Freesteel Blog » 2009 » April
Wednesday, April 29th, 2009 at 1:55 pm - Machining
While working on our new trouble-making website project The Straight Choice, I kept accidentally typing the DP Technologies’ Esprit CAM software’s slogan “The Right Choice”. They also like to add the plainly false statement:
The most powerful CAM software ever.
One distraction lead to another, and I was soon surfing their webpage and finding their recent customer spotlight PDF document: Trochoidal machining cuts narrow slots in hardened steel at 12x normal rates.
Let the record show that back in 2006 Martin and I were fruitlessly wandering around the Euromold trade fair in Frankfurt with our one page brochure of our amazing new cutting algorithm, attempting to sell it to various CAM companies who weren’t particularly keen, because they seemed totally happy with their own technology already thank you very much, not interested in anything new.
Chuck Mathews of DP Technology writes in the above article:
Cutting narrow pockets in hardened steel has long been one of the most difficult machining tasks…
Trochoidal machining provides a potential solution to this problem. The basic idea is to move the cutter around in a circular pattern with each circle advancing into the cut…
Conventional CNC programming software cannot generate a program to perform Trochoidal milling. In the past, the only way that it was possible to perform Trochoidal milling was for the programmer to manually code the very complex tool motions involved. This is a very challenging task and there is no way for the programmer to visually check the program without running it on a machine. For this reason, Trochoidal machining is currently used only very rarely…
DP Technology recently added a special routine for Trochoidal milling to ESPRIT Mold software. This routine greatly reduces the amount of time required to produce a CNC program for Trochoidal machining… The user simply defines the solid model of the part that will be cut… The user then selects “Trochoidal milling” and is prompted to enter the diameter of the circle and the advance per resolution. The software then generates the program for machining the part.
Bizarrely, for a four page article about a new type of toolpath, it includes no image of the toolpath in question.
Fortunately, the bottom of the article reports: “This story appeared in the October 2008 issue of Cutting Tool Engineering magazine”, so I was able to look it up and download the October 2008 CTE magazine and find it on p66:
It’s a bit fuzzy, pixelated, but you can see it looks simple-minded enough that it ought to have been a ground-breaking machining feature back in 1978, not something that the “most powerful CAM software ever” would be showing off to the world in 2008, two years after we’d been trying to earn an honest couple of bucks having created the full general purpose solution that rest-roughs and works on different levels with a minimum of configuration and no geometric limitations.
It’s specific, detailed narratives like this which prove to me that the so-called free market in innovation is a total myth. I cannot accept the usual excuse of: “you failed because you obviously weren’t any good at marketing”, because this is an entirely self-referential explanation that deduces our inadequacy from the fact that we failed, and therefore no further information is required.
Of course, you can believe this explanation if you want to, if you’re not interested in challenging the political dogma of our time, but the following observations ought to be important.
Firstly, people at all levels of the engineering industry (from customers to CAM software suppliers) appear to obtain their actionable knowledge from publications such as Cutting Tool Engineering, and not as a result of following their own intellectual curiosity. We’ve never received any questions inquiring about how the algorithm works or offering to collaborate with us on some very detailed cutting experimentation.
Secondly, the articles in magazines such as Cutting Tool Engineering are all written by openly self-interested employees of the companies who advertise, and no one seems to mind. We don’t have resources to buy this space, and anyway it’s not a game anyone should be playing.
What ought to exist are articles reviewing the (now about three) different trochoidal machining algorithms that are available in the market, with critiques from the different cutter makers describing the pros and cons of each approach, and the precise resulting characteristics.
But you don’t ever get that, because every article is by a trade industry man who says theirs is the most powerful CAM software ever (when it clearly isn’t), and spins a line as though nothing else has ever existed. What is the point? Why does there appear to be no hunger for actual information?
Working within this unbelievably defective information environment that defies rational explanation would be known as “good marketing”.
Anyways, since about half of that Cutting Tool Engineering magazine appears to about producing machinery whose sole design purpose is to massacre human beings at a distance, this issue hardly bears any importance.
Tuesday, April 28th, 2009 at 10:44 am - Whipping
From my FOI request to the Metropolitan Police Force made on 23 November 2008:
I have determined that the procedure by which the Secretary of State is notified of Section 44 Terrorism Act 2000 authorisations involves applications from Assistant Chief Constables or above being submitted to the National Joint Unit (NJU) of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
This fact was revealed on page 9 of Cm 7429, “The Government reply to the report by Lord Carlile of Berriew Q.C.: report on the operation in 2007 of the Terrorism Act 2000 and of Part 1 of the Terrorism Act 2006″, published 23 June 2008.
Please can I be sent:
- Copies of the specimen forms and guidances notes maintained and
issued by the NJU to help police forces around the country to
comply with their duties under Section 46 of the Act.
- Blank copies of the notices which are sent to the Home Office from the NJU for Ministerial authorisation (which must occur within 48 hours).
- The format of the database (list of fields and descriptions) in which all Section 44 applications are entered into by the NJU as part of the processing.
- A full copy of the contents of this database.
24 November 2008: “You will receive a response within the statutory timescale of 20 working days as defined by the Act, subject to the information not being exempt or containing a reference to a third party. In some circumstances the MPS may be unable to achieve this deadline. If this is likely you will be informed and given a revised time-scale at the earliest opportunity.”
17 December 2008: “With regard to providing details of the contents of the database, I am
afraid that I am not required by statute to release the information requested…” under Section 23 (2) Information relating to the security bodies, Section 24 (1) National Security, and Section 31(1) Law enforcement.
31 December 2008 [from me]: Thank you for serving me with: (a) Three exemptions to my request for a copy of the database in which details of all Section 44 authorisations are entered into by the NJU, and (b) No comment at all about my request for the format of this database.
The grounds for my complaint are as follows:
Section 23(2) (Information relating to the security bodies) does not apply owing to the fact that none of those directly involved in the Section 44 powers (neither the chief police constable giving the authorisation, the Secretary of State confirming the authorisation, nor the police officers who actually apply these powers) fall under the security bodies listed in Section 23(3). Consequently, there remains a duty to confirm or deny whether such
a database of Section 44 authorisations exists.
Section 24(1) (National security) does not apply owing to the fact that Section 44(3) Terrorism Act asserts that authorisations “may be given only if the person giving it considers it expedient for the prevention of acts of terrorism”. While these hypothetical acts of terrorism may occasionally relate to issues national security (in terms of infrastructure and agents of the state), the comments made in Lord Carlile’s annual reports about the use of Section 44, as well as personal testimonies of those who have been subject to these searches, suggest that many do not. Quite clearly, the existence, structure, and contents of the database as a whole is not a national security issue. Where there is a potential for security body information to be recorded in this database (if it exists), such columns can easily be omitted from any disclosure leaving only the civilian information.
Section 31(1) (Law enforcement) was served as an exemption on the basis that “knowledge of where the authorisations were in place would be of considerable benefit to those individuals attempting to avoid detection when planning to carry out an act of terrorism.” However, the database (if it exists) would contain all the expired authorisations over the past seven years. This historical information cannot be of any use to terrorists attempting to avoid detection for acts which they intend to commit in the future.
And now we’re into the Complaints Procedure. The Police do complaints procedures really well, as you can see.
6 January 2009: “The review will be conducted in accordance to the MPS’s complaints procedure. The MPS endeavour to respond to your complaint by 25 February 2009.”
26 February 2009: “Further to our letter of 6 January 2009, I have unfortunately been unable
to meet the response time originally provided to you… I hope to complete your review no later than 6 March 2009. Should there be any unforeseen delay, I will contact you and update you as soon as possible.”
6 March 2009: “Further to our letter of 26 February 2009, I have unfortunately been unable to meet the response time provided to you… I hope to complete your review no later than 20 March 2009. Should there be any unforeseen delay, I will contact you and update you as soon as possible.
18 March 2009: “Further to our letter of 6 March 2009, I have unfortunately been unable to meet the response time provided to you… I hope to complete your review no later than 3 April 2009. Should there be any unforeseen delay, I will contact you and update you as soon as possible.”
3 April 2009: “Further to our letter of 18 March 2009, I have unfortunately been unable to meet the response time originally provided to you… I hope to complete your review no later than 24 April 2009. Should there be any further delay, I will contact you and update you as soon as possible.”
24 April 2009: “Further to our letter of 4 April 2009, I have unfortunately been unable to meet the response time provided to you… I can confirm your case is near to completion, and I would like to assure you that this case is being treated as priority. I hope to complete your review no later than 8 May 2009. Should there be any delay, I will contact you and update you as soon as possible.”
Monday, April 27th, 2009 at 2:28 pm - Machining
Just to prove I’m doing a little bit of work on this, here’s what I get from scallop bisectors when I give a bisection angle of 5 degrees and a stepover (distance the bisector extends close to the previous scallop contour) of 20% of the stepover.
The little flower in the top left hand corner looks like this:
While in Matienzo I met someone who actually runs machine tools and cuts parts using CAM software of the kind I write.
He wants only smooth passes everywhere, so he’s not particularly excited by choss like this showing up as a result of running the algorithms — whereas I am.
“Look, it’s made all these amazingly wiggly contorted self-enclosing paths when I put in these inappropriate numbers — and it didn’t crash or hang!”
You can take for granted that the code is reliable. What makes it reliable is that it’s built to work in all these nasty knotted-up cases first, not just the smooth pretty ones. That’s my style. I find that if the worst case is taken care of, then the easy stuff follows without effort.
I’ve seen geometric coding approached from the other direction — do the easy stuff first, and try to generalize it to the harder cases. You get results faster, and can learn as you go along, but it’s not easy to argue that it’s going to fail. But it does, so there’s no need to argue about it now.
The machinist also told me that his customers wouldn’t allow him to use this scallop machining because it left marks at the sharp corners that couldn’t be polished out.
We couldn’t agree on whether these marks were from the rapid changes in direction, or the excess material that’s left there which would be removed by these scallop bisectors.
I guess some cutting trials are now necessary to prove this.
Tuesday, April 14th, 2009 at 12:58 pm - Cave
Just to remind myself that I have actually done some caving while out here in rainy Matienzo — not only programming. Some videos will be edited and uploaded another time.
The scallop/constant stepover cutting strategy is theoretically capable of smoothly finishing irregular surfaces inside irregular boundaries (such as rest machining areas).
Unfortunately, it can result in very sharp corners in some of the offsets and — if you’re unlucky — can leave a double stepover gap in the final area of collapse where the narrowest width is slightly less than twice the stepover.
The fact that it’s one of the most technically challenging algorithms to make work (with regards to crashes, infinite loops, and ugly results) makes it easy to predict the deep reluctance of any programmer to do something more advanced with it.
It barely works under the ordinary specification (just giving the constant stepover offsets) after years of development, so you would be insane to intentionally make it more complicated, liable to be slower, and more likely to break.
And — secretly — the last thing you want to do with a difficult and unreliable algorithm is fix a flaw that everyone has gotten used to, which could make it more popular, so that more people run it on more and harder examples, so you get hundreds of fiendish bugs coming down the line next year. At some point a programmer has to move on, and the guys who take over don’t stand a chance.
Unfortunately, last week I thought of a sneaky way of combining pencil milling and constant scallop in order to insert bisecting curves into these collapsing contours. I had the option to do this, because the pencil and scallop strategies go through exactly the same cellular subdividing code in the HSMWorks kernel.
After three days of solid coding, I got the above result. There are a lot of reliability issues and huge complexities involved in joining up the cells. Not to mention how the linking is going to be programmed — which is hopefully someone else’s problem.
What to do now? There are a lot of advanced scallop bugs/deficiencies which would take reams of new code to solve properly. It’s difficult to justify doing this just for the bugs, but a brand new feature makes it worthwhile. It’s sometimes an advantage to allow problems to stack up.
What about all the other questions?
Well, if I didn’t think I had some sort of ownership stake in this code, I’d’ve kept quiet about this new idea, and nobody would know. The incentives for creativity do not occur out in the maladministered “free-market” between companies; the incentives — and disincentives — for creativity are actioned internally within each company, and depend on the relationships with their employees and their common morale. It can happen nowhere else.
Not that any of the economic experts seem to pay attention to this dynamic. They all work for universities and have no idea what it’s like to have all your intellectual credit stripped from you systematically by law. Lovely that, isn’t it? They think it’s your own fault for agreeing to be employed under the usual terms and conditions, neglecting to observe that no alternative is ever offered.
Free software is the only way forward.
Meanwhile, over at WorldCADaccess there’s a report of Solidworks and AutoCAD giving free crippled copies of their multi-thousand-dollar products to verifiably unemployed CAD workers, possibly because they’re worried talented people will spend their time working on free CAD software that could ultimately threaten the profitable stagnation of the industry.
The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (“Members consider the consequences of their work and societal issues pertinent to it”) ran the Westec 2009 trade show in Los Angeles, which finished on 2 April 2009.
Blogger Derek Goodwin visited the Mastercam booth there and reported:
I ran into Mike Macarthur, national sales manager for Robb Jack corporation and he showed me some incredible video on his iphone of 1/2″ diameter endmills cutting 1″ deep at 75 inches per minute in 6Al4V titanium, using Dynamic milling, he has promised to forward some links and a presentation, so look for this in a future article.
Their new “Dynamic milling” technique looks a lot like our old Adaptive Clearing strategy, which we invented in 2004.
Obviously, it can’t be the same code, or we would have seen some sort of a contract relating to it, got paid a tiny stipend for fixing on-going bugs, and so on. Still, those people at Mastercam have managed to produce a finished product without all the usual embarrassing intervening stages of half-baked flawed and buggy versions that you tend to get in this line of work. They must be much cleverer at programming than we are not to experience all the same set-backs and mistakes. I’d like to hear from them — the people who coded it; not the be-suited managers.
We, at Freesteel, are in eager to share the extremely limited CAM programming expertise there appears to be in the world, and we intend to lend support to any other programming team who is attempting to unnecessarily replicate our work, rather than follow the cheaper and more reliable option of buying the code from us. Programmers must have maximum freedom to pursue whatever apparently irrational course of development they feel is right because — who knows — they might actually be better than us at writing algorithms such as this. It’ll give us something to compete against. Otherwise we’ll get lazy and work on other things.
That’s why a couple of years ago we gave a DLL copy of the Adaptive Clearing algorithm to Delcam so they could bind it into their into the internal development versions of their products and better experiment against it while they were writing their own version.
Since they do not appear to have done this, it can only mean that Delcam don’t feel that this clearing algorithm adds any value to their products. Which is fine. It’s probably the attitude of most of the major CAM companies, most of whom won’t even go that far. Their recommendations of the worth of any strategy doesn’t only depend on whether or not they’ve got it, does it?
Without an organization of any kind representing the interests of users of CAM software, it’s impossible for the ordinary joe to see through the totally self-serving information that comes out of all corners of the business.
Still. It’s not as bad as the financial “industry”. It’s only software, not people’s livelihoods.
Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 3:48 pm - Kayak Dive
Here’s a soothing video I put together from a quick excursion towards the Great Orme and under Llandudno Pier last weekend. (If I’d read that wikipedia article I’d have known that it was intended to land large ferries at the end, and would have had a look — except for the fishing line.)
Now I’m in Matienzo (Spain) at its permanent british caving expedition with a hang-over while it’s raining outside. Ho hum.
Friday, April 10th, 2009 at 3:40 pm - Whipping
Just received a tip-off about the new design of the Parliament web-page heralded by this dreadful press release:
Why are we doing it?
The Parliament website aims to make Parliamentary information more accessible, show that Parliament is relevant, and enable people to connect and engage with Parliament. The aim of the redesign is to:
- provide a site that is modern, fresh and engaging;
- refine the routes to information, making it more accessible for the user; and
- offer more focused, timely and dynamic content to improve the overall user experience.
Obviously this will take them a lot of unnecessary time and expense because — for some unknown reason — they’ve chosen not to take a copy of all our lovely free code and build from it, and instead are continuing to pretend that all our years of volunteer effort simply doesn’t exist! What’s the point? Do you just enjoy wasting your precious lives shoveling code in to and out of binary holes to no effect so long as you get a wage?
Anyways, it’s only got the Lords divisions from January 2009 with URLs like so:
Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill [HL]
Lord Hanningfield moved amendment 166, after clause 79, to insert the new clause Delegation by regional development agencies. The House divided:
Not Contents: 69
Result: Government victory
There are no links on the names, or links to the debate, or links to the Bill or to the amendment 166 or to clause 79 — which I think are pretty essential for this page to be of any use.
Oh, and the links to the lists of votes by party: don’t be fooled. They’re not implemented using AJAX.
Searching for other comments about this new feature only shows up a note on Page 52 of House of Lords reform chronology since 1997 document referring to a “House of Lords division analysis database” — so there must be one, from which these few pages are being derived.
So, while the highly paid staff and other software consultants cut-off in their own little world inside the Parliamentary estate appear to do their business without any notice of what people are doing on the outside, we at Public Whip don’t try to pretend that our website is the answer to everything. It isn’t. This is why I’ve programmed in the deep links to the Lords Division Analysis pages where they exist. Try it from this division from 1 April which I have motion text edited, with links, explanations and so forth to look kind of like this:
The majority of Lords voted against inserting a new clause into the Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Bill which would have actually resulted in a new clause in the Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 which said:
Delegation of functions by regional development agencies
Subject to the provisions of this section, a regional development agency shall have power to arrange for the discharge of any of their functions by a local authority within their area, or jointly by a group of local authorities within that area.
Following a short debate, the proposer of this motion (Lord Hanningfield) begged leave to withdraw this amendment. Unusually there was an objection to this, and the matter was pressed to a vote.
This is what the people in Parliament should be doing: untangling this horrible morass of legislative cross-referencing of their own making so that normal people stand a change of finding out what the hell is going on!
Why am I still having to do it? ooo, it makes me so cross. How do they get away with being so useless for so many years on end?
It’s a heavy topic, and I haven’t much time. I don’t know how we got here, but it’s a lot better than it was in the 1980s when MPs started “work” at 2pm to give them time to deal with all their “business interests” in the banking sector. Apparently these outside activities helped them keep in touch with the outside world and suppliment their inadequate income — until too much sleaze was coming to light.
They’ve made the argument that MPs don’t get paid enough to attract the high calibre individuals who don’t want to take a break in the lucrative careers to work for such a pittance. This has been said back in 1996, and probably a lot of times since.
Now, a lot of much cleverer, harder working, consciencious and honourable people than the current pack of MPs do very effective and important jobs for much lower pay, and get by well on it. There is no evidence that the party system, whose headquarters are all located in London and who act as the gate-keepers to Parliament (as evidenced by their ability to parachute in what ought to be totally inadequate candidates) is at all capable of sifting in good candidates — in terms of ability to serve the public interest.
Where do these candidates come from? There should be a live survey of their backgrounds, scraped from their wikipedia templates.
How could the high-calibre but not-paid-enough candidates story play out?
Suppose there is a rather garrulous businessman in the high finance who gets on well with people. His peers — including revolving door civil servants, political party advisors, and closed clique media — suggest to him why not run for Parliament. You could do us a lot of good there, making sure the tax code is moth-eaten piece of toilet paper, and none of the regulatory bodies work. But I can’t afford it, he says. I need my yacht in the Mediterrainian, and my wife wants to go shopping in Dubai every weekend. The kids are in Westminster School. That’s what you do with lots of money. I wouldn’t have these problems if I didn’t earn so much.
Don’t worry, we’re trying to get the pay raised up to appropriate levels so that our sorts of people with our sorts of sympathies are going to be willing to be put forward for service.
What about the House of Lords?
Well, Gordon Brown tried appointing some businessmen as goats (Government of all talents), but it didn’t work out. There was no filtration at all for capabilities. You’ve got to go through at least some test of mettle.
Meantime, there’s always fiddling the expenses to keep your life up to the level to which you have become accustomed. And it’s a good thing: We don’t want to have honest people in Parliament. We want them to be like us, in the business world — just greedy, small-minded, petty, self-interested individuals with no morals who can easily be bought, and are able to cover up for us. After all, if you’ve shown off your true character over some trivial expenses because you feel duty-bound to fly close to the wind and not play safe even though you are paid loads, then you are qualified to represent the money interests against the people.
I was thinking about business expenses a while ago. The standard procedure is that a company reimbursing expenses is equivalent to the company buying the goods and services directly.
So, in this day and age, it would be pretty convenient for employees to always use a special company credit card, which deals with expenses and logs the purchases. Anything else is their own business. No more form fiddling.
It’s also supposed to be a standard rule that everything the company buys belongs to the company, and if you want to keep it for your own personal use, you have to buy it from the company at a fair rate. At least that’s how it would work if shareholder’s interests actually counted, because more often than not the managers on the ground are able to shuffle stuff around with no come-back.
This is where there’s a problem with tax. For if a company buys a bar of gold, and then gives it to you as a gift (or sells it at a cheap rate), then you can sell it on to redeem its value because it’s yours, and you can evade a lot of tax that would have been paid had the company just given cash.
This was happening years ago in the 1990s where I worked regarding company cars. Some of the staff got company cars which they drove around for free on expenses. They redeemed the value of this gift by not running their own car. This eventually became taxable (as with any beneficial gift you receive from a company) and the scam stopped.
I’m not really an expert on these things, but the words seemed to be “qualifying expenses”. A salesman driving to a customer wouldn’t have to pay tax on the journey, but the programmers running to and from work in their shiny company cars do not qualify.
Under general Income Tax law, a director or employee is taxable on the full amount of earnings received and this generally includes reimbursed expenses he or she may receive. The employee may, however, obtain a deduction from those earnings under Section 336 ITEPA 2003 for qualifying expenses. That is to say, the level of income is reduced by the qualifying expenditure in calculating the tax due.
So, all the money you receive in goods and cash from the company has to be considered. And you can deduct only the qualifying expenses from this before you calculate your tax.
The expenses rule which applies to travel costs also covers related subsistence costs. This type of expenditure qualifies for a deduction where it is part of the cost of travel necessarily incurred in the performance of the duties, or for necessary attendance at a temporary workplace. So, in general, payments by an employer for an employee’s accommodation and subsistence when staying away from home overnight on business are not taxed.
So, anyway, there’s kind of a lot of this stuff, loopholes and all (including an inexcusable issue with air miles). What’s almost certainly not allowed — for ordinary people — is putting your hotel expenses towards a second home mortgage somewhere, and then keeping that afterwards (without paying lots of tax on that).
So, are MPs taxed on their second homes, which they have kitted out with fine furnature?
I don’t know.
There’s this article about their paying tax on the capital gains on one of their two theoretical homes. Normally if you sell two properties whose value is higher than what they were bought for, you pay no tax on your primary home, and you pay tax on the profit on your second home. The article reports that MPs can each decide for themselves which one is which, and so they invariably chose the London one which had gained more value. It smells awfully similar to Lord Conrad Black’s cheat on his company regarding a property he decided he wanted to buy at the original price — like it was a share option.
But what about tax on the original expenses that were paid to buy that second home? There’s this statement:
Members of the House of Commons, the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly for Wales and the Northern Ireland Assembly may have homes a long way away from the Parliament or Assembly and so may need accommodation near it. Alternatively they may need accommodation in their constituency. Expenditure that is incurred in connection with the provision of this accommodation is not qualifying expenditure for PMAs.
I can’t work out what PMA means.
I gotta go. So I’ll leave you with some links to special HM Revenue & Customs tax forms just for MPs.
Form MP2 says: “Tick box 1.6 if you held ministerial office”.
Notes MPN4 say:
If you were a Member of Parliament
Fill in one copy of the Parliament Pages
If you were a Minister in the House of Commons
Fill in one copy of the Parliament Pages for your income as an MP and one for your ministerial office – but see below if you changed office.
If you were a Minister in the House of Lords
Fill in one copy of the Parliament Pages – but see below if you changed office.
If you changed office during the year
Fill in a separate copy of the Parliament Pages for each office from which you received any income in the year ended 5 April 2007.
If you held a non-parliamentary office or employment at the same time
Fill in a separate set of Employment Pages for each non-Parliamentary employment from which you received
I also see:
Your Parliamentary income includes the value of any accommodation and ancillary services (for example, heating, lighting or cleaning) you (or your family or household) get by reason of your office as an MP. (If you have the benefit of any accommodation by reason of another office or employment, enter it on separate Pages covering that office or employment.) The value of some accommodation is exempt from tax, for instance, if there is a special threat to your security and the accommodation is provided as part of special security arrangements. If you have agreed with us that your accommodation is exempt, do not enter anything in box 1.14 unless circumstances have changed. However, there is still a charge to tax on the ancillary services. This is usually limited to 10% of your salary from the office concerned. Enter this value in box 1.14.
I’m not able to find forms MP1 and the rest. There are similar special forms for the Scottish Parliament.
All of which is morally hazardous, because these are the people who oversee the tax code in this country. If they’re getting their dispensations from it, then they don’t really come into contact with its effects, and they feel more predisposed towards giving dispensations to other classes of self-important individuals for whom they share sympathies.
The reverse at least has happened with the Freedom of Information Act, but by an oversight was applied to Parliament, and then by public outrage has not been disapplied to Parliament.
Because the Freedom of Information Act applies to MPs, they’re discovering first hand what a powerful tool it is, and they’ll hopefully not have any sympathy with groups who want to exempt themselves from this Act.
And finally, there’s this suggestion of getting rid of these housing expenses altogether (the other expenses remain) and replacing it with a £24,000 pay hike, because of all the trouble it’s causing. Evidently, MPs and ministers can’t be trusted to operate their own affairs without getting into deep trouble the first time someone from outside their clique gets to look.
The one thing that should exist in politics are little bits of personal temptation, whose consequence can get out and which are easy for the public to understand. These stories reveal more about their characters than any policy arguments over theoretical things. I’d rather have that than not know.