Expenses row comes back to haunt Brown

Author: Press Association

The individual was involved in editing details of claims for publication, and
had initially been shocked at the way politicians were exploiting generous
Westminster allowances.

But he decided to sell the information to the Daily Telegraph for £110,000
after speaking to soldiers who were earning extra money by moonlighting as
security guards at his office.

The mole describes his motivations for the first time in a behind-the-scenes
book about the scandal, No Expenses Spared, which is published today.

The Telegraph said: “The man behind the leak – who is a civilian – has broken
cover to tell his story for the first time, in the hope that it will shame
the Government into finally supplying the right equipment for soldiers
risking their lives in Afghanistan.”

The MPs’ expenses disclosures led to widespread recriminations, with Gordon
Brown branding it the “biggest parliamentary scandal in two centuries”.

The material exposed practices such as the “flipping” of second homes, expense
claims on non-existent mortgages, and tax avoidance. Moat cleaning and a
duck island were among the things MPs claimed public money for.

The newspaper said employees at The Stationery Office “became so agitated that
they had to be told by managers to calm down” after viewing the claims.

They had been involved in processing more than a million receipts after
parliament had been forced to publish expenses records under freedom of
information laws.

One file that “particularly enraged” the employees was Prime Minister Gordon
Brown’s claim for a Sky TV sports package, which cost £36 per month.

The mole told the newspaper he was angered by politicians who, five months
after the expenses scandal broke, “still don’t get it”, and were still more
concerned about their own financial affairs than the plight of troops.

The mole said: “It’s not easy to watch footage on the television news of a
coffin draped in a Union Jack and then come in to work the next day and see
on your computer screen what MPs are taking for themselves.

“Hearing from the serving soldiers, about how they were having to work there
to earn enough money to buy themselves decent equipment, while the MPs could
find public money to buy themselves all sorts of extravagances, only added
to the feeling that the public should know what was going on.

“That helped tip the balance in the decision over whether I should or should
not leak the expenses data.”

However, the Prime Minister said he did not understand the connection between
the leak and funds for soldiers.

He told Sky News: “As far as the troops in Afghanistan are concerned, right
throughout the period I have been Chancellor and then Prime Minister, I have
been determined to make sure that the troops that are serving our country
are properly paid, that we make proper allowance for them, that we give them
the best equipment, that we help them in every way possible.”

The Daily Telegraph’s assistant editor, Andrew Pierce, defended the decision
to pay for the leaked documents, describing it as “money well spent in the
public interest”.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “We paid £110,000 to the source.

“And let me just say, so far the taxpayer has been reimbursed by MPs £500,000,
and there will be more; we have got a much better Commons as a result of it;
and I think the Telegraph took the decision not lightly, but we were given
24 hours to read that file – it blew our minds when we saw what was in that
file.”

Mr Pierce said the newspaper had “clear evidence” that soldiers were members
of the security team hired as part of the redaction process, even though
Ministry of Defence rules ban them from taking such second jobs.

Some were working to earn “a little bit of extra money to pay for their kids’
Christmas presents”, Mr Pierce said, adding: “But others were there to pay
for essential body armour, gloves, boots, to serve in Afghanistan.

“We have got clear evidence of that.”

An MoD spokesman insisted that service personnel received all the equipment
they need.

“Every soldier who deploys to Afghanistan receives Osprey body armour and a
Mark 6a helmet,” he said.

“They also receive a black bag containing all their operational requirements.
Valued at £3,500, it contains everything a soldier will need, from boots and
socks to camel backs.”

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