Friday, May 16, 2008

MP's will have to disclose their expenses after all.

The Speaker, Michael Martin, has lost his high court battle to stop the exposure of the details of second-home expenses claimed by 14 prominent MPs. The Commons authorities had challenged the Information Tribunal's demand that a detailed breakdown of MPs' additional costs allowances had to be provided under the Freedom of Information Act.

The allowances cover the expenditure incurred when an MP is away from home on parliamentary duties, including the cost of running second homes and general household bills. A total of 14 MPs and former MPs, including former prime minister Tony Blair and his successor, Gordon Brown, Tory leader David Cameron and the former Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Menzies Campbell, will now have to disclose a detailed breakdown of what they claimed. MPs can claim up to £23,000 a year on expenses for costs associated with running a second home; a sum that is also paid tax-free.
This is the most contentious of the various allowances that MP's can claim because it includes mortgage interest on a second home. MP's have to 'claim' a sum each month up to the maximum; they can't just get the cash, so their is a whole list of other claimable costs such as plasma screen TV's and so on that gave rise to the much publicised 'John Lewis List' earlier in the year.

Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, for instance, has spend £7,000 of taxpayers money renovating a home in his Sheffield constituency - decorating costs, carpets and so on were paid for through his ACA.

I should point out that Mr Clegg is not breaking any rules and is only doing what hundreds of other MP's do. He at least has pre-empted this ruling by voluntarily publishing his expenses last week. But the thing is that when the property that Mr Clegg has so nicely renovated is sold, the profits will remain his.

In my view calling this an 'allowance' is a chirade; it's part of MP's pay and they should be honest enough to admit it; the trouble is if they were to add enough to their salaries to replace this allowance they would need a headline salary of £100,000 - and they don't think the public will wear that much.

As I say in business to candidates all the time, if you can't justify the salary you are asking for; you are asking for too much.


Anonymous said...

It wont make the slightest difference. You are all in it for the money.

you can call me 'cllr' said...

I'd love to know what our 'honourable' MP thinks about this, having kicked up such a fuss when equally hard-working local councillors dared to increase their own pay and perks to less then one tenth of what he gets.

Anonymous said...

The Tory Leader in the European Parliament, isn't much better...
"South West MEP Giles Chichester, has now admitted paying his wife Virginia up to £30,000 as a PART-TIME assistant. He is also paying up to £30,000 of taxpayers' cash to his family firm Francis Chichester Ltd which publishes maps and guide books. He claims that the company provides him with secretarial help." (Con Home)

you can call me cllr said...

MEP's are worse than MP's for expenses by far; I would not be suprised if Tories there are the worst.

That doesn't make our MP's conduct defensible though.

It's Lib Dems who keep saying the Parliamentary expenses system must be changed (and I support them) which is why it's all the more frustrating that our own MP has such a poor record in this area.

Employing family members on the taxpayer isn't acceptable.