The scandal of the £360,000 carpets

In today’s Daily Telegraph, we learn that Members of Parliament are to get new carpets in their offices.

Portcullis House, where many MPs have their offices, is to have new carpets fitted at a cost of £360,000 to the taxpayer

That sounds scandalous and extravagant, doesn’t it? But let’s do the sums.

First, how much carpet are we talking about? Norman Baker MP asked a pertinent question in the House of Commons 2004:

… how many extra buildings and what additional square feet of office space has been acquired by the parliamentary estate in each year since 1975.

In the answer (given in metric units rather than square feet) we learn that Portcullis House, acquired in 2000, has a net internal area of 20,694 m².

Dividing £360,000 by 20,694 gives us a figure of about £17 per square metre of fitted carpet.

What does carpet cost? Office carpet seems to go for around £11 to £15 per square metre from the prices I can find online.

So £17 for carpet plus underlay plus removal and fitting seems reasonable.

Second, is it a frivolous expense? Portcullis House opened in 2001, and the carpets have not been replaced since [ibid. Telegraph]:

The carpet in Portcullis House was fitted 15 years ago, and now needs to be replaced.

So the story here is that 15-year-old carpet in an office building is being replaced at a very reasonable cost of £17 per square metre.

Be outraged about something that matters.

Skimmer, deuxième partie

Previously on Skimmer: on Sunday, your protagonist discovered a suspicious-looking whirring bezel stuck on the hacked-up front of an RBS cash machine and reported it to the operators. On Monday, he observed the same cash machine, now out of order, but continuing to sport the peculiar modification. And now, the continuation …

This evening (Tuesday), I returned to reconnoitre the ATM in question. It’s now back in service, with the funny bezel still in place. More…


I discovered a card skimmer on a cash machine on Sunday morning. More…

Constitutions and passports

Northern Ireland is a great place to have been born, at least back when I was. You get to have two nationalities. (And, unlike UK citizens born elsewhere, you’re eligible for the US Diversity green card lottery.) I mean, sure, nationality based on the place in which you happened to be born is kind of arbitrary, but what else do you think nationality is?

Anyway, you get the right to choose two nationalities, which gives you the right to one passport. That’s right: I said one. No one has the right to a British passport. More…


I was in Aberdeen at the weekend, but I think I saw more Scottish saltires flying from flagpoles in a fifteen-minute walk through Westminster this evening than I did all weekend.

Every government building in London is flying the Scottish flag now, it seems, as part of a desperate last-ditch attempt to head off the increasingly real possibility of Scottish independence. I think they might have left it a bit late to start taking things seriously. More…

Older entries can be found in the diary section.