's a simple solution: don't pay for a second home

    • by khakipuce (625944)

      Thing is they should have had the political balls to pay them selves a salary comensurate with their (percieved) status rather than hiding it in expenses - it was bound to catch them out sooner or later. However sucessive governments have failed to up the salaries, and to compensate they have made the expenses system increasingly lax.

      That way if we thought they paid themselves too much we could vote them out at the next election, personally I don't mind them getting similar average salaries to that of prof

    • by sribe (304414)

      But I'm pretty sure that almost ANYONE in their shoes would have done the same..

      There are plenty of people in this world who would not have done so because they are inherently honest, not merely honest when they know they're being watched.

      Flame away but i probably would have.

      So, like many inherently dishonest people, you don't understand that most people are actually not like you, but are driven by their own ethical standards, not mere fear of discovery.

  • by freedom_india (780002) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:18AM (#28386959) Homepage Journal

    Why don't our corporate controlled, drug-addled newspapers act like their British counterparts?
    Ours is a direct republic, so in theory, our press must be more active in exposing the illegal, false and corrupt expense accounts of the numerous Ted Stevens clones that walk the same halls that Lincoln and Jackson walked.
    Why don't our media have a daily expose show at 7 PM detailing the latest claims our diseased congressmen and senators claim as expenses?
    British press is so Cool!

    • by ionix5891 (1228718) on Friday June 19, 2009 @06:10AM (#28387233)

      British press is so Cool!

      you obviously never seen The Sun or the Daily Mail

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by m.ducharme (1082683)

        Every paper in the US is the Sun or the Daily Mail. Actually, I retract that, they're not that bad, but very few people read them anymore. Everyone in the US get's their news from the TV. Every news broadcast is the Sun or the Daily Mail.

    • by sqldr (838964) on Friday June 19, 2009 @06:59AM (#28387483)

      It works both ways. The British government and the American government simultaneously had meetings with the Federal Reserve and the Bank of England 2 days ago.

      Obama came out with tough new regulations. Gordon Brown came saying one wishy washy thing, whilst the Bank of England didn't get the tougher regulations they were asking for, and now want to challenge the government in court.

      And as for the British press being cool, here's a quick rundown:

      The Sun: Trashy tabloid, most popular paper, tells thick people who to vote for. Banned in Liverpool after a controversial story suggesting Liverpool fans were responsible for the Hillsborough disaster

      The Mirror: Wishes it was the sun. Even more trashy.

      The Times: Owned by Murdoch, like the Sun, but seems to understand that its readerbase has brains, whilst trying to slip political opinion through without you noticing.

      The Independent: "independent", my arse. I used to read this. As much as I was against the Iraq war, I don't appreciate being lectured on it on a daily basis. They like preaching to the converted. People supposedly buy this one because it lacks opinion. The editor is best mates with the head of MI6. Also horrifically boring.

      The Daily Mail: Right wing christian crap, obsessed with house prices and Elizabeth Hurley. Encourages people who haven't even watched the show to complain to the BBC about someone saying something rude, and complain they do, in their thousands.

      The Guardian: They write this in a very small font, just so they can fit in the HUGE essays written by political activists who like to drone on and on and on about some green issue whilst everyone else has fallen asleep. You can read the entirety of the Sun in the time it takes to read the front page of the Guardian.

      The Telegraph: Like the Daily Mail, but with less readers. Also obsessed with Elizabeth Hurley. Source of the expenses scandal, which they've been milking for nearly 2 months now. Ok, the MPs did wrong, but they also have jobs to do, and all they've been doing for the past 2 months is apologise, resign, and shout at eachother.

      The People: Apparently still running. First UK paper to be printed in colour, but I haven't seen it on sale anywhere for years.

      Metro: Free newspaper found outside tube and train stations. Written by the same company as the daily mail, but with all the political bias taken out. Designed to be read in 20 minutes. Always has a stupid non-news story on page 3 about someone's pet cat climbing Everest or something. Letters page

      Various regional newspapers: "Local man bitten by local dog in local park". Win tickets to see Neasden FC playing this Saturday!!!

      Private Eye: Fortnightly paper. Reports on the newspapers themselves. Prints stuff that newspapers don't dare print from freelance journalists because of the potential implications. Editor is Ian Hislop who is "the most sued man in Britain". Very cynical, and often quite funny.

      So. The British press is shit.

      • Thanks for the MUCH, MUCh detailed explanation of each newspaper in UK.
        I used to like The Times occassionally for its 4th page reporting when i was i London, but i prefer the web for news.
        Thanks once again.
        Someone please mod him up!

      • So. The British press is shit.

        Hey! What about The Register?

        • by L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:38AM (#28387697)
          What [theregister.co.uk] about [theregister.co.uk] the [theregister.co.uk] Register? [theregister.co.uk]

          The Register is the IT version of The Sun; A Red Top tabloid.
          • The Register (Score:3, Insightful)

            The Register is the IT version of The Sun; A Red Top tabloid.

            Not quite. The Register deliberately copies several traits from the tabloids. The red masthead is the most obvious of these. They also use a lot of slang, and run plenty of trashy comedy stories. However, these are always reported in a very cynical and/or tongue-in-cheek fashion, not at all like the crap you read in newspapers like The Sun.

            What's more, when it comes to their tech-related articles (the majority of their output) they often publish some very interesting pieces of investigative journalism. They

            • It never used to be like that.

              If they're parodying tabloid journalism, they've done it so well that I actually don't read it that much anymore. I'd rather either come to /. or read a tech mag without Lester Haines "Odds and Sods" (read: nudity, profanity, or just plain non-IT related crap) or Orlowski's "Ooooh I can be Jeremy Vine too! I'm so controversial!" P2P articles. In fact, I'm swapping the Reg RSS feed for Ars right now.

              The Register has become that which, you state, it parodies.
            • by Xest (935314)

              It's a matter of consistency. Some articles and journalists aren't too bad to be fair.

              But then you have people like Andrew Orlowski who make the entire site just look like a joke, he comes across as Sarah Palin with a blog rather than a professional IT journalist. He's neither professional, nor a journalist. I've noticed he is quite prone to mood swings - one week file sharers are the most evil people on earth and the next he's agreeing with them whilst referring to them as "freetards" still. Of course, dis

          • by Xest (935314)

            The Sun actually seems to accept that it caters to stupid people though.

            The Register is more like the Daily Mail, self appointed moral defender of the internet that is more often wrong in it's opinion pieces than not but doesn't like to hear it and so heavily moderates or outright disables comments in response to stories that deep down even it knows are stupid.

            I agree though, it's an atrociously bad site.

          • by sqldr (838964)

            The Register is the IT version of The Sun; A Red Top tabloid.

            The difference is, The Register is unashamedly and admittedly biased. They say what they think and tell you that. The Sun pretends it isn't, and has some idea that it represents the moral backbone of society.

      • by Wizard Drongo (712526) <(wizard_drongo) (at) (yahoo.co.uk)> on Friday June 19, 2009 @07:43AM (#28387727)

        Very true..
        To add to this, a scottish perspective (and maybe a little backdrop since the main papers here are basically either independent politically, and stick to to whomever they feel deserves it, SNP-loyal, or Labour-loyal; all the papers are much more political in Scotland) would be to add in the Scottish dailies; obviously i'm not going to include the "scottish" Sun etc. since they are exactly the same as the UK version, just with a story about how all Scots are thieving lying benefit-scheating heroin addicts every 2 pages...

        The Record: Biggest scottish daily. Owned by trinity mirror, much like the Mirror itself, really. Heavily, extremely pro-Labour, anti-SNP, anti-Scotland and anti-anything-Labour-tell-them-to-be. On the day of the 2007 Scottish elections (which the SNP won), their editorial predicted a plague on all your houses if you vote SNP etc. Going out of business fairly soon if they continue to lose readers...

        The Scotsman: broadsheet, mostly independent; seems to moderately support the SNP now, as well as other liberal ideals. Quite a nice paper, if I bought a daily it'd probably be this...

        The Herald: broadsheet; biggest selling "proper" paper in Scotland now, having overtaken the Scotsman. Politically independent (mostly), and will occasionally criticise Labour or SNP alike. May well be also folding, many many job losses in recent years.

        There are others but I can't be bothered and they're mostly all small-fry anyway....

        • by sqldr (838964)
          Sorry, yes, I forgot the Scottish ones (not been to scotland since I cycled to John o Groats), and the Express! The express makes me giggle. More than 10 years after an open-and-shut case where someone who was drunk was speeding in a tunnel to get away from paparazzi hit a pillar, people still buy it in the vague hope that there's some NEW news about this 12 year old MAJOR MURDERING CONTROVERSY ZOMG!!!
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by ettlz (639203)
        Now hang on, you forgot The Sport!
      • > The Daily Mail: Right wing christian crap...

        these days it's probably more accurate to say Right-wing, Middle-england [wikipedia.org] crap. The rest is spot-on though. And if you're going to say the Daily mail, Telegraph etc are right-wing, you should probably point out that the Grauniad is generally left-wing.

        > The People: Apparently still running. First UK paper to be printed in colour...

        I thought that was Eddie Shah's Today [wikipedia.org] in the 80s

        Oh and you forgot

        The Daily Express: More Right-wing, Middle-england crap. Obsess

      • You can also add to the list, "Daily Express: see Daily Mail"

      • by bmsleight (710084) on Friday June 19, 2009 @09:15AM (#28388647) Homepage
        the best explanation of newspapers was given in "Yes Minister"

        The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country
        The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country
        The Times is read by people who actually do run the country
        the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country
        the Financial Times is read by people who own the country
        The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country
        The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is
        Sun readers donâ(TM)t care who runs the country, as long as sheâ(TM)s got big tits

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        This reminds me of one of the best quotes from "Yes, Minister"

        From http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Yes,_Minister

        Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers:
        The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country;
        The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country;
        The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country;
        The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country;
        The Financial Times is read by people who own the country

      • by jonbryce (703250)

        You forgot the Daily Express

        A wannabe Daily Mail which is obsessed with House Prices, Princess Diana and Madeline McCann.

    • As I understand it, the US mainstream media is almost entirely owned by a small handful of companies.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concentration_of_media_ownership [wikipedia.org]

      They often have a vested interest in the stories they choose to report on or avoid.

      e.g.

      > Reporters Steve Wilson and Jane Akre were first asked by FOX News and later bribed,
      > to downplay a story they had on a cancer-causing growth hormone called Posilac
      > which is growth hormone for dairy cows which is absorbed by humans through milk.
      > Th

  • Duck Islands (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CmdrGravy (645153) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:20AM (#28386969) Homepage

    As it happens though the claim for the duck island does not appear in the official expenses data as it's blacked out along with, I would guess, almost anything else likely to cause embarrassment for the MP.

    Apparently once the fees office had blacked out the bits they didn't think the public should see the MPs had several months to look at their own claims and recommend any other sections they didn't think should be public so when you look at the actual claims, and some MPs are much worse than others, there is an awful lot you can't see.

    What really pisses me off is the string of MPs saying

    "Well my claim was completely within the rules and I have done nothing wrong however I now realise the rules were horribly wrong and fundamentally flawed so what we need to do is change the rules to make them stricter."

    No ! What you need to do is behave in an honest and honourable fashion and not try to screw the system for as much as you think you can get away with.

    • by abigsmurf (919188)

      They black out anything which reveals personal details of the person (addresses and phone numbers) claiming the expenses and details of the people they are purchasing off of.

      It wouldn't exactly be fair for you to wake up one morning with 1000 press outside your house because you sold something on ebay and it was claimed for, revealing your name and address.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by sumdumass (711423)

      As it happens though the claim for the duck island does not appear in the official expenses data as it's blacked out along with, I would guess, almost anything else likely to cause embarrassment for the MP.

      How about because it was denied reimbursement? The article links to specifically states that.

      Apparently once the fees office had blacked out the bits they didn't think the public should see the MPs had several months to look at their own claims and recommend any other sections they didn't think should

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by NinjaCoder (878547)
        These guys wrote the rules; but put in a get-out clause for themselves. For example, I am self-employed. But I can't claim for household goods, food, decoration and cleaning for a 2nd home when I need to work from home. I can reimburse myself from my company, right enough, but then the taxman taxes that as a benefit. In the tax code there is a specific clause releasing MPs from this. When I sell a second home, the tax man can claim a chunk of the profits; when they sell a second home they can designat
        • by sumdumass (711423)

          Most of the rules were developed probably before these MPs got into office.

          It's pretty much the same in the US. The difference between them and your company is that your job doesn't require you to be in different places for extended periods of time. If it did, there would likely be a per diem deduction in which you would get that covers much of the stuff the congress and MP's get reimbursed on. In the US, the Representative or Senator is required to maintain residence in the district and states they represe

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            We are allowed £12 per day for overnight stays away from home. MPs get a lot more than that.

  • WhatTheyClaimed (Score:5, Informative)

    by Tomun (144651) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:28AM (#28387021)

    The mySociety folk that created TheyWorkForYou, PledgeBank and others have their own MP expenses site and also want your help. See here: http://whattheyclaimed.com/ [whattheyclaimed.com]

    • Mod Parent Up (Score:3, Informative)

      by TheRaven64 (641858)
      The mySociety folk have done some really great work. They run TheyWorkForYou which gives you detailed reports on how your MP voted and everything they've said in Parliament, and WriteToThem, which provides a very easy way of writing to your representatives and collating information about how often MPs respond to letters. They are also responsible for the petitions.gov.uk site. It's really great to see them getting involved here.
  • Waste of time? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xest (935314) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:29AM (#28387025)

    Anyone who has seen the expenses will know that the important stuff is all blanked out.

    There are pages that are entirely black in there.

    There are pages that say things like:

    "Dear xx, here is your invoice of £2,500 for the following work:" ...and then everything below it blanked out.

    The BBC had a copy of Gordon Brown's uncensored expenses document and compared it to the official version. The uncensored version said "£99.00 Sky TV", the censored version just said "£99.00".

    The whole thing is a farce, we need to get the uncensored version - there was suggestion yesterday the Telegraph who obtained the leaked uncensored versions would release them to the public today but I've heard nothing more since.

    There are some gems in the official version, under MP Ian Cawsey's expenses I noticed he'd sponsored a local football team £300, and then charged the tax payer for that sponsorship via the expenses system, but I feel if we start this now we'll only need to start right over when we do finally get hold of the uncensored version.

    I suppose there's an argument finding breaches in the official release will allow us to apply more pressure to get the uncensored version though maybe? I'd have thought people's time would be better spent actually pressuring for the release though of the uncensored versions overall and then do something like this.

    Still, good work to the Guardian for working with what we have at least, you can't fault them for that.

    • Re:Waste of time? (Score:5, Informative)

      by Halo1 (136547) <jonas.maebe@elis ... .be minus author> on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:34AM (#28387053) Homepage

      The Telegraph will publish the uncensored versions [telegraph.co.uk] over the coming days.

      • by Xest (935314)

        Cheers, looks like they've already published some although a little dissapointing - they've still black out some data although they claim it's only address.

        Frankly I don't buy the security argument for addresses and was hoping the Telegraph wouldn't either.

        As MPs seem so intent on collecting all our data, they should have no problem with us having theirs. Anyone who is a security threat could find out where they live regardless.

        • by rich_r (655226)
          The Telegraph may not buy it either, but by redacting the addresses they can continue to use the 'in the public interest' argument. If they start printing addresses, then it becomes a whole different kettle of fish as that was the one thing the Information Commisioner was allowing to be blacked out, with the exception of the first 3 chars of the postcode.

          Personally, I think they should have been published intact by the Commons, but that's just my opinion!

          • by Xest (935314)

            It's a fair point and I did wonder if they did it to cover themselves but I'd still rather have seen them make a stand!

            It'd be nice if they did the right thing and leaked it anonymously as a torrent ;)

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by niks42 (768188)
      There are some cracking findings in there .. what amazes me is the complete switch in perception. Diane Abbott is almost a paragon of virtue because the only thing she does is to take the maximum allowance of £250 a month for her "petty cash". I had a look at Tim Yeo, wondered how anyone could spend £1200 in a month on a mobile phone bill on a regular basis. But then, he did spend £3000 on some shelving for his office, so maybe he has expensive tastes (at our expense). I
      • Re:Waste of time? (Score:4, Informative)

        by Xest (935314) on Friday June 19, 2009 @06:28AM (#28387337)

        Yeah, this is what amazes me, and this is the stuff they didn't censor. That's why I think we really need to know the stuff that was censored.

        We already know they censored some pretty major stuff, so it suggests they actually think the stuff that isn't censored is all okay.

        As you say there's a lot of stuff like the £250 petty cash, the £400 food allowances and so on, but there's also a lot of small staff that across all claims will instead add up. Using Ian Cawsey as an example again he paid £26 for a hanging basket and a watering service, £26 is little, but he could've paid £5 for the hanging basket and watered it himself, £21 saving isn't a lot, but that £21 that could've bought another text book at a school - across all expenses and MPs however many textbooks for schools can we not afford for even the small expenditures?

        A major attitude change is indeed required and not just in government but right across public sector from schools to police to MPs (I use to work in public sector for just over 5 years FWIW) no thought whatsoever goes into how can I ensure I do this in a manner fair to tax payers. They just assume money grows on trees, because the government provides an endless supply of cash. When a department head says they don't have enough money the government just pays them more, the real answer should be to sack him and get someone that can do the job on budget.

        I'm concerned that no media outlet has really made the connection yet - that maybe this isn't just a problem with MPs and the issue spreads right across public sector. Some council heads get paid £250,000 a year, far more than any MP and get expenses as well - we should be scrutinising that lot as well as MPs. We need a nationwide re-evaluation of how tax payer money is used. If any amount of fairness was injected into the system as a result I guarantee you we could shave a good few % off of everyone's tax and still have no detriment to public services whatsoever, hell, I saw literally millions thrown down the drain first hand when I worked in public sector, but good luck finding any manager who cares. It needs to come from the top down, starting with the MPs and absolutely not stopping at the MPs.

    • Gordon Brown watches Sky News? No wonder!

    • Geez, you'd think the PM could get a better deal than $200/mo. for satellite... Not saying he should get special privileges, but dammit man, shop around!
  • WOW (Score:3, Informative)

    by xlotlu (1395639) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:31AM (#28387033)

    Just WOW. Look at all the shenanigans they dug out in just one day: http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/blog/2009/jun/18/mps-expenses-houseofcommons [guardian.co.uk]

    Great idea and good job Guardian.

  • They will get 690,000 pages tagged investigate this. Given an open and apparently unchecked money source the MP's will have pushed every last thting they can through the system. I've heard a few people on the news saying that we should think ourselves lucky because corruption in other (developing) nations is so much worse. That has got to be one of the most idiotic arguments I've ever heard. I'm not about to advocate stringing them up but there are at least a few cases that should be investigated by the pol

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jabithew (1340853)

      MPs salary, pension and expenses are exempt from tax [private-eye.co.uk], unlike standard practice in the private sector. Everyone's first home is free from capital gains tax, MPs just allowed themselves to claim a home was their secondary residence for expenses purposes and then claim it was a primary residence for tax purposes, occasionally at the same time [wikipedia.org].

      Exempting themselves from the tax system is a good sign of tyranny, not to mention hypocrisy.

  • by newcastlejon (1483695) on Friday June 19, 2009 @05:44AM (#28387097)

    Hacker: Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers: the Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country; and The Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it already is.

    Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?

    Bernard: Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DGscoaUWW2M for those who'd like to see the original

  • Apparently this site runs Django [simonwillison.net], and was built in but a few days. Great show of open source power there! Worth a mention IMHO.

  • Do we really need buzzwords for everything. "Crowd sourcing" isn't really new- it's called team work.

    *sigh*

  • A page reload for every mouse click and scroll down every time because of all the useless crap at the top of the page? They'd get ten times more results if they employed somebody who know basic HTML 3.0 instead of all this new-fangled stuff.
  • by danlip (737336) on Friday June 19, 2009 @10:53AM (#28390089)

    Viggers also claimed for 28 tonnes of manure

    He's a politician, that sounds like a genuine work expense.

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