Cost of expenses
MPs have raised the white flag, and announced the terms of their surrender to people demanding tighter rules for their expenses and greater transparency.
This morning, the Speaker's committee - properly known as the Members Estimates Committee - set out their plans for a transformation of the system. From now on, if the House of Commons vote for these proposals, MPs would get an annual allowance, just under £20,000, for their accommodation, and the servicing of it. Gone would be the so-called John Lewis list of TVs, iPods, and all the rest. Gone, the new kitchens. And gone, the £400 a month food allowance. However, in place of some of these questionable allowances, there is a new £30 a day subsistence allowance, which will not requre a receipt, for the 140 days that the Commons sits for.
In total, this means MPs can claim just about as much as they do now but with much less embarrassment, and much greater audit and scrutiny. All new expense claims will be published every three months. And in the autumn, as I predicted some time ago, a million items, representing the past four years of MPs' expenses, will be published.
Now, none of this is without cost. MPs have been told that that exercise alone cost £900,000. And the committee believes that's likely to be an underestimate. Will these proposals, if they go through, mark an end to the controversy? No, there are still questions about why certain MPs need second homes where they have them. There are questions about MPs who are married, and the claims they make. There are sure to be other unpredicted questions too.
However, most of the issues that have caused such controversy in recent months appear, at first sight, to have been dealt with by these proposals. Unless, of course, you know differently.
UPDATE, 12:50PM: In response to some of your comments, let me attempt to clarify a few details.
The proposed accommodation allowance would be payable on production of receipts only to cover rent, mortgage interest, repairs (though not home improvements), cleaning and maintenance but not furnishings, household goods and the like.
The proposed daily subsistence allowance of £30 will not require receipts - just prove of attendance at the Commons.
Neither will be taxed since, I'm told, the Inland Revenue do not tax expenses/allowances for working away from home.