Implausible Story No21

 

Special Cabinet Meeting to discuss Expenses (Oct 2004)

Hello lads and lasses come in and collect this questionnaire the PM and I have penned before you sit down.
Don't forget it's absolutely atomic top secret and all that… cabinet eyes-only even.

What's it all about Deputy PM?

Difficult to describe Eustace… I mean without saying anything that might be mis-interpreted…
Tell you what, take a look at the first few questions and see if you can figure it out for yourself…

Oh I see Deputy PM. It's about lining our jolly pockets isn't it?

Eustace.. How many times have I had to warn you about the walls having ears?
I don't trust that lot in MI5 any more and a pound to a penny they've bugged us.

That's alright Deputy PM I bought a little device to detect bugs
Let me have a look round just in case…

OK Eustace. Good idea. Carry on while I organise the coffee.
Hands up anyone that claims light refreshments in their weekly expenses?
Everyone. Good then you won't mind actually coughing up a couple of quid a cup then.

Busies himself pouring coffee.

Finished Deputy PM.

Oh yes Eustace. Did you find any bugs?

Loads of them Deputy PM.

Lets have a look then.
What's that big one with valves? It's got foreign writing all over it.

That's Russian Deputy PM. It must be pretty old. It was actually over there by the fireplace plugged into the mains socket with some newspapers on top of it to hide it.

Strewth Eustace. The top one's dated August 17th 1954.
What's that rather nice model of the White House?

That was over there in the desk drawer Deputy PM. It says, "Present from the USA", underneath and on the label tied on with a blue ribbon it says, "Best Wishes Tony, from your pal Mister President".

Anything else Eustace?

Oh yes Deputy PM there's a couple of rather amateurish-looking circuit boards with wires and batteries hanging off them marked HM Government Property.

Stick the lot in this bucket of water for the moment, There's a good fellow. I'll ask the PM what to do with them later.

Loud splash followed by a bang and all the lights go off.

You pillock Eustace. Why on earth didn't you unplug that Ruski one before you put it in the bucket?
Light the candles someone.

Candles Deputy PM?

Yes Nebediah. That new security advisor we hired suggested we have lots of candles around the place. He also suggested the bucket of water as well. All to do with our Terrorist Precautions. Clever chappie that new Security Advisor.

Did he suggest anything else Deputy PM?

Give him a chance he's only been around for a couple of months.

Lots of candles are lit and the meeting eventually gets under way.

Righto lads and lasses I reckon we can discuss things now without being overheard.
This questionnaire asks for ideas to improve our "well being" as it were.

It looks like it's about expenses deputy PM.

Yes Nebediah. We can't have a feeling of well being on the cheap can we? After all we're in charge of the plebs and it's a trying business at times. All this whingeing and moaning. Without feeling really comfortable it would be just too depressing.
Now lets have some ideas.

I'd like to stay in a hotel Deputy PM so I can be near the House.

Hotel you twerp! How can you make money from staying at a hotel?

How do you mean Deputy PM?

Buy a house nearby! Charge it to expenses of course.

Good heavens. Can I do that?

Of course you can. Anyway we've already got that one on our list so think again my lad.

Here's my tip Deputy PM.

Go on Reginald what's your tip?

Do ye ken the bicycle allowance of 20p per mile Deputy PM?

Your home is in the highlands of Scotland old man. Surely you don't cycle in to the house every morning.

Of course not Deputy PM. I put it in the guard's van when I set out on Monday morning.

Go on Reginald. Enlighten us on how you can feel good about that.

Well it's 600 miles give or take, and the round trip's 1200 miles so that works out to £240 per week plus the extra bits between my London Villa and the House.

So you actually cycle in from your second home in Hampstead old man. That's pretty daring.

Of course not Deputy PM I tie it to the roof of the taxi. I have this special chappie that sees to me every day. He installed a roof rack especially for my bike.

You hire a taxi every day to carry you and your bike to the House Reginald?

Not exactly hire Deputy PM. I bought the taxi and charged it to the "Additional Cost Allowance", budget.

That's a good idea Reggie old chap I could never figure out how to claim that allowance.
So how much do you charge for your bike every year?

£3,120 for coming from Scotland every week, £25 per day coming to the House, which works out to £9,125 and a bit for maintenance. Of course although we only work 3-days now Deputy PM it's understood that we can assume 7-days "worst case", as it were, and if we do our expenses the previous week it's quite acceptable to use 7-days in our calculations.

Understood about pretending to work 7-days but "Maintenance" Reggie! If you don't actually ride the bike how can you possibly justify maintenance? That's a bit steep.

Well I have to touch up the paintwork every so often Deputy PM, it gets knocked around lifting it onto the taxi roof and in and out of the guard's van.

How much do you charge for maintenance?

£25 per week

That doesn't sound a lot.

Well no one ever queries a figure if its £25 or less Deputy PM so that's the minimum amount I claim for absolutely anything.
So how much do you claim in total for the bike Reggie?

£21,370. Oh and I also get 57.7p per mile for the car mileage.
That can't be too much though Reggie.

Well it is rather Deputy PM, the driver lives at home.

What, in Hampstead Reggie?

No actually just down the road from me, north of Inverness and his wife insists on him not staying away so he commutes.

Golly gosh so how much is that?

I don't like to say it aloud Deputy PM.

Just whisper it in my ear.

£252,033 and 60 pence.

Gee whiz. More than quarter of a million pounds.

That was sort of in confidence Deputy PM and you blurted it out.

Sorry Reggie but that must be a record. Super wheeze. Make a note of that one and we'll spread the word around. Good work Reggie. Anything else?

The special taxi Deputy PM. I actually bought a Jaguar like yours so I could put a decent sized roof rack on it.
The chappie that advises on expenses said it was OK and if anyone complained he'd sort it out.

Good work Reggie. I may put a roof rack on one of mine.
Doesn't the paintwork get a bit scratched lifting the bike on the roof?

Oh yes Deputy PM. I have to buy a new one every six months. Purely for business reasons you realise. One can't be seen to be driving around in a tatty car can one?

Certainly not Reggie. Excellent work.
Any more suggestions anyone?

There's a spiffing idea I came up with Deputy PM. It's a special allowance for emails.

Carry on Harold old chap.

Well I have an entry in my expense report called allowance for special mail. If my computer broke down I'd have to send my mail by postman and that's quite a lot these days.
I said I'd dealt with 2,000 emails the other week and the chap that checked my expenses misread my writing and pencilled in £6,000 thinking I'd sent them by post. Since then I just refer to last weeks expenses in the margin and I get £6,000.

Crikey Harold, that's £312,000 per year.

Yes Deputy PM, in fact I'm starting to get a bit worried.

Why is that Harold?

Well when I said I'd dealt with the emails I hadn't actually sent any; they were ones I'd received

A very popular man Harold.

Not exactly; they were all those Spam thingies. I just deleted them.
And another thing Deputy PM, I don't get time to go to the bank and I've got so much money in the flat now I'm considering hiring a bodyguard.

A bodyguard. Everyone note that one. The hire of a bodyguard can be allowed within one's staffing allowance.
Not sure about the email dodge though.

Deputy PM.

Yes Gordon?

As you know Deputy PM there are 659 MPs and if one were to send an email every day to the other 658, and a copy to oneself of course, just to say hello or something that would be 240,345 emails per year.

You really are good with figures Gordon.

Yes Deputy PM. Very kind of you to say so, I do try my hardest you know.

What about 240,345?

Allowance for computer problems Deputy PM. Under the heading "Provision for dealing with mail following computer breakdown"
We could suggest a maximum of £240,345 at £1 each and then say something like "realistic provision" 50%. That's £120,172 and 50 pence
Write, "rounding down £120,172" in the margin
That should get through the people checking the expenses. You know how they look out for things like rounding down.

Rubbish Gordon. £120,173 otherwise we'd be out of pocket by 50p. I certainly can't afford it.

If you wish Deputy PM.

Put that in the minutes Mr Scribe; that will go down well with the PM. He needs to find more cash this year to pay his lad's university fees.

Deputy PM.

Yes David?

If I write a letter to a fellow MP I'd like to have it arrive the next day. Even before 9 o'clock.

What's wrong with First Class post David?

We don't really have time to go into all that Deputy PM, suffice it to say that the jolly old Post Office is asking £6.95 for delivery next day before 9am and just £3.75 for delivery next day.

I thought First Class post meant "next day", David?

Ho ho ho you didn't really think that did you Deputy PM?

All right you clever so and so. What are you getting at?

I think a provision to send 50% of the letters to our colleagues by the next day, first thing of course, has to be £835,839 and 13 pence.

OK David. Give it a whirl starting tomorrow and if it gets past the Expenses Committee we'll run with it.

Deputy PM.

What is it David?

I'm Chairman of the Expenses Committee, it will definitely get authorised.

OK David. Make a note Mr Scribe; and now if that's all folks, I'll bid you goodbye.

Why are you winding up now deputy PM?

I'm going to do my expenses Nebediah.

 

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