Expense account blues


Expense accounts are like the Trade Winds: after a while you expect to get a free lift whether or not the climate justifies it. The son of sailing legend Sir Francis Chichester has been caught with his sails aback over his Euro expenses and, having piled £440,000 into his £5 million London home and business has been forced to resign his role as leader of the Tory MEPs.

Not many people will be satisfied that pouring nearly half a million quid into your private business is in someway assisting the operation of political decisions in Europe.

But, on a much lesser scale, I can recall old hands in Fleet Street ‘geting used to’ a certain amount of expenses being paid every week ,whether they actually incurred them or not.

One old cynic, who had been covering the story of Prince Andrew joining his new ship, told me he had been obliged to secure some second -hand rope to help moor the boat he’d hailed to get him out onto Plymouth Sound. He’d actually written on his expense sheet: ‘Old rope £15’. The expenses were duly signed off and it was beers all round in the Poppinjay on Fleet Street while mine host laughed at the story of getting money for old rope.

The big difference, of course, was that it was his employer’s cash and not the tax-payer’s.