This post about MPs is untrue and around 20 years old

Published: 5th Apr 2019

In brief

Claim

Of the 635 MPs in the House of Commons some have been accused of spousal abuse or writing bad cheques, or have been arrested for fraud, drug-related charges, shoplifting or drink driving, or have bankrupted at least two businesses, have bad credit, or are defendants in lawsuits.

Conclusion

Incorrect. The post was originally circulated online around 20 years ago making claims about members of the US Congress and using almost exactly the same figures. Even back then the claims it made were unverifiable.

 

This year alone, MPs have cost the British taxpayer £92,993,748 in expenses.

 

Incorrect. In 2017/18 MPs’ expenses totalled £35 million. The total cost of MPs’ and MPs’ staff pay and expenses that year came to £182 million.

Claim 1 of 2

A post making claims about things MPs have been accused of or done has been shared over 600 times on Facebook.

“Can you imagine working for a company that only has a little more than 635 employees, but has the following employee statistics.. 29 have been accused of spouse abuse 7 have been arrested for fraud… 9 have been accused of writing bad cheques … 17 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses 3 have done time for assault 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges 8 have been arrested for shoplifting 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits 84 have been arrested for drink driving in the last year AND Collectively, this year alone, have cost the British tax payer £92,993,748 in expenses! Which organisation is this? You guessed it, it’s the HOUSE OF COMMONS”

Facebook user, 29 March 2019

The post claims that large numbers of UK MPs are accused or have been arrested for some kind of misconduct, and altogether cost the taxpayer almost £93 million this year alone in expenses.

None of this is correct.

In fact it’s a viral post about politicians that has been circulating for years, being repurposed for a new country every so often. When Snopes factchecked it back in 2000 it referred to members of Congress, but contained almost exactly the same numbers and accusations as the post we saw shared on Facebook in March 2019.

It’s not just the UK that the viral post has been repurposed for. Just one other example is a post from 2012, which applies the same figures to the Australian parliament.

Snopes found that the original viral posts could be traced back to an article by the online publication “Capitol Hill Blue”. But Snopes pointed out that no sources were cited in the article, many of the assertions were unverifiable and things that should have been a matter of public record, for example information about businesses that were supposed to have gone bankrupt, did not seem to exist.

Snopes concluded that the website’s founder “eventually bowed to the obvious and removed the dubious Congressional statistics from the Capitol Hill Blue series”.

Although many of the claims are unverifiable, there are a few clues in the post which we can easily check to show it doesn’t refer to the UK or the House of Commons.

“a little more than 635 employees”

To start with there are 650 MPs elected to parliament, of whom 643 take up their seats (the other seven are from Sinn Féin in Northern Ireland and traditionally do not take their seats). The last time 635 MPs were elected at a general election was in 1979.

MPs aren’t the only employees in the House of Commons either, but they seem to be the group the post is referring to.

“Collectively, this year alone, have cost the British tax payer £92,993,748 in expenses!”

The line about expenses doesn’t seem to appear in the original so has been added at some point since. This version sent to the Guardian in 2006 didn’t include the figure, while this version sent to the Courier and Advertiser (a paper based in Scotland) in 2011 did include it.

MPs expenses were in the region of around £93 million back in 2007/08 before the system was changed in the wake of the expenses scandal. This was the cost of all MPs’ expenses (including travel) and the salaries of the staff working for them, it didn’t include MPs’ own salaries. We’ve written more about expenses here.

We can’t find a specific year where the cost totalled exactly £92,993,748 and most online searches for the number bring up results to versions of this viral post.

In the latest year we have figures for, 2017/18, MPs’ expenses totalled around £35 million—around a third of the figure claimed in the post. This was spent on expenses for accommodation, office spending and things like travel or parking. These expenses, as well as the salaries of MPs’ and their staff came to around £182 million that year.

This article is part of our work factchecking potentially false pictures, videos and stories on Facebook. You can read more about this—and find out how to report Facebook content—here. For the purposes of that scheme, we’ve rated this claim as a false because the post has been recycled and is based on 20 year-old, unsubstantiated claims about the US Congress.


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