back to article Hunt for MPs' expenses leaker hots up

More details have emerged about how confidential information on MPs' expenses might have found its way into the hands of journalists. The information, which has led to a string of articles that exposed how elected representatives made a series of questionable claims, was purchased by the Daily Telegraph from a seller who offered …

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Pirate

who gives a fuck about the leaker?

he's a fucking hero and the government are trying to deflect this story as some sort of leak, they'll probably call him a terrorist next.

the sponging bastards should be hanging their heads in shame...or just hanging...anyone got a rope?

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LPF
Paris Hilton

Hmmmm dirty tricks already

Looks like a lot of people in fleet street are gutted as the telegraphs circulation must be going though the roof.

whether they sold it or not , what they did was massively in the public interest, and seeing as the

data would have been released anyway due to the FOIA ruling, all they have done is make sure

that it has been released early and not been sanitized.

They may well be charged , but unless they have a jury filled with MP's they aren't getting convicted!

Paris, because she earns enough not to fiddle her expenses

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Paris Hilton

Yes - lets find this leaker...

Then we can nominate them for a citizens knighthood.

Paris - because she knows all about leaks.

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Flame

Amateurish?

Either that or the seller of the information didn't trust the 'Mail' to actually fact-check and analyse the data properly before beginning the witch-hunt? There's a reason that most of the UK knows the negative connotations of the phrase "Daily Mail journalism".

Not that the Telegraph is well-known for being impartial either...

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Anonymous Coward

Maybe they didn't try to sell it ot the Daily Fail

because they wanted it to go to a 'proper' newspaper?

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Joke

common we all know it

was the cleaner they can get everywhere

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Pirate

Heart in right place, brain gone AWOL

This is the way I see it;

1) The public needs to know - I concur. We, the tax-paying public, should know how our money is being spent, especially during a recession when we're being told to tighten our belts and spend less (unless it's on a car or at the bank)

2) Fraud? - Whether all of this consitutes fraud is down to the police and the CPS. There is a fine line between ill-advised expenses and fraud.

3) Where did the £300,000 go? - Straight into the pockets of those who sold the information. Did it go back to the tax-payer? Did it hell. At least someone's doing something to avoid the "credit crunch"

The way I see it, we needed to know. Conversely, if the perpetrators are discovered, I think they should be looking at theft, selling stolen goods, privacy charges (this information is, after all, somewhat private - what was spent is not private, who spent it, is.)

</2 cents>

Sjull and corssbones because we shopuld hang, draw and quarter them, becuase they did it to make money, not for the common good.

Arrrrrrr!

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Coat

The Mail

"Fleet Street insiders describe the deal at amateurish, mainly because neither the Daily Mail nor the Mail on Sunday, the two papers likely to pay the highest fees, were offered the scoop."

Amateur or not he certainly goes way up in my estimation for not dealing with those right wing, racist pricks...

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Joke

amateurish? Clued up i'd say

"Fleet Street insiders describe the deal at amateurish, mainly because neither the Daily Mail nor the Mail on Sunday, the two papers likely to pay the highest fees".

Err perhaps they didn't want the information dismissed as yet another "Diana / think of the children" story.

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Unhappy

Nice to see...

That the true criminal is being chased here.

All this draws attention away from the widespread fraudulent behaviour of the people who are actually meant to be representing us.

Benefit cheats, that's what I call them.

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Black Helicopters

Whatever...

...the legalities, bringing proof of such a systematic abuse of our tax payments should attract a public interest immunity.

Failure to recognise this will smear 'the authorities' even more, and widen the gap of cynicism currently existing (and growing) between the government and the governed.

Put simply, they've had their chance and blown it and any attempt to pursue the whistle-blowers will be seen as an act of petty vindictive revenge.

That will go such a long way to restore our credence in Parliament & it's members...

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maybe he didnt like the

daily hate or the hate on sunday.

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Happy

Britain's got Talent!

Surely profiting from the sale of ones' ( and others') integrity is just an audition to join the serious offenders wing in the House of Commons!

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Data Security

If only this information had been stored on a decent secure database like the new ContactPoint system. Then such a leak would have been impossible.

Also, the disclosure was definitely in the public interest, even though it was driven by greed, not altruism.

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Go

If ever ...

... the person or persons are identified I hope that:

1 - they will be given police protection

2 - they will be nominated for a knighthood and rather swiftly knighted for protecting the realm from enemies within

Same goes for the broker and others involved.

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Flame

Just a guess

I recon its by someone that knew how to operate a computer, shock horror!! MP's prove too idiotic to know how to secure thier PC's.

Its almost as shocking as finding out politicians are all liers and theives.

I would like to know why this information was not publicly available in the first place. They are spending our money, why can't we know what on?

They should all be strung up for treason and the whistle blower should have a Lenin style statue in their honor.

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Silver badge

Or maybe...

> How someone managed to smuggle data from a classified machine onto a (presumably) external hard disc

Perhaps they just bought a second hand drive on eBay...!

Of course what this story really shows is, like the nurse who blew the whistle on the terrible treatment given to patients, The Powers That Be will come down on you like a ton of bricks if you make them look bad :-(

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Ian

Maybe the person is actually intelligent?

Seriously, if they're the ones who've been busy comitting character assassination against Jacqui Smith and as they're now showing MPs for being the bunch of fraudsters they are this person seems generally quite good.

Maybe the reason they didn't contact The Daily Mail is because they also know it's an idiot publication? I guess the fact they went to The Sun kind of dampens that theory a bit but who knows?

They've certainly done the country a massive bunch of favours in defaming Jacqui Smith and showing up MPs for what they are so they can't be too stupid.

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Anonymous Coward

Payment reasonable

Whoever leaked the information may have already lost their job or they will if/when they are caught. They can then expect to go to prison and be unable to get a sensible job afterwards. It therefore seems quite reasonable that this person seeks to secure their future (and maybe that of their family) as part of the deal. Let's face it, the newspapers are not charities and fully expect that paying for such information is a worthwhile investment in terms of sales.

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Stop

To all those who think this guy's a fucking hero

You are wrong.

This information was going to be in the public domain soon enough. Selling this information to a single paper is the worst thing that could happen from a public interest view point - probably even worse than if it had never seen the light of day.

By only letting the Torygraph have access to the information, a single newspaper editor has been able to decide what gets released, in what order and what initial spin is put on it. When the other paper's eventually get full access to the data and find something juicy that the Torygraph chose to with-hold, there's a fair chance that the stories will be ignored (or atleast not get the attention they deserve) as MP's expenses will be old news.

More over, if this person has full access to the data and is willing to be bribed - how do we know that when the full information comes out, the information about David Cameron's rent boy expenses haven't already been deleted?

If this guy had submitted everything free of charge to wikileaks, then maybe you could call him a hero. As things stand, he is a money grubbing piece of scum, worse than the worst of the MPs - £50,000 analysis fees for fucks sake, for what probably amounts to a few Excel functions/SQL queries.

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Anonymous Coward

@LPF et al.

The main difference I think here is that as you state the data would have been sanitised. This would have removed names and addresses and other such details and therefore made it virtually impossible to find tricks like switching primary & secondary residences for CGT avoidance, claiming for an already paid off mortgage, claiming for a second home 80 miles from both constituency and parliament, claiming for second homes 200 yards from primary homes, husband & wives each making the same claim and a multitude of other sins.

It is unfortunate that the mole(s) sold the data though as they will have destroyed any public interest / whistleblower defence and when caught are extremely likely to get prosecuted big time. For those claiming a jury wouldn't convict them just remember that in the grand scale of things your MP may have stolen a few tens of thousands or even a hundred grand by abusing the system but the person who sold this data has made 300 Gs tax free through straight theft. How long would you have to work to make that kind of money?

I am glad they did it though, it would have been better if they'd not made money out of the whole thing.

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Gold badge

Re: Payment reasonable

"They can then expect to go to prison and be unable to get a sensible job afterwards."

I disagree with your analysis. They probably will face the fate you suggest, but that is *because* they sought and accepted payment, rather than taking the moral high ground that would be necessary to support a "public interest" defence.

It's a curious thing to leak anyway, since the data was due to be published next month.

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MP's angry at losing their own data shocker!

I saw Margaret Beckett on question time the other night saying how shocked and angry herself and fellow MP's were that this information had personal details of staff in and that it could now be in the hands of anyone. (Anyone obviously being the Daily Telegraph!)

Well, Beckett, Smith, Brown & Co. perhaps you'll stop losing OUR bloody personal details now, all 37 miilion pieces of it in 2008. And perhaps you'll give a bit of consideration to the amount of data you're wanting to store on us all for your "prevention of terrorism" reasons too.

A bit different when the (jack)boot is on the other foot isn't it?!?

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Dan
Thumb Up

Profit and altruism are not ALWAYS mutually exclusive

Just because the seller made a profit does not automatically mean they were motivated just by greed. I'd have looked for a hefty payment in his shoes, but I was also VERY keen on this data becoming public for the right reasons. If the MPs have their way, this person will be pursued to the ends of the earth for doing it, so some cash to enable the covering of tracks, a bit of travelling etc is perfectly reasonable.

If their identity is uncovered, s/he should be given a knighthood anyway.

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Go

The Daily Heil

Would have found a way to blame it on immigrants, paedo's & terrorists. And possibly Nazi Squirrels...

I vote* that this person is identified, gets a new bank holiday named after them (July would be good), and is put in charge of the "independent review" that Gordon Brown wants to look at all the claims.

* like voting means anything these days? "which robbing bastard of this selection of robbing bastards would you like to be robbed by?"

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Gold badge

"...enough supporting paperwork to fill a van...."

Unless, of course, both the claims and electronic copies of the supporting paperwork were on the HDD in question.

That makes far more sense.

As for "how", given the recent piss-poor performance of HMG in retaining data and the associated revelations on their data security, this is obviously the work of l33t h4x0r d00d t3rr0r1sts. Only they would have been able to master the arcane technical intricacies of "drag icon of folder x onto external drive y".

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@ Payment reasonable

"They can then expect to go to prison"

Only if found guilty. Finding a jury that will convict him won't be easy.

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Black Helicopters

@Lee

>> The main difference I think here is that as you state the data would have been sanitised ... and therefore made it virtually impossible to find tricks like switching primary & secondary residences for CGT avoidance...

That's quite a good point, it's possible that any sanitisation process could make data less useful. However that only makes selling the unsanitised data to a single news paper even worse. That means that there may be certain MPs up to all sorts of dirty tricks, who the Telegraph chose not to name and shame - which we will never find out about.

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Stop

@steogede

No. You are wrong.

The expenses data for MPs (and their affliates) are withheld from FOIA in the main. Whilst a certain degree of data regarding the actual sums are revealed in a fixed report, the details of receipts, purchases and the names of those associated are withheld by rules established by the Speaker of the House.. ..and thats why the current speaker is in so much trouble: He's had his hand in the till amongst the worst of them and is now battling to keep that involvement (and the gravy train) out of the public view by lambasting those who have dared to be open, honest and transparent (as government SAYS it is).

He's as guilty as the rest of them of this defrauding of the public purse and now the rats are scrurrying for cover.

Thank heavens for whistle-blowers and the free press! Yes to a whistle-blower charter to protect such people and yes to them making a profit as that encourages whistle-blowing, which in turn should act as a deterrent in future!

If they have nothing to hide, they have nothing to fear. But I fear they have something to hide yet.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: steogede

I also worry about the political leverage that has been afforded by selectively releasing information, however, the only cure for this is that all the raw information is released to the public. I'm glad the horse has bolted, and I think it's time to permanently remove the stable door.

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@steogede

Personally, I think the Telegraph has been pretty impartial. They released the details about cabinet ministers first as they're the ones running (you might very well think that's a spelling mistake, but I couldn't possibly comment) the country. Then it was the Tories, and then the Lib Dems.

They've caused some people in the Tory party to lose their positions, and one Tory MP to say that he'll allow his constituents decide whether he should continue to be their MP. Meanwhile, they've made the Labour MPs look (with a few exceptions) like a bunch of grubby handed arrogant hypocrites.

They've singled out Hilary Benn (a Labour MP), and several other MPs as being incredibly trustworthy when it comes to claiming expenses; essentially presenting them as a poster child for who we need to run this country.

For what it's worth, I do believe MPs need to be paid more, and survive like the rest of us without employer subsidised home entertainment systems, mortgages & bath plugs.

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Bigger Picture?

Our MPs have power over billions of pounds, yet their minuscule expenses claims get this much coverage! These guys could be authorising a war against France as we speak and nobody would notice! I doubt even images of the Eiffel Tower crashing into the Seine would make the news right now!

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Pat

Professor Plum in the Library with a usb stick

Quote (steogede) = "That means that there may be certain MPs up to all sorts of dirty tricks, who the Telegraph chose not to name and shame - which we will never find out about."

That is one of the pleasant aspects of this situation - the HoC now have to be very careful about what they release because if they leave out anything the Telegraph has (but does not print yet) then the HoC will be in the firing line for another front-page savaging.

Also, one of the main reasons they want to catch the leaker is that they want to know exactly what information has been passed on so the HoC won't get caught out later.

To this end I think we should help the HoC by listing the possible suspects. I'll fire off a few off and perhaps some of you have some ideas as well:

- the staff at the Fees Office are most obviously in the frame;

- probably their relatives, lovers, teenage children as well because any of the Fees Office staff could have copied this info for later pension or book use, but have had it copied by someone they trusted (the irony!) and can't come clean 'cos they'd be fk'd;

- perhaps it is no co-incidence that the police were recently granted access to HoC (gasp!!);

- I could imagine the Speaker making a copy (politicians always like to have a bit of leverage) and absent-mindedly leaving it in some expensive hotel;

- the overnight cleaners have got to be contenders - some of them are bound to be ex-IT.

Any others?

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@steogede

> that only makes selling the unsanitised data to a single news paper even worse. That means that there may be certain MPs up to all sorts of dirty tricks, who the Telegraph chose not to name and shame - which we will never find out about.

I don't follow this argument.

If the Telegraph hadn't got hold of this, I'm sure that a lot of "dirty tricks" would have been sanitsed out of the data, so we'd never have found out about them anyway.

And you are making wild assumptions about this person being "willing to be bribed". If the Telegraph paid them *to* steal the information, yes, that would be bribery, but offering it for sale is not the same thing.

And probably they're going to need that dosh to pay for their defence team when TPTB try to throw the book at them for making them look bad.

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Go

Get real...

However many people were involved and however many there are of them they can be fully confident that their futures - whether dosh exchanged hands or not - are going to get well and truly trounced, mucked (make your own mind up on that misspell), and become untermenschen pretty darned quickly.

And, irrespective of whether dosh changed hands or not, it is a responsibility of UK press and free thinkers alike to give support to the actions of these heros.

The approaches made, discussions and so forth indicate some prior knowledge or estimation of what might happen seems to have occurred to them and I'd also speculate that they were probably bricking themselves before, during, after and even now. But I'd guess that is exactly what heros are?

Nor is there any reason to expect that their characters were blameless or spotless before.

All told, there are sufficient grounds to imagine a big bunch of cojones were needed.

Heroic, dumb, self-destructive, intelligent, ... for sure.

Don't dump them with disrespect in 3, 4, ... months time.

A Knighthood sez I!

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Linux

I wonder

I wonder if he was ever arrested. If he would somehow seem to just "slip away" from the police station and never seen again. (I mean the police letting him go on the sly, not the Gov getting him "done over")

This man or woman deserves a medal. They have produced something that we needed to know.

Also if this data was so easy to gain. Doesnt it show a lack of security. What else do you think people have their hands on in there?

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@steogede

No the person who did this deserves every penny they got out of the papers.

Hell, they deserve a knighthood!

Do you honestly think that the government would have let us serfs see a warts and all version of their expenses? I’d stake my life that some of it would have been masked behind issues like “security”. Public domain my arse, the big fat speaker of parliament has been trying to block every move to get MP’s expenses published.

What we have here is some of the truth behind the lies of what the vast majority of MP’s are up to, regardless of party. They have been caught with their snouts in the trough. Proof that “None of the above” needs to appear on our ballot sheets.

If you think that this corruption is being unfairly reported by a conservative newspaper, then all parliament would have to do is get an independent auditor in and publish the whole damn lot.

Personally, I also want to see the expenses of all Lords, all EU MPs, the top 10 earners in all councils and the faceless people in top positions within the MOD, MI5 etc.

They may bleat about privacy, but they forget that they are elected by the people for the people. We trust these people to act for the public good, how can we trust them when the very food they eat is an expense they can claw back?

Dissolve parliament now, and call in the fraud squad. Our MP’s should not be above the law. Get those lying, cheating shits up in the dock, judged by twelve good men and true. They pass the laws; we have to abide by them. So should they!

We may have the mother of all parliaments, but what good is it when it’s riddled with syphilis?

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The man's a hero and deserves every penny

Someone blowing the whistle on a big story like this needs a bit of an incentive. Whistle blowing is good, remember, but also pretty risky.

We get information on criminals by offering rewards and giving money to informers. So I have no problems at all about a newspaper handing over money for this information. It's in the public interest for us to know about it. The public buy the newspapers and the newspapers use the money to encourage the whistle blowers to get the information.

I'd say that's a pretty fair game, given the scum we're up against.

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@steogede

Then your answer would be that the Telegraph, having milked the data available to sell copy, subsequently make the data public in its entirety...... probably about the same time that the 'sanitised' version is made public.

Then everyone can pick over things and compare reality with fairy tales.

Wishful thinking perhaps but the possibility might cause sleepless nights for a few people with nice new kingsize beds....

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Go

I hope he gets caught

It would be great to see this guy charged and taken to court over the leaking of this information.

It will be a further opportunity to show just how out of touch the bunch of thieves in Westminster are as I seriously doubt that you will find 12 people anywhere in the country, outside of the trough-slurpers, who think that this guy has done anything other than a great service!

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Facts. Not fantasy.

To those (thankfully few) retards on here who are so outraged about the leaking of this information. . . here are some facts:

1) The Commons was set to release all the expense claim details, subject to the Commons deciding which bits would be released. And which wouldn't. So no: the information now in the public domain would never have been in the public domain.

2) The Commons was painfully aware that even after sanitising the material, there could well be some information likely to prompt a headline. Spin doctors of the sort that undermined Parliament's integrity long before Parliament destroyed it completely would've been involved and would have advised that the best way to stifle a story is to prevent a newspaper from getting hold of the individual at the centre of the story -- it's a given, where the Press is concerned, that it MUST allow anyone it writes about to "tell their side of the story".

3) It was therefore decided not to release even the sanitised information until the summer recess. The decision was cynical and deliberate. The timing was intended to allow MPs to vanish from sight for a while in the certain knowledge that by the time they were once more contactable, the story would've gone stale and the more severe accusations that might have been levelled by a newspaper remained unpublished.

4) Any poster here who thinks a crime is involved in this issue (outwith any consideration of the shysters calling themselves Honourable Members) needs a brain transplant: it's one thing to flog material to a newspaper, quite another for an elected assembly that purports to be the pinnacle of Democracy at work, to deliberately contrive a situation where the electorate is left in the dark and any and all attempts to shed light are wilfully and cynically frustrated.

5) This is the 21st Century. It has no time for heroes. The past is littered with whistle blowers to whom honour was all but the consequences, dire. Taking out an insurance policy to protect one's future (and that of one's family) is sensible. Not venal.

El Reg's comment about the nature of the newspaper auction is intriguing, however, because it certainly looks as though those involved were less than skilled in their appreciation of how the national Press works. However. . . that same apparent naivety may actually be an astuteness -- a realisation that The Mail is much too devalued (and The Mail On Sunday) by its own long-time hysterics ever to count as a paper of worth / paper of record where public opinion is concerned.

(The same could be said of The Sun, however, so quite how that aberration occurred is beyond me: perhaps desperation was beginning to set in arising from a fear that the situation had begun to drag on so long that risk of exposure was imminent.)

The Sun, of course, is crap and its Editor, useless. By contrast, the Telegraph seems to have undergone some kind of quiet revolution: no longer just the "Torygraph", it has someone managed to become more populist, yet less biased, than in days of old. Its handling of this affair has been exemplary, and the fact that it's seeing a sustained circulation boost of at least 200,000 must be driving Murdoch nuts: not only did The Sun miss out (so goodbye, Ms Wade) so did The Times and Sunday Times, and this at a time when every paper is desperate to maintain circulation so as to maintain advertising revenue.

If the authorities are daft enough to track down and prosecute the leaker, then so be it. But even in a Britain dominated by a political elite as mendacious as this one, it's unlikely any such prosecution will occur: what everyone involved will be hoping for is that this fades away (some hope) and that regardless of what may or may not happen in a Court of Law, it's the Court of Public Opinion that's more important, and one which should be shut down as fast as possible.

Finally. . . how wonderful that those involved here ignored the ubiquitous Max Clifford entirely!

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Paris Hilton

Oi. El Reg...

How does one go about nominating person or persons for knighthood?

Can we nominate person or persons unknown?

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Joke

Help, they're taking it off the air

(I wish this was not a joke alert - and I usually vote Labour)

"Her Majesty announced today that she will be unavailable to add her seal to parliamentary decrees.

She explained to her PM (GB) that events such as that termed the "credit crunch", indebtedness of the realm, MPs making a mockery of the Court of the Commons and unprecedented resignation of speaker of the Commons Court have forced her to review the role of government as decided in the Commons.

By withholding her seal Her Majesty has created a constitutional crisis in which the Commons cannot meaningfully govern the country.

She further explained that in matters of such importance in the realm it is essential to move forwards as swiftly as possible.

In another matter that is partly related HM asked for person or persons unknown and responsible for providing details of malpractice in the Court of the Commons to present themselves to the Privy Council as a matter of urgency as she will confer a knighthood to each and all involved."

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Pat

backtracking to an old backup?

Old news, but I still have hopes that somewhere there is a 'backup' copy that will make its way to the Telegraph.

May 18, 2008 - 'Tony Blair’s expenses shredded'

Extract = "The documents, itemising Blair’s claims for household expenses during a year of his premiership, were destroyed in the midst of a legal battle over whether they should be published."

Extract = "The shredding of the files has emerged in documents from the protracted legal battle over MPs’ expenses. So far the efforts by the Commons authorities to block disclosure have run up legal bills likely to cost the taxpayer about £150,000."

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article3953909.ece

As others have mentioned and as this link supports, without the leak to the Telegraph it seems we would not know the truth about MPs' expense claims.

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