But it is not just a story about venal, possibly fraudulent individuals. The system that the MPs evolved for themselves is a royal mess, just like so any other systems that Parliament produces, including the useless First Past the Post electoral system that puts them there.
The Commons fees office (Director: Andrew Walker) not only failed to quality check the MPs claims, they actively encouraged a house "flip" (changing and charging on first and second homes).
This from the Guardian:
"Yesterday the Conservative MP Steve Crabb said he had been encouraged to maximise his claims by a fees office employee who suggested the MP "switch" his properties. Crabb said "an official in the fees office" told him: "Steve, I'm looking at your allowances and you've spent hardly anything." Crabb then described the official as saying: "You'd get more for your allowances if you switched [the second home he claimed on]."
Crabb "flipped" the home he described as his second home and then claimed £9,300 in stamp duty on the new residence and £1,325 a month in interest on his mortgage. He was able to switch after renting a room from MP Daniel Kawczynski. In all, he has claimed £67,633 in second home expenses since 2005".So there we have it. The Civil Service must shoulder some of the blame.
Expenses claim systems are a way of begging for innaccuracies, dodgy practice and fraud. They are paperwork heavy, need loads of receipts, book-keeping, accountancy and checking. Like the FPTP voting system, the MP expenses scheme is not fit for purpose.
It has got to be abolished, and a better way to cover the need of MPs to live in London must be put in place. A hostel/hall of residence is suggested, but this has not been thought through option. Clearly, it would quickly degenerate into chaos, with MPs hitting each other with wet towels, arranging dangerous booby-traps, and b*ggering each other. It is a is a punitive remedy, but not really sustainable, because the quality of candidate would fall even further, and let's face it, the office of MP is vital for democracy, and they deserve to go back to a homely place at the end of the day.
So the obvious clear and simple answer is to give them a flat rate London Living Allowance, sufficient to rent a decent flat or house in London. Eliminate the time-wasting farce of expenses claims altogether.