back to article MPs obsess about expenses, ignore data security

The UK parliament is now so obsessed with looking tough over expenses that it is cutting corners on data security, and increasing the risk of a breach of constituent confidentiality. Last week, remarks by Tory grandee Sir Nicholas Winterton, MP - to the effect that he would rather not share a train compartment with the common …


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  1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


    As on the occasions I have been in "Standard" class I've seen quite a few people working on their laptops and (presumably) doing work. of a company nature.

    Weather MP's do *any* constituancy or ministerial business at *all* on their train journeys is another matter.

    Were they to travel in standard class they *might* have a little more appreciation of what regular UK commuters put up and (who knows) be a little more sympathetic to their needs.

    which constituancy is he the member for,. Haltenprice perhaps?

  2. Chris Phillips

    Nonsense, well... minimalsense

    Seems like you're clutching at straws here. So in Standard your seat is 4 inches closer to the next passenger, hardly an issue to make or break national security is it? If someone is going to peer between the gap in a seat to see someone's data, then it's just as easy in any class. Possibly easier in 1st due to the extra space.

    When there's a Daily Fail front page blaming a type of train ticket for the loss of more prisoner details or something like that, then you come back and put a decent case across. Until then, if it's private data, work on it privately, not just in more expensive company. Or do the ruling classes just commit more acceptable crimes than us scum in standard?

    1. LinkOfHyrule


      That MP's remarks were not only ofensive but outright b*ll*cks. On the trains round here a huge proportion of all commuters like to whip out a laptop and crack on with whatever dull thing they do for work.

      I even saw a smelly man using Ubuntu once, maybe that's the sort of standard class person he was talking about! hehe!

  3. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    You can see into First Class from Second

    And I'm not sure there's any difference at all now. Except that the other people in the carriage have paid (or expense-claimed) more for being in First. As noted. So they're prosperous and stupid, mainly. A slightly illogical combination.

    Anyway, you can read someone's computer screen. Unless they put some kind of folding hood over it. Like the "What the Butler Saw" machine, or Mr. Spock's un-ergonomic workstation. That's nearly do-able. A cardboard box burqa over your laptop and your hands, you have to look in through a little hole...

    Second passengers also may be let into First if a train is overcrowded.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Interesting idea

      That cardboard hood would also let you surf porn in public.

      Mines the dirty mac.....

      1. Steve Evans


        If I remember correctly, you can buy a film to put on a laptop screen that undoes all that R&D that went on to increase the viewing angle.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    daily mail accuracy shocker

    What the honourable twit, MP, should be doing instead is, well, stay in touch with ``the people''. What better place than to talk to those pesky ``standard class people'' he's there to represent in parliament? Though honestly I wouldn't begrudge him his first class ticket, him being 71 years old and all.

    The data security angle is a bit irrelevant here, for I honestly have trouble imagining him doing any useful work regardless of class of carriage. No, that's not a good excuse, and yes, all MPs should know how to handle potentially sensitive data properly. How to get MPs proficient with that is left as an excercise.

    1. Annihilator

      standard class

      "What better place than to talk to those pesky ``standard class people'' he's there to represent in parliament?"

      I have to say, it must be a marvellous coincidence if all the people who happened to be in his carriage were from his constituency.

      He's exasperated, fed-up, perhaps not engaged the brain before the mouth, but essentially correct. I expect we will see a few more criticised people standing up and snapping like this. The majority of people who work in banks yet had diddly squat to do with the recession springs to mind.

  5. dr48

    A lot of fuss over very little

    It seems like a fair assumption that you could get more work done in first class - there's more space for a start (not guaranteed any flat surface in standard, let alone one actually large enough to work on) and it will almost certainly be less disturbing.

    It's quite common practice in the commercial world to estimate how much an individual's time is worth - and if an extra hour or two's work is worth more than the cost of upgrading to first class travel - then to pay for it.

    The 'scandalous' behaviour of MPs is largely hot air and media brouhaha - some of them most certainly did wrong, but what is quite reasonable behaviour by others (or what is common practice in the real world) is being pointlessly criticised.

    Would I rather my MP put in another 2 hours work on my behalf, and was more informed about the parliamentary debate he was attending? Absolutely. If they can justify the cost, then there's no problem. An outright ban would be counter-productive.

  6. Rick Byers

    So What

    There are 2 issues I have with standard class (which I travel by quite a bit up the West Coast Main line), the first is that my company supplied laptop is too big to use in standard class, without a table seat, and even then if the person opposite (and the trains are so rammed there is allways a person opposite) has a laptop I am snookered.

    Secondly, I often find that 1st class seats, esp travelling away from London, are most imes cheaper than standard. Add to that free wi-fi (paid for in cattle class), and inclusive lounge access and meals and drinks, a slightly more expensive 1st class ticket works out cheaper overall anyway!

    As someone who travels from the North West to London several times a month, it's ALLWAYs cheaper to fly. Not green but cheaper and more pleasent!

    Joined up transport strategy? Go figure.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Paris Hilton

      Perception is All

      otoh if you are a lowly public servant and you dare to buy a first class ticket on the *spurious* basis that it is cheaper (which on some occasions, it is) then you are not permitted to do so, lest it be 'perceived' wrongly by the public, despite the contradictory requirement when claiming expenses to have chosen the cheapest route by which to travel.

      Paris, because she knows that looking good isn't cheap!

  7. Winkypop Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I say, MP only carriages!!!!

    Who wants to sit next to an expenses rorting, drooling half-wit of a Lord or MP?

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    1st or 2nd

    I am a business consultant and my company insists on travel via 2nd class. The only reason 1st class would be better is that few people actually pay the ridiculous amounts asked for a ticket when you consider how little additional value you get, so 1st is generally almost empty. Well almost, except for the civil servants above a certain grade who automatically get 1st class train travel. So Sir Nicholas is probably right, he is more secure amongst the civil servants and MPs.

    Ultimately the security issue is the same whether its 1st or 2nd class. You don't know who is sitting next to you. A journo, a competitor or little old lady on her way to do a bit of shopping. So advice is always to keep confidential work for the office. It also saves you from forgetting that confidential report on nuclear weapons that you put on the seat besides you!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Don't under-estimate

      little old ladies...

  9. Anonymous Coward

    So who are they employed by

    If it is not the house of commons and not the political party, who pays their wages?

    1. Dave Murray

      Who pays their wages?

      We do.

  10. John Ozimek

    4 inches?

    er, not quite, Chris. The seating arrangement on many of the main line routes (intercity standard) is for First Class to have single seats as well as side-by-side ones.

    In other words, you can choose to sit at a seat and have the nearest person sat across the aisle from you.

    To be honest, though, the salient point for me from this is not entirely the first vs. standard issue, so much as the fact that no-one in parliament seems to have given all that much thought to whether MP's should be working on trains at all.

  11. Writebaby

    over 71 and the issue is?

    Assuming the gentleman is using his senior citizen's card, his first class ticket will be cheaper than standard class. He is a bit unfair to say that people in standard class don't want to work - some of us do. But he is spot on about the difficulties of doing so.

  12. Apocalypse Later

    Biased tosh

    "Addressing two issues at once proves difficult for Tory leader"

    He isn't the Tory leader and he was addressing security in the context of expenses, so both issues at once. And the story seems to be about Parliament changing rules, not the Tories. Parliament has been run pretty much by Labour for a decade or so. But don't let the facts distract you from attacking the party that you love to hate.

  13. Stratman


    " until an MP loses a laptop on a train, whereupon all hell will break loose."

    No problem. He'll just claim for a new one.

    1. John Ozimek

      Having a go at tories...

      er...the comment about the Tory leader was directed at the fact that David Cameron, in his eagerness to appease the vengeful tendency amongst the public, took the supposed high ground in having a go at Micholas Winterton for being out of touch and, in effect, a bit of a dinosaur.

      When asked about whether this was being a bit kneejerk and missing one issue entirely, a spokesperson for the party attempted to make the argument that Mr Cameron was dealing with the expenses issue and that the data issue was separate/differnt.

      1. Apocalypse Later


        Ah, your re-statement makes it a bit clearer (the bias at least). It seems that you cannot get Cameron's ear on the exact issue you wish him to address and have to make whatever you can from a spokesperson's fobbing off. Suggest the sub-headline "Even Tories have little time for Reg reporter".

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Hell and such

      Aye, free new one, paid by our taxes, while nothing else will change...

      However I really hop hell will break lose with these twats,

      infact it's over due anyway already.

      Fire, as in Hell

  14. Not Fred31
    Thumb Down

    they obsessed about ACTA recently too...

    and you wrote a story about that. Now that the digital chapter of ACTA has been published, however, for some reason you don't appear to think that ACTA is newsworthy any more. Curiouser and curiouser...

  15. Rod MacLean

    Slightly out of touch or something?

    "They may be reading a book but I doubt whether they're undertaking serious work or study, reading reports or amending reports that MPs do when they travel."

    Yeah, he's undoubtedly right - ALL students can EASILY afford to travel first class!

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Anonymous Coward

    1st class vs standard class

    I travel by train a lot, I also fly a lot as well, in both cases I pay for the travel myself more often than I'm reimbursed. I generally pick my class of travel by the length of time I'm onboard, and what I expect to do on board. Anything over a couple of hours and I'll definitely pick first/business. For flights, it is a nightmare to get a proper night's sleep in cattle class on a red eye. I find that in business across the pond I can completely avoid any jet lag by using business class. On trains, short trains (like the Heathrow Express) I see no benefit to first class. But anything over an hour the difference in the noise levels and overcrowding between first and cattle are huge. You pretty much always get a seat if you travel first class, and the noise levels mean you can concentrate (or sleep) on board. It is okay travelling in standard if you book way in advance and can book a seat (even a table seat) for your journey, but my trips (like that of many MPs) can't be booked way in advance - so I can definitely empathise with the MPs position. I worry that what we are seeing now is the expenses crisis being turned into the politics of envy. Do we really want to turn being an MP into a job that makes minimum wage and has no benefits? What type of person do you think will agree to be an MP? We want to attract people to be MP who are senior doctors, head up companies, and other senior professionals. Do we really expect these sort of people to take a pay and allowances cut, and to stop travelling in 1st class on trains?

    I know the current crop of MPs have endeared themselves to us, but if we aren't careful, we will end up with rules that prevent the competent and successful from ever becoming MPs, then we will never get rulers worthy of the position.

  18. Incence

    MPs obsess about expenses, ignore data security

    If MPs want to travel apart from the riff raff they should foot the bill themselves. Many,many hard working civil servants have to work on trains but cant upgrade to 1st class. They manage it, why cant these over paid underpaid farts do the same!!!!!

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    Look doods...

    The only thing that the Tories can truly and truculently say is that

    "from time to time the British electorate feels in need of some self-flagellation in which we are happy to serve and at the same time line our very deep pockets with incredible amounts of public money. We are a management team called in by the UK voting electorate to inflict harm on the many, a reasonable bit of dosh on the few and loads of readies for ourselves.

    You know it, we know it, everyone in the whole world knows it, so why the fuss and commotion?"

  20. Jimmy 1

    Revolting MPs

    Winterton and his wife have announced recently that they will be stepping down from parliament at the forthcoming general election.

    Their decision came after the Telegraph disclosed that they claimed more than £80,000 in expenses for the rent of a small London flat that was owned by a trust controlled by their children. So you can readily understand why Nicky wouldn't want the common herd to be looking over his shoulder while he filled in his expenses claim or attended to other great matters of state.

    Now that the parliamentary gravy-train has been temporarily shunted into a siding, the retiring Wintertons will just have to scrape by on another form of state benefits in the shape of their generous, inflation proof pensions and redundancy payments. It's tough at the top.

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