Of all the officials, and there are several, who choose to claim every privilege to which their job entitles them, Andrew Leung Kin-pong is one most in touch with life at the opposite end of the scale. As Director of Social Welfare, his work brings him into contact with the socially disadvantaged and poorest members of society. So the contrast between the perks that come with his $181,050-per-month job, against the families who have to make ends meet on social welfare, is particularly marked. Only recently, Mr Leung said that in the current economic climate, $12,000 in benefits for families of four might be on the high side. But he has now recognised that the $70,000 it cost the taxpayer when he travelled first class to London is profligacy on a greater scale. By agreeing to refund the difference in the price for a business class seat, he has ameliorated a little of the offence that his high-flying tastes have caused at a time when everyone is called upon to make financial sacrifices. But his embarrassment should serve as a reminder to all civil servants that they also have an obligation to pare personal expenses to the minimum while they inflict economies on other sectors of the community. That seems to be something that senior officials find hard to accept. They do not appear to feel any discomfort in discussing budget cuts for the rest of Hong Kong, while continuing to enjoy all the benefits of rank and privilege. It helps to lift the general mood if public figures set an example in times of difficulty. The civil service enjoys widespread respect but that will be eroded if there appears to be one law for officialdom and another for the rest of the community. The same is true for legislators, some of whom show a similar tendency to claim every dollar. Certain members should ask themselves if it is fair to submit expenses for car maintenance when they have second jobs and are already well paid, or whether there can ever be justification for spending $11,000 for a meal at a restaurant. Members who agreed to waive a pay rise declare a solidarity with their fellow citizens which binds the community together in times of crisis. Civil servants could show a little of that spirit. After all, travelling business class is not exactly in the hardship category.