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Cost of expenses

Nick Robinson | 11:27 UK time, Wednesday, 25 June 2008

MPs have raised the white flag, and announced the terms of their surrender to people demanding tighter rules for their expenses and greater transparency.

House of CommonsThis 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.

Comments

Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    I'm glad to see a shift towards transparency, that is the number one must-have of any expense policy.

    I would also welcome some benchmarking of how this scheme compares to the expense policies of big corporations. If such a report exists I would be grateful if somebody would point me in the right direction.

  • Comment number 2.

    There was a time when MP's were thought of as Honourable, they then acted in ways that made people doubt that they were.

    They have finally came up with a scheme that admitsthat they cannot be trusted to be Honourable so were just given the money anyway.

    My vote at the next election goes to the party that agrees that all expenses will be backed up by receipts and published on the MP's website as party policy.

  • Comment number 3.

    How about reducing the number of MP's at Westminster to save costs? After all 80% of the legislation is initiated at Brussels.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm not sure I understand this fully, are you saying that they will get a £20k allowance each year for expenses, of which they can use £30 each day that the commons sits for, for food etc?

    Or is it that they would get a £20k allowance plus the £30 a day, which would make the total allowance £24,200 a year?

    Also, looking back at the published expenses for the six MPs that came out back in April, the amounts that were being claimed are as follows;

    £20,347
    £20,057
    £18,618
    £15,490
    £14,304
    £12,869

    Isn't this new plan just setting a limit on how much MPs can spend, which is actually higher than what was (on average) previously being put through?

  • Comment number 5.

    It is a mistake to publish the last 4 years expenses.

    Whilst there is little doubt that there has been misuse of expenses, we are now going to find that our MP's are spending useful time defending themselves against predatory journalists looking to name and shame someone.

    We should just accept that the expenses process has been cleaned up somewhat and move on.

  • Comment number 6.

    brilliant you replace a system that requires receipts with one that just hands out the money whether its required or not.

    They really must think we are all stupid......

  • Comment number 7.

    This is a joke. MPs just do not seem to be getting this through their thick skulls.

    This is my money they are spending. I want to know exactly what they are spending it on and I want to know exactly why they think they should have it.

    I want it scrutinised, justified, audited and examined item by item, day by day, and above all in public wher I can see.

    Other than that, they remain disgusting, untrustworthy creatures who are now that far in the rough they need snorkels.

  • Comment number 8.

    I hope they're going to be taxed on the additional £20K. In which case I don't care how they spend it.

    I'm a bit concerned about the £30 per diem. Where does an MP work? Is it his/her constituency or Parliament. If Parliament, then this should be considered a benefit and also taxed. Or, is HMRC going to bend the rules for our "leaders"?

  • Comment number 9.

    As a self employed person having to stay in London for work during the week, why do I have to provide receipts for everything I spend above £5 a day whilst MPs will now receive an accomodation allowance of £20k/year and £30/day subsistence allowance without receipts? If HMRC believe these allowances to be reasonable, as they presumably do, why can't the same apply to anyone else who has to live away from their family home for work reasons?

  • Comment number 10.

    It is very, very hard to believe that a government which, as it's leader says, is feeling the pain of the people, can then accept a system which awards themselves a tax-free additional allowance equivalent to the national average wage. Regardless of need?

    Parliament sits for 140 days per year. £24,000 for 140 days equals £171 per day or £1,200 per week. This is in addition to their normal salary.

    I keep recalling the old adage, the government should be there to rule FOR the people, not to RULE the people. It's very easy for the Chancellor to tell the nation that they should keep wage increases to 2%, while he is a member of a group of people who appear to have a much greater chance of controlling their own fortunes than the rest of us.

  • Comment number 11.

    Like MP's I am a public servant. Like MP's the role I do is considered professional and anyone fulfilling it is expected to be honest and trustworthy.

    Unlike MP's , however, I am expected to account for any expenditure I incur in my work and be held to account for it.

    Consequently I must submit receipts for any subsistence or travel expenses and to record the start and finish mileage on my car odometer for any journey taken for work purposes.

    I can see no reason why MP's should not be required to undertake the same procedures that are required of other public servants in the pursuit of their work and to meet the same national / local government audit scrutiny requirements. What they are entitled to claim for far exceeds any other public servants - the least they can do is be fully accountable for it.

  • Comment number 12.

    Why can't MP's be instructed to adhere to the Inland Revenue rules like the rest of us do in the private business sectors.
    An expense account is a perfectly legitimate method,auditable by the Inland Revenue, for ensuring out of pocket expenses are paid to individuals when they are working away from their place of domicile on the proviso that receipts are provided to prove the expenditure has been made paid to the individual.
    That's normal in the private sector and probably in the majority of public sector businesses.It's clean cut and above board -so why should MP's be treated any differently god only knows.
    They have wives,nannies or secretaries on their respective payrolls who can collate the receipts and fill out the forms to be supplied to back room at the Commons for payment.
    Not exactly rocket science.

  • Comment number 13.

    Hi Nick

    No doubt you have been reading through "David's website".... http://www.daviddavisforfreedom.com/ to keep abreast of his progress !

  • Comment number 14.

    Re: No. 6

    They do. But they're wrong. The vast majority now sees Labour for what it really is: a great old sow grown fat from gorging at the trough of taxpayers' money. Diseased and swollen the beast stumbles on - it's going to need the fat for the long, cold winter of opposition, if it survives at all.

    Labour have never bothered to hide their avarice. Fuel tax, beer tax, fag tax, every tax under the sun and with all this income they still can't get anything right. It's all wasted on useless IT projects, quangos and handouts for people who contribute nothing. And now our worthless MPs decide to give themselves this 'allowance' in spite of the economic troubles. There is no other term for it: this is legalised theft. Labour is unfit for office.

  • Comment number 15.

    MPs are in just for themselves. They have no loyalty and no honour.

  • Comment number 16.

    Great! Now can all small businesspeople also be entitled to claim £30.00 each, per day, without producing any receipts? Because let's not kid ourselves that MPs will claim anything less than the maximum to which they are entitled.

    MPs have proved themselves collectively dishonest. Now the idea seems to be "If you want us to be honest, you'll have to bribe us to do it."

  • Comment number 17.

    All MPs should supply receipts for everything. Every last cup of coffee, Let's face it, can you really trust any of them to be honest over their 'freebies'. No. Without the recent media glare on this issue nothing, I repeat, nothing would have been proposed. Their backs are against the wall and they're trying as hard as they can to retain these 'benefits' in such a way that it won't cause too much public concern. My answer: buy up some of those ever cheapening new flats, decorate them, maintain them, and make the MPs use them as and when they stay in London. Furthermore, 30 quid a day subsistence allowance. No way. They earn enough, they're well subsidised, let them spend their own money on grub or whatever.

  • Comment number 18.

    I'm pretty cheesed off by all this. A few bad apples amongst MPs have increased the administrative burden for the rest significantly. I've spoken to a couple of MPs and Lords in the last few days, and they are talking about large sums of money to pay for extra administrators in the Commons to sort all this out. It also creates a fertile ground for non-stories in the silly season about what various MPs are spending their money on. The only people who benefit are the media, it seems to me. It costs taxpayers more, and distracts MPs from the real job they should be doing - both administratively, and in responding to the inevitable pointless media stories that will result. What a stupid exercise!

  • Comment number 19.

    I still don't understand that why the HMRC seems to feel that £5 a night is an adequate overnight allowance for when I am working away from home, but the government feels that £30 is necessary for MP's. Is the extra £25 going to be taxable? I'd hope so, although I'm sure it's not going to be!
    I also don't understand why the Government pays the interest on mortgages for MP's second homes. I'm sure the HMRC would have something to say about that if private companies tried that - it also strikes me that when MP's come to sell those homes, do they have to return part of the profit on the spiralling value of that home to the treasury, since the 'investment' was at the public expense? Its plain to see why MPs are not concerned about the social consequences of the rediculously overinflated property values in the UK, they are coining it in hand over fist!

    As a contractor who is often required to work away from home for extended periods of time (years, in some cases) I find it highly unfair that MPs are treated differently to the ordinary people. Many of the expenses I can claim against tax for working away from home stop as soon as I have been away from home for 24 months, or from the point it becomes aparrent that I will be away for that length of time. The HMRC expect that if you're going to be away from home 24 months or more, you should move to be nearer to work, so therefore expense claims are not legitimate. Now, I know that MP's are expected to keep a foot in both camps, but there are many personal and financial reasons that it is not practical for me to move every time I get a different contract.

    MPs are very keen to be seen as being equivalent to business people when it means they can get "catch up" payments to bring their pay in line with top managers, but not so keen when it comes to being taxed on the huge amount they get.
    If MPs want to get salaries that are the same as businessmen, then they should go into business. I'd rather be ruled by people that were doing it because they want to help the people of our country, rather that by people who want to earn loads of money in a job where their job performance is not measured and they receive preferential tax treatment.

  • Comment number 20.

    i am unsure why members of parliament are deemed to be a special case? Thousands of people work away from home and there are inland revenue rules to cover the payment of legitimate expenses, surely they just have to follow the rules like the rest of us.

  • Comment number 21.

    I echo what every other public servant has said on here today. Unless I'm more than 5 miles away from my office for more than 5 core business hours I can't buy a cup of tea (and expect in to be reimbursed as long as I have a receipt and I fill out two separate forms when I return to the office). Yet why, when elected by *us* to do *our* work is it ok for them to screw us left right and centre.

    £5 a day subsistence allowance seems to be the average in LA and Civil Service positions - what makes them worth £25 more a day?

    In response to comment number 14 - we can hardly call this a labour problem! They walked into office after the Tories had perfected the art of raping the system and continued it. Guilty of not being very left and labour like yes! Guilty of being unfit for office - well...... "best of a bad bunch" springs to mind. But in a time when we're all being told to accept less than inflation rises and they get this.....

  • Comment number 22.

    In reply to number 18, it's the PRINCIPLE of the system that matters. We can't let any old situation go ahead just because it costs money to police it, otherwise we would have anarchy in everything!

    And surely the fact that it's "a few bad apples" has absolutely no bearing on the situation. In that case why, for example, are we all suffering huge security increases (including costs) just because "a few bad apples" cause problems?

    Understand that this is OUR hard earned cash which is being frittered away and, as many people have observed here, apparently in direct contradiction to the fiscal laws of the land which apply to the rest of us!

  • Comment number 23.

    As an ex member of the British Forces, at one point I had an expenses account with a weekly float of £100. This was to buy all the daily newspapers, milk, bread, etc. You wouldn't believe what I went through at the end of every month in regards to submitting this to the pay office! I had to have a receipt for everything, whether it cost 10p or £100. Every purchase was documented. The highest penalty for misuse of the account was at least a court marshal. My friend was fined £600 when it was found he was buying a £2 monthly motoring magazine on his expenses account.

    These politicians are really on a gravy train, and have lost touch with the common voter. Most are already wealthy, but using my money to increase their ever increasing bank balance. And they are all the same. That's why I stopped using my vote five years ago as none of them care about the community they serve, only the money they can make.

  • Comment number 24.

    Nick;

    Why should the allowance pay for repairs if they have chosen to buy a place? That is their decision. They can rent and the landlord will be responsible for repairs. Why should Joe public pick up the tab for this?

  • Comment number 25.

    Re Re No. 18

    'And distracts MPs from the real job they should be doing'

    With 80% of laws being handed out by the EU, what work is that then?

    Rubbish collections, Post Office closures and recycling tax, does this remind you of anything being thought up here.

    Massive mileage allowances, long holidays, subsidised booze and food, and now 20k.

    How many ‘honest’ MPs voted against their pay rises? Not many, I’d bet.

  • Comment number 26.

    Furthermore, the allowance should simply reflect the actual costs and those costs should have a ceiling. And, i'm not talking about costs that 'they' think should reflect their status. Rent/mortgage less than the ceiling, that's all they get, more than that: no chance. Times are getting tougher and we need to get tough with our sleazy old scratch my back I'll scratch your back political elite.

  • Comment number 27.

    re 9 Billy-Fish

    You are so right what should be good for MPs should be good for us all

    Will this mean if a business sets the same daily allowance as MPs then they can set the same, or as I think it will be one rule for them and one for us.

    When I was working used to get an allowance for suit (1 per year) as we needed to be "smart" what happened the revenue said it was benefit in kind as it could be worn outside business hours,so taxed on half the value.

    Next I come back on this earth going to become and MP.

  • Comment number 28.

    Nick - just to clarify. HM Revenue and Customs taxes round sum allowances, when given in a normal commercial context. They do not tax expenses that are wholly necessarily and exclusively for a business purpose, when supported by receipts. HMRC do allow what they call personal incidental expenses of up to gbp5.00 per night when working away from home in the UK and up to gbp10.00 when abroad. On this basis, the 30.00 should be taxed, or the Commons authorities should settle the tax on that allowance with HMRC.

    Having said all that, as it goes I have no gripe with a system that is fair and transparent. I think that a sum-certain higher basic pay would have been better all around, however I expect the authorities believed that politically such a course of action would have been hard to justify. so it's back to expenses then.

  • Comment number 29.

    8 bobn_uk

    Do MPs pay tax? If they do I bet they are working behind the scenes to make themselves exceptions.

  • Comment number 30.

    So basically they've changed the system so they don't get caught, or that there's nothing to get caught for....

    Aye that will certainly replenish public trust in politicians.

    Honestly would they trust themselves?

  • Comment number 31.

    10 Viking

    I agree.

    I'm finding it very easy to support low paid people striking for more than 2% when MPs are raking it in in allowances.

    It is the poorest working people and pensioners who are really suffering with real inflation of over 6%, some say higher.

    One day someone in the government will work out that unit food, heating and travel costs are the same for everyone, and it is those with the lowest disposable income - for some people that is negative - who suffer most and get into debt fastest.

    The 10p tax fiasco made that painfully obvious to everyone.

  • Comment number 32.

    I have a fairer system.

    All MPs that have a constituency outside the M25 should get their rent paid, up to a value of say 1000 pounds a month, on a house inside the M25, paid by the Commons Office direct to the landlord.

    MPs whose constituencies are inside the M25 don't need anything.

    Lunch whilst at the Commons should be free, as should an evening meal during a late sitting.

    Meals taken elsewhere, whilst on strictly parliamentary business with no private element at all, should be reimbursable to a set maximum, on production of a receipt, counter-signed by their whip's office.

    Under no circumstances should an MP - supposedly a representative of the people - be able to buy a second home at my expense when not only can I not afford a first home, but there isn't even a council property for me.

    Oliver Cromwell would execute the greedy worthless scum that are destroying the credibility of OUR parliament

    The garbage that is Westminster gorges on.

  • Comment number 33.

    ...and another point if the public purse is financing these second homes then it is only right that the public purse benefits from the capital gain!

  • Comment number 34.

    One other little thing, where would one say is an MP's normal place of work? In a normal context one would think the House of Commons, however the way the tax system is being used then it's probably their constituency office.

    So the tax system is being used both ways: an untaxed accommodation allowance is paid so they can be near the House of Commons but a daily subsistence allowance is being paid because they're working away from home (ie at the House of Commons).

    I might be wrong. But look forward to hearing a response!

    But as I say, the higher basic would have been more worthwhile, rather than this "it is allowable" tax-driven stuff.

  • Comment number 35.

    11 sonofnews

    Where you have to pay from your taxed income to travel to work, MPs don't, its paid for them.

    And the government want to tax parking for employees. I bet that won't apply to MPs.

    Likewise Brown and many other MPs get cars provided. Do they have them taxed as a perk. Of course not.

    The same goes for their residences like Chequers: taxable - not likely.

    Even the fat cats don't get these paid for by their companies.

    Its all one rule for the governors and another for the governed. Funnily, the USSR was like that!!!

  • Comment number 36.

    I wrote to all the local parties by registered post last year informing them that they were not allowed on my property at any time without prior written permission and that if they ignored that they would be regarded as trespassers and doused with water.

    None of them replied, but then again, no political party has canvassed on my road at all since the 1980's and I live in an urban area!!!!

  • Comment number 37.

    Look I may be missing something here, but this seems a really silly 'compromise'. Far from being fully audited, these arrangements will allow MPs NOT to declare the details of their expenses below the threshold.

    I find it amazing that they (a) defended themselves against thevthreat of full revelation in the courts at our expense, (b) spend £900k of our money on an historic audit of their spending and then, (c) propose a settlement that makes them less accountable.

    Whoever said politicans were accountable to the people?

  • Comment number 38.

    Better still, introduce electronic voting from their home constituency, no arm twisting, I'll whip you till you're senseless, presenteeism. It'll save all those travel and second home expenses. Now there's a radical thought.

  • Comment number 39.

    Why cant they just buy / build two tower blocks, one for the government, one for the opposition and have the MP's allocated an apartment when they get elected. This would of course be rent free for the MP's.

    It would be easier and cheaper to manage, easier for security and they could even provide shuttle busses to Westminster which would save on polution.

  • Comment number 40.

    MPs love to use the phrase: 'If you've nothing to hide, you've nothing to fear' - until it applies to them!

  • Comment number 41.

    What on Earth is a "subsistence" payment for? Why should they be given £30 per day just to stay at work? Nobody else gets that kind of benefit.

    If I'd gone to my ex-boss and said "I don't want to spend my salary paying for my lunch, can you give me 30 quid a day to help cover the cost of my sarnies?" he'd have (rightly) laughed in my face and kicked me out the door.

    "Subsistence payments?" that's supposed to be for people on jury duty and the like who have no income while they're on public duty.

    These people are just on a totally different planet.

  • Comment number 42.

    Are we to assume that the subsistence allowance indicates that MP's do not eat unless they are the House of Commons? If they do, then can someone explain why they need an allowance simply to attend their place of work? They would be paying for food anyway. I am surely not alone in being truly sickened by the greed of politicians. They fight tooth and claw to get elected, so we obviously don't have a problem attracting applicants. In any other area of life that would not be seen as a reason to offer huge perks, particualrly in difficult economic times!

    The changes we need to see as a matter of some urgency if respect for politicians (and trust) is to be restored:

    1) They lose the right to set their own pay and pension conditions. (And just like the police, recommendations for pay rises can be ignored when it suits).

    2) They lose a publicly funded pension. They get paid enough to buy one in the market like most other people. Let them share our pain and maybe they will better understand our problems.

    3) Only expences for travel to London and back to their constituencies (backed by receipts) should be payable. Free accomodation should be provided in London where necessary. There are a number of military establishments available as the armed forces have been shrunk to almost nothing - if it was considered good enough for soldiers it is more than good enough for politicians. I would like to hear them justify arguments against that idea!

  • Comment number 43.

    Ah Nicky boy me thinks the old tax man is telling porky pies or using double standards. Let me cast your mind back a couple of decades ago. Lester Piggott went to jail did not pass go and most certainly did not receive £200. What does that have to do with MPs expenses I hear you ask. Well at the same time the tax man went through Newmarket like a dose of salts, not after the Jockey's and Trainers but the stable lads who used to receive £5 a day expenses when they traveled away to the racecourse with their horses. Some of these lads were allegedly taken back seven years mind you they were on a terrific wage at the time positively rolling in the folding stuff. If memory serves me right we were on all of £110.00 a week. So if allowances for working away from home are not taxable then why did the taxman go after the stable lads?

  • Comment number 44.

    39:

    Even better:

    Build one tower block, call it the Blair tower, all the hot air will make it self sufficient in heating. Save money and save the environment. Now there's an even more radical solution.

  • Comment number 45.

    criminals - that's all mp's are these days (and thats being kind).

    if they must have somewhere to stay repossess one of the buildings close to the HoP - make a big flat complex (like a halls of residence) and give them meals. that's all - they work for us you know? or at least they should (they don't of course)

  • Comment number 46.

    It has to be said that by and large we've got the political system we thoroughly deserve.

    Few of us are proactive at handling politicians.

    Me, I lambast our MP wherever and whenever I see him - supermarket, wandering about - anywhere. He visibly winces now whenever he says me, but he knows exactly what I think of the fairness his pay and privilages and in no uncertain terms. He also does not like the fact that people applaud, jeer and clap as I berate him.

    That is what everyone should do. Never ever give a politician an inch of breathing space. They just take the mickey.

  • Comment number 47.

    Does anyone know if the eateries in the House of Parliament are subsidised?

  • Comment number 48.

    re 47: from what I've read in the past, their canteen is very very heavily subsidised by the tax payer; wouldn't surprise me if you could get lobster for a quid.

  • Comment number 49.

    Watched you on the politics show Nick, and most people would agree with you that Cameron keeps changing his tune and never comes up with one single idea or policy.

    He simply opposes all that the Government tries or is trying to do, especially with regards to the investment in Nuclear Energy.

    Rehearsed questions, as all PR trained persons do.

  • Comment number 50.

    I assume that the 30.00 per day will only apply for 2 years, as per the previous chancellors tax changes to ir35. if not why not, that's what i have to abide by.

  • Comment number 51.

    The system still allows MPs to garner (potentially) a substantial capital gain through the appreciation of the London property market. Thus, there should be a contractual mechanism whereby a substantial portion, or preferably all, of any realised gain would be returned to the treasury following disposal. There must be no opportunity for MPs to make any money beyond their salaries. That said, we are at least getting greater transparency. Eventually, the expenses process must be put in the hands of an independent private sector company with the appropriate experience. Parliament simply cannot be trusted and the most rigorous private sector expense monitoring practices must be applied here.

    The next step for the people of Britain will be to eradicate the generous pension allowances of MPs and put them on a 'Money Purchase' scheme. MPs will then better appreciate the lot of their fellow citizens with whom they claim to empathise.

  • Comment number 52.

    It could come true - One day old women will be standing with their knitting in front of a guillotine. As the heads roll, they will clatter away and the yarn will unwind and the knitting will grow. The politicans will be fighting each other to get in the front of the queue for beheading. In their greed, they won't realise what is happening and will just want to be first to have their snouts in the trough.

  • Comment number 53.

    I fear the damage is done Nick and the reputation for probity which should attach to MPs is shattered and will remain so for a long time. Perception is reality and in the eyes of the British people our parliament is, to borrow the popular idiom, 'institutionally dishonest'. Much of the responsibility sits with the deceiptful coward at the top of the Labour party and the glib, avoricious charlatan who preceded him.

  • Comment number 54.

    As an accountant what does constitute a repair and a home improvement? thats madness there is so much subjectiveness in it its unbelievable the leniency which this will afford them. The farce continues

  • Comment number 55.

    Nick,

    The cost of investigating the system of MPs expenses £900,000 (or higher). The cost of running a by-election to highlight the loss of freedoms £75,000 (according to New Labour whingers).

    The former sounds like a good expense if it reduces unnecessary claims by MPS and the perception of sleaze. The latter, (the equivalent of less than 4 MP's expenses - an absolute bargain?

    Can I suggest that from now on, whenever we worry about the cost of anything in the political arena, just equate it to the expenses of a given number of MPs?

    For example, the cost of ID cards = 600,000 MPs expenses for one year, or the total expenses of all 646 MPs for 928 years. It doesn't seem so bad when you think of it in these terms - does it??? On second thoughts....

  • Comment number 56.

    I’ve ceased to be surprised by the bare faced cheek of our MPs. The more expensive they become to service the more you have to wonder what their constituents are getting in return, and why we need so many?

    My MP cost the taxpayer a grand total of £222,000 last year (£150k for expenses + a basic salary of £62k). Yet the tangible benefits of having our own representative in parliament amounts to, nothing.

    To put it another way, how many of us would notice any difference if we halved the number of MPs?

  • Comment number 57.

    Thanks for the clarification Nick, now what has happened about designation a particular house as the main residence and how are they going to proceed when 2 MP's live together, will they be able to claim twice the amount or will it depend on whether they sleep in the same room?

    The litmus test must be are MP's using their tax free allowances to enrich themselves. If they don't, I'm happy.

  • Comment number 58.

    Interesting?
    the latest news hot of the press is Balls and cooper are now under investigation for declaration of a second home that perhaps is not.
    About time to and interesting times ahead but as we know they will get off scott free of course as nu labour ministers always do.
    Kind regards
    Baron Von Ripwinkle De Parkbench

  • Comment number 59.

    Yet another insult to the intelligence of the people who pay their wages.

    The rules should be tighter for them than for any other occupation.

    The auditing should be tighter for them than for any other occupation.

    The tax rules should not be - as people here are pointing out - bent to favour MPs whilst "ordinary" people are not treated as favourably.

    All in all, it just proves what the vast majority of the public already believes - MPs are are nothing more than a shower thieving hypocrites who provide nothing of value to society - yet enjoy the lion's share of the wealth society creates.

    One day the public will say "enough is enough" and when that day arrives I wouldn't like to be in MPs shoes.

  • Comment number 60.

    Nick - are you investigating the reports regarding Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper expense claims are currently being investigation by the Standards Commissioner John Lyon? Can't see any report on BBC News website. Adam Boulton at Sky News is reporting the story now.

    The allegation is over the Additional Cost Allowance (ACA) available for 2nd homes in that Ed Balls/Yvette Cooper claimed that their London property was their second home (and therefore eligible for the ACA) despite the fact it appears to be their primary residence (and their children attend local schools), and therefore not eligible for the ACA.

    Nick?

  • Comment number 61.

    I find it rediculous that MPs can create a capital asset by using tax-payers' money.

    It is totally accepted that MPs from outside London require an adequate base in the capital in order to perform their Parliamentary duties.

    In some cases, this may require a complete family to be brought to London.

    It is completely unacceptable that some of these folk - e.g. the Balls/ Cooper duet) are allowed to call these bases their "second homes" when their Ministerial work is largely based in London and their children go to school in London. Why should we pay for Balls and Cooper - with joint incomes well over UKL 250,000 - to build a capital fund via a second house?

    When MPs from outside London require homes in the area, these could be rented, using an allowance. If a purchase is involved, a Parliamentary Housing Trust should be registered as co-owners, so that, when MPs lose their seats and any property is sold, a majority percentage of any profit is returned to the public purse.

    Over time, The Housing Trust could be in a position to purchase many properties which could be rented to future MPs.

    I resent MPs being given tax-free allowances to pay for potentially large property investment returns.

    Rules and conditions covering MPs' allowances should be set by an independent external agency. This agency should be in a position to audit claims and, where knowing breaches are discovered, have the power to stop claims immediately and if necessary refer MPs for Inland Revenue or police investigation.

    I have fewer issues with MPs employing members of family in support roles - as long as there is a strict vetting of their suitability for the task and actual involvement.

    Breaches (such as the payments to university student offspring, with nothing real to contribute) should be banned altogether.

    All claims should be supported by documentation, as is required in business.

  • Comment number 62.

    As far as this latest piece of legislation is concerned, I'd accept it if the same rules apply to ordinary people. If we get caught fiddling expenses or taxes, then we should just get a slap on the wrist and the HMRC should change the rules so that what we are doing is no longer illegal. Seems fair to me.

    I wonder how many MPs will lose their jobs over this fiasco? I imagine the answer will be none.

  • Comment number 63.

    A spokesperson has said "Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper have done everything in accordance with advice from the Fees Office, which has confirmed they have acted within the rules."
    Well thats OK then double bunce on a second home that actually isn't
    Nice work if you can get it me thinks but hey "so what"
    Kind regards
    Baron Von Ripwinkle De Parkbench

  • Comment number 64.

    Now that the dishonesty of our MPs regarding expenses is quite apparent many questions arise about other dealings in which they are involved.

    Commercial interests? Almost daily, there are examples of members' interests which have been 'overlooked' or 'mis-declared'. What else is mistakingly 'overlooked'?

    There is sound logic that the financial affairs of our 'honourable' and 'right honourable' members and their immediate family are scrutinised by a financially-literate independent body to ensure that they are not in receipt of any kind of payments that might compromise their role as an MP.

  • Comment number 65.

    MPs like to tax anyone receiving perks, execpt themselves.

    A few years ago I worked for a recruitment company, and our secretaries got a £5 voucher for every placement we made. Little cost to the company and a nice little extra.

    But the taxman decided that this was a taxable benefit and it was stopped.

    Yet these MPs can claim enormous amounts of cash. No wonder they are all rich, they never spend any of their salary!

    Mp doesn't sound a diffcult job, especially as a back bencher. Meet a few constituents, write letters to various places regarding their problems. A quick update to the local newspaper every week. Grab the odd photoshoot. Participate in the community.

    Not particularly difficult, perhaps unsociable hours and having at times to meet unsavoury and annoying characters. Toe the party line. OK, work a bit harder if a PPS or junior minister.

    Their first priorities should be to the country. If they would start doing this people would respect them and wouldn't worry about their expenses.

  • Comment number 66.

    for all this moaning, in reality MPs are extremely underpaid. they work 70 hour week sometimes, and could do much better in the private sector. if you look at the number of MPs who went to Oxbridge - i wouldnt mind earning 60,000, but there are many people in the UK who earn far far more, and MPs should at least be up there with them

  • Comment number 67.

    #65 By the way, hairdressers tips are taxed too. As is the tax value of a prize given to a member of staff who may have performed well.

    I do think that HMRC stopped taxing staff the cash value of the gift of a Turkey at Christmas, although I seem to recall that it took a fight for them to concede the point.

    The cost of a chauffeur is taxable as well, which I suspect will please quite a few people on here, however if you are a Minister then the provision of a chauffeur is exempt. Funny that.

  • Comment number 68.

    MPs have been told that that exercise alone cost £900,000.

    No thats the cost of all the wriggling and avoidance. MPs should pay their own costs.

    Any shame... No but I can just see the next statement.....

    "the whole episode had produced an "overall positive impact for the public as officials have learned important lessons".

    Now waste here then Grandantidote.

  • Comment number 69.

    #66. For all the mickey-taking on tax, I'm inclined to agree. This expenses lark is rubbish. If we want to attract people into Parliament of some worldly commonsense and reasonably educated then the salary has to follow. For all their faults, the fact is that John Prescott improved his lot through further education, as did the likes of Michael Howard. Like 'em or loathe 'em, the House of Commons needs to attract people from all walks of life with a salary that competes with the private sector.

  • Comment number 70.

    Better to make them stay in a barrack block near Westminster - bunk beds would do with communal ablutions - if this is good enough for our squaddies is it not good enough for them?

    Anyway most of them, who went to public schools, (the majority of all parties?) will be quite used to such conditions.

    It would also limit their opportunities for being 'tired and emotional' -(a la the late George Brown) if they had to live in close proximity!

  • Comment number 71.

    47. rockyhippo

    You bet

    MPs and their staff have munched their way through nearly £5million worth of cut-price food and drink paid for with taxpayers' money.

    So MPs, who earn £60,000 and claim on average £135,000 expenses each year, can enjoy three-course meals plus coffee for as little as £10.55 in their exclusive dining rooms.

    The subsidy slashes the price of refreshments in four formal restaurants, six bars, six self-service restaurants and three cafes.

    According to figures disclosed under freedom of information laws, £4.8million was paid to subsidise restaurants, cafes, bars

    In the Members' Dining Room, which serves MPs, ex-MPs and Commons' officers, you get a three-course meal plus coffee for less than £11 - a quarter of what a restaurant might charge for similar fare.

    Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The House of Commons has the working practices of a 1970s nationalised company, with gold-plated pensions, relatives on the payroll and subsidised canteens and bars.

    Oink Oink.

  • Comment number 72.

    Shames no one has mentioned so far the 'sub judice' case of the Yvette/Ed Cooper/Balls - Gordon Brown's golden couple now under investigation.

    Ah, shame.

    The NuLabour aparatchik machine falls to pieces around Gordon Brown's broken finger nails.

    NuLabour - NuSleaze Machine

  • Comment number 73.

    Nice to be back after an enforced lay off.
    It is not only the cynical way that MP's have feathered their ( and family ) nests with claiming all that they can – even by lying – sorry being economical with the truth . It isn't only the cheek they have of complaining when we – the workers – ask for a decent wage , decent education for the kids , decent health care , decent cheap public transport etc. and good governance . No the real nauseating part for the voter is the fact that they manipulate the system to ensure they get a nice fat job with one of the firms or organisations/ banks/accountants etc./ service providers of mostly very expensive and totally useless projects but very profitable which are awarded government contracts ( mostly to perpetuate failed government initiatives etc.) when they eventually step down / are voted out or otherwise . The last thing on their mind is being a public servant – which is what they are – rather they are perceived by themselves as superior beings ( Daleks?) . This attitude began with the arrival of Thatcher but has grown exponentially with the arrival of Blair and his cohorts .

  • Comment number 74.

    69 terryNo2

    Don't disagree about your comments but do we need so many paid either by salary or expenses to represent us I live in Wales.

    Town Councilor expenses
    County Councilor Paid plus expenses
    AM to Welsh Assembly Paid plus expenses
    MP to UK parliament Paid plus expenses
    MEP to Europe Paid plus expenses

    Also the cost of support staff to each one

    What should happen is if we keep the layers then the numbers in the layers should be reduced.

  • Comment number 75.

    #39 HardWorkingHobbes

    Why cant they just buy / build two tower blocks, one for the government, one for the opposition and have the MP's allocated an apartment when they get elected. This would of course be rent free for the MP's.

    ------------------------

    I like your idea of converting a building into flats to reduce the costs of MPs staying in London.

    May I suggest the Tower of London?

  • Comment number 76.

    74. mikethebiscuit

    Spot on.

    Th US has 100 senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives.

    The UK has 646 MPs and 738 Peers in the Lords

    Oh yes and at the last count 3231 support staff.

    Now theres value for money


  • Comment number 77.

    Mike

    Oh yes and each MEP is reported to cost us over 1.1 million per year. Some say its nearer 2.4 million when you add all the associated costs.

    And lets not do councils, its too early and too sunny to get upset.

  • Comment number 78.

    Don't MPs appreciate how special 'rules for the boys' ('n girls) like this make the public despise them even more?

    I'll be speaking to my Local Tax Office and making my claim for £30 per diem 'subsistence' expenses.... I'm sure they'll be understanding - after all my MP can claim it....

    (£30! I didn't know that swill was so expensive...)


  • Comment number 79.

    Re: 66 moderateprogressive

    for all this moaning, in reality MPs are extremely underpaid. they work 70 hour week sometimes, and could do much better in the private sector. .........

    SO LET THEM!!!!!!!
    A care assistant upon whom the life and comfort of helpless people depends, earns the minimum wage. Many work overly long hours to bring home enough for food and rent.

  • Comment number 80.

    This is unbelievable. I'm shocked to learn this has been happening for so long.

    There needs to be a distiction made between WORKING EXPENSE and COST OF LIVING EXPENSE.

    Why should taxpayers money go on a cost of living expense for a highly paid public official? This makes a mockery of people on lower wages.

    £400 a month for free food? Give me a break.

    They can no longer renovate their second home using money other than their wages? Shame. Can they still renovate their first home? I work in education. Do you think the university would pay for me to fit a new kitchen in my house? No. Of course not. That would be absurd. I'd have to SCRIMP AND SAVE.

    Whislt the general populace struggle to afford fuel to survive, the high paid beaurocrats get a free ride all the while stockpiling unspent paychecks.

    The class war used to be far more palatable when it was invisible...

    Bill Hicks once said "The next revolution will be a revolution of ideas". This is just one more reason to kickstart that revolution.

  • Comment number 81.

    moderateprogressive 66 and Terryno2 69:

    Give us a break. Are either of you working in that great pit of dispair that is the house of commons by any chance? They'd do better in the private sector? Yeah, we'd all do better somewhere else wouldn't we? Lump every little perk they have together and believe me those they emulate in the private sector'd probably start screaming how they'd be better off in the public sector.

  • Comment number 82.

    How about a system where the second properties are owned by the state? These are paid for by the state and the MPs are allowed to rent them for a nominal £1 per month or something. Now I am not sure in any other job you would be able to claim back on a second home, but lets say they can then claim back electricity, gas etc.
    Food - well vouchers for the commons cafe/resto. If they are entertaining then they should be allowed expenses to do so but cap these at say £1000 per month and if needed eat at the commons. As far as other food is concerned the MPs should pay for their own. It is not right that we pay for them to eat, they earn a wage for goodness sake.
    Travel should be claimed back in the normal way. The government should have a department solely for MPs expenses employing accountants from top firms, who look at expenses day in day out. I'm sure if they were rejected enough by professionals they would soon learn not to take the system for granted.

  • Comment number 83.

    MP's should have their pointless allowances reduced completely given their inflated salaries to start off with. Accomodation allowance and subsistence allowance should be payed directly from their salaries, just like the majority of us have to!

    How can Mervyn King deny pay increases in line with inflation for low income earners who are struggling with massive food and petrol inflation. Why should the the lowest and average income earners bear the brunt of this global economic crisis whilst our MP's have allowances that now do not even demand receipts. Do they think we are stupid? We want a government that works for US, not for themselves.

    Maybe we should become MP's, perhaps then we afford to buy food for our families and actually cope with our mortgages.


  • Comment number 84.

    Why the hell would they need a subsistence allowance on top of a second home?

    The whole point of having a second home is so that they are not effectively "away" from home when they are in London. They would have had to buy food to eat wherever they were so being in London shouldn't require an extra subsistence allowance.

    Also, given that this second home is for the period they spend away from their "home" in their constituency, they don't need it once they have left office. We should only pay for rent and not mortgage interest and when they lose their seat and return to their constituency we stop paying the rent.

    This also makes sure that the money we do spend goes back into the economy instead of being used to build up a nice little tax-free nest egg for the MP.

    And I don't care how high food prices have risen, they don't need £30 a day to live on! That would pay for my lunch at work each day for 3 weeks.

  • Comment number 85.

    gravy and train pigs and troughs I am sorry to use that analogy but a small minority ie all politicians get stuff paid for them TV's Kitchens carpets etc etc. the large majority pay for their own I may sound cynical its because I am I know the majority of MP's are great and dont milk the system but it only takes one for everyone to get tarred with the same brush .............. cor I am even more cynical than usual today must be Mugabe loosing his Knighthood thats going to really hurt him

  • Comment number 86.

    #81. Steady on, Doctor-gloom, it's only an opinion!

    Being an MP - well someone has to do it. To my mind, we can either try and attract a political class with no other outside-of-politics experience and then pay the price for this, or at least try and attract those who have experience of being outside of it.

    The really big joke is, of course, that those appointed to Governmental Agencies are generally paid far more than the MP's and Ministers who put them there. The reason for this is that the right amount of money has to be paid to attract the right kind of person. This is the same in every walk of life.

    The other thing is that neither Mr/Mrs/Ms moderateprogessive or I suggested that they'd do better in the private sector, only that the private sector pays more for the kind of hours and responsibilities an MP is expected to carry. The follow-on point to this is: does this mean then that the right people are in the Commons in the first place? That's for the constituency selection committees to decide. To influence this, you'll need to ioin a local branch of your party and make a difference.

  • Comment number 87.

    Could someone, anyone explain why they get £30 to attend Westminster?
    What are their wages for exactly?
    Why do they have a heavily subsidised canteen and bar which ,judging by the shape of some, they use regularly.

    Could someone explain to them what the poorest paid workers have to live on, not just the poorest but those on middle incomes which get nowhere near the dizzy heights of any MP.

  • Comment number 88.

    Hopefully this will go some way to mending peoples trust with politicians. The current situation is pretty worrying.

  • Comment number 89.

    The problem of receipts etc could easily be solved for MPs the same was as some private sector companies have operated for years already.

    Issue MPs with a "company" credit card, with a credit limit consistent with their allowances. Every transaction would be automatically logged. If the back-office audit team decides an item is illegal, deduct the cost from their next salary payment first, then start the argument about who was right.

    Or is MP's enthusiasm for electronic surveillance and monitoring (ID cards, electronic tagging, etc) only for the little people, not for them?

  • Comment number 90.

    Look: Do you really think that people working in the private sector who may be working similar hours to MPs etc. are earning around the combined figures we have seen quoted for MPs? Believe me, there are loads of people working in the private sector with high levels of 'responsibility' working long hours for significantly lower salaries than our MPs get (without the perks). Furthermore, If being an MP is such an onerous job, then how come many of them have 'other' jobs?

    Also the worrying assumption of your whole argument. And this is the one the gets me the most, is that there is a particular type of person, one who is obviously of 'director level calibre' that ought to be the benchmark for how we view who should be appropriate for being an MP. I didn't realise that 'attracting the right people' to stand etc. meant that the right people, and tell me if I'm wrong here, excludes the vast majority of the population who are not at this heady level of employability.

    So, to sum up: first, this salary benchmark assumes too much pay compatibility between what you consider to be 'similar' types of work in the public and private sectors. Second, even if we accept your view of the 'qualities' required to be an MP, (qualities again based on some notion of financial worth). This view, effectively rules out others, not having these 'qualities' from consideration as an MP. Joe and Jane Blogs earning an average salary will fall well short of the criteria you assume demonstate suitability for the role of MP

  • Comment number 91.

    For income tax purposes we all have to say where our normal place of work is - and you are only allowed one.

    This is relevant because you can not claim tax free expenses for travel, accommodation or meals at your normal place of work.

    Do MPs claim Westminster or the constiruency as their normal place of work?

    I suspect they are claiming both in order to get all expenses tax free.

  • Comment number 92.

    #90. No . You're wrong. You have made too many assumptions. I didn't mention anything about Director-level calibre - the thought never occurred to me. Given your adamant positioning, to try and explain this to you will be pointless.

    I can't actually work out what your alternative is, since the argument seems a little all over the place. I say that to get the right person requires a level of pay that is appropriate. Are you saying that the previous salary is enough and no changes are required? Or are you suggesting a pay cut?

    What type of person do you think is appropriate? How much should they be paid? Less than now?

    To me there are all kinds of people who I think are of the right calibre - and in that I would include Gordon Brown, Michael Howard and John Prescott.

    I rather think your opinion is based on your politics. If you were to step outside of that box you might think a little differently.

  • Comment number 93.

    Dear Nick
    PILFERRING--- MPs

    " EXPENSES," whilst these groaning fat cat MPs have been moaning about buying a new kitchen, or paying the motgage on a second home, or even an Ipod, British Soldiers have been dying in Aftghanistan and Iraq, BECAUSE, they are using inferior equipment and are not protected fully from mines.
    Their contribution to Expenses is with their lives, the most costly thing one for their families and loved ones.
    It makes you want to be sick, the way that our armed forces are denied the help they so deserve, when our MPs are so arrogant, and when a Minister states the equipment they are using, is suitable for the job, when it is evident it is not just goes to show, what a bunch of ignoramouses, we have as our so called PEERS, , Expenses?? is that all they can bring before parliament?
    "How about, lets get some support for those we ask to die, thay deserveit more than us,?????

  • Comment number 94.

    Sounds like the same old same old.

    The fact is that this ACA is supposed to be incurred "wholly and necesarily in discharge of their duties" However their claims cannot remotely be accepted as meeting this definiton and thus we shall see MPs behave in a way which would be fraud if done by anyone else.

    It makes you sick that they behave in this way since MPs are the very same individuals who have passed laws cracking down on expense claims of the self employed which are usually nothing like so outrageous as those of MPs

    They have in no way accepted they should have less money, If anything they are better off and this is a reward for dishonesty, Since in response to the fact they are swindling they have simply decided that they should all be able to claim the maximum.

    The can still claim 20K for mortgage interest and so will simply increase their mortgages to pay for kitchens etc in order to claim, or move into new houses that already have these features


    The subsistence allowance sounds like a means of avoiding having to produce receipts

    Furthermore there is absolutely nothing to stop them swindling on mileage, employing relatives and milking the system in other ways

    As the previous poster said Our troops die in Afganistan because they do not have proper Kit yet for these swindlers there is no limit to the amount of public money that is available

  • Comment number 95.

    #93.

    Completely agree.

  • Comment number 96.

    Dear Nick
    This will upset the MOD, and rightly so,
    the expenses given to Civil Service Officials in Afghanistan, is more than a soldiers earns a month.
    Now the most expensive cost to the forces is the loss of life, which in many cases was avoidable and is avoidable, the main culprit here is the MOD,
    They are costing lives, because they say it is expensive to equip our forces with the right tools of the trade.
    The respnsiblity for this failure lies with the MOD PROCURMENT DIVISION, who LOST BILLINS OF POUND, IS COCKED UP CONTRACTS, and therefore the real reason why our forces are using obsolete equipment.
    SO, HERES THE CRUNCH, -- the failure of a certain Baroness as head of procurement is why its all gone wrong she just has not got a clue, and with the £3billion MOD have wasted "why is she still incharge."? get her out, and ensure our forces get the best.

  • Comment number 97.

    A soldier in Iraq gets and operational allowance of £12.75 per day.

    An MP gets 30.00…..

    I suppose theres always the danger of being trampled at the trough

  • Comment number 98.

    If these shysters get £30 per day allowance, you can bet that most of them will have a little (or large) bolthole in London. Few of them seem to stay in hotels as they get a substantial allowance for mortgage payments, and you and I both know they will claim the full amount. So, out of his/her £30 per day, our MP will have to travel to the dear old HoC. The cost will be minimal on the tube and the rest will be used in the subsidised HoC canteen (or should I say, restaurant), where a 3 course gourmet meal can be bought for a few pounds. That means that our MP may even have change out of his/her £30 allowance and, as he/she will not be obliged to produce a receipt we, the good old taxpayers, will have to dig deep in today's economic climes and we will all be none the wiser. It all bloody well stinks!

  • Comment number 99.

    The fatal flaw in the system is that MP's themselves currently, in effect, control their own salaries, allowances and expenses.

    Human nature being what it is, and MP's are all too human, they have gorged themselves at the taxpayers trough.

    The ability to set salaries, allowances and expenses must be taken away from MP's completely, for their own good as much as ours.

    How can MP's demand working people ask for small percentage pay rises when they have just voted themselves a 21% rise?

    How can they suggest that cash-strapped working people save for a pension when they have arranged for themselves, the most generous tax-payer funded pensions in the land?

    How can they claims expenses and allowances that HMRC refuse the working people of the land?

    But MP's do .. and drown in their own hypocrisy for it.

  • Comment number 100.

    TerryNo2:

    Terry,don't get so touchy. I stand by what I wrote. Your views are elitist, you don't like it: fine. My views are pretty straightforward on MPs pay and 'perks'. They are paid more than adequately for what they do. In fact, as many others have pointed out on this blog, they are being given special treatment. They don't deserve it, shouldn't get it, and should have it taken from them.

    As for getting the 'right kind of people', well, l I don't think paying them more will resolve the situation. I argue this: it is precisely because there has been (and if they get their way) will be, too little accountability regarding their pay and perks that the 'wrong king of people' are attracted to parliament. The job of an MP is considered by many to be a 'nice one if you can get it.'

    As for my position being based on my politics. Nope, I'm talking about MP's, not any specific party affiliated MP. As for 'thinking outside the box' please spare me the conceptual abyss that is management speak. Terms such as that merely degrade argument as they assign to others a redundancy of thought in order to sidestep different views, Eg: I'm thinking outside the box you aren't. Do you really consider your views 'thinking outside the box?'

    I want to see an end to the patronage, nopotistic, perks 'culture' that degrades our political class. Simple as that. And, you know, I'm not alone in this.




 

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