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MPs expenses - more to come

Martin Rosenbaum | 12:47 UK time, Wednesday, 14 February 2007

One of the impacts of freedom of information is that people in important positions in public life are finding that their personal work expenses are under a new and sometimes intense scrutiny.

This applies to the BBC Director General, the Lord Chief Justice, and the Chief Constable of Warwickshire (along with many other Chief Constables).

It also applies to MPs, even if they're the only group who can respond by trying to pass a law exempting themselves.

As FOI was about to come into force, the House of Commons decided to publish some limited information about MPs expenses, indicating the totals spent under various overall categories.

They have now been forced to disclose how their travel spending breaks down by mode of transport. This was resisted by the Commons authorities, but they were ordered to do so after a decision last month by the Informaton Tribunal.

The case was brought by Norman Baker, the LibDem MP for Lewes. Unsurprisingly, he is not top of the popularity charts with many of his Parliamentary colleagues. Just listen to the derisive laughter when he is mentioned during the committee debate on the Bill to exempt MPs from FOI (between 50 and 51 minutes in).

It looks like this disclosure today will be only one step in a continuing process. There are several forthcoming appeals at the Information Tribunal in which the Commons authorities are objecting to disclosing further details of MPs expenses, and there are yet further cases still being considered by the Information Commissioner.

These cases may well result in the gradual forced disclosure of an increasing level of detail, a process which many MPs will doubtless find uncomfortable and regard as unnecessarily intrusive.

We do not yet know if this process will end with the Commons providing the same immensely detailed information that is now provided by the Scottish Parliament for MSPs.

The revelations about MSPs expenses since FOI came into force have had two main consequences:

The first is a sharp drop in the level of allowances claimed by MSPs. I think it can be safely predicted that the same will happen at Westminster - whether it's because unnecessary claims are reduced or because the recipients decide it's more prudent not to claim for something they're entitled to.

The second is that some MSPs got into big trouble, notably the then Scottish Tory leader David Mcletchie. Whether that will also happen at Westminster remains to be seen.

Comments   Post your comment

How is it that MP's can claim expenses for travel to and from work - whereas normal members of the public cannot? Nor can you use your travel to a from work as part of your travel allowance for a company car.

MPs should only claim what they are entitled to. I also think that they are ridiculously underpaid and are at the same time under increasing scrutiny – mainly from quangos like the BBC who are not elected by anybody.

On the few occasions when MPs are given the chance to appear on broadcast media, the person interviewing them is usually paid a lot more than they are. I personally resent that. While the media continue to lambaste MPs, it has them where it wants them.

We have a dangerous mix of increasingly poorer quality Members of Parliament (as their relative salaries dwindle and prurient scrutiny increases) and an increasingly powerful media which has not been elected by anybody.

How they are to strike out and get the kind of money they deserve is beyond me. As we get poorer quality MPs so their image will deteriorate and ultimately the rewards they receive will deteriorate. It’s a viscous circle and it ends up with increasing power for the unelected and diminishing power for the elected.

If MPs claimed the correct amount of expenses, they would have the moral authority to ask for higher rewards for their jobs. The trouble is, because of media pressure I doubt they will ever get the right rewards regardless of the morality of their case.

I truly fear for the future of our democracy. At the moment that is far more important than a few taxi rides and even, dare I say, more important than FOI.

  • 3.
  • At 12:10 PM on 28 Feb 2007,
  • philip perry wrote:

Has anyone converted the mileage claim any MP has made into time (just using an above average speed).

It is quite possible that the MP has a working day of more than 24 hrs.

If one accepts that time spent travelling to/from work for which expenses are received are correct.

  • 4.
  • At 05:25 PM on 12 Mar 2007,
  • Lickyalips wrote:

One of the allowances available to be claimed by all Members of Parliament, except those representing inner London constituencies, is the "Staying Away from Home Allowance" (SAFHA).

This allowance was introduced to reimburse those MPs - from Wales, the north of England, Northern Ireland and Scotland for instance - where daily commuting is not a viable option.

However what both media and members of the public alike are finding difficult to understand is why any MP representing a London constituency would have any need whatsoever to claim this allowance - currently set to a maximum of £21,634 per MP per annum!

Try as we may we are unable to ascertain why it is necessary for certain London MPs to lay claim to SAFHA.

For instance during the last complete financial year 2005/6 the Parliamentary records SAFHA payments to London MPs is as follows:-

Labour MPs.

Dawn Butler, Brent South - £15,442.
Harry Cohen, Leyton & Wanstead - £21,634.
Jon Cruddas, Dagenham - £21,535.
Mike Gapes, Ilford South - £21,584.
Barry Gardiner, Brent North - £21,620.
Andy Love, Edmonton - £21,634.
Joan Ryan, Enfield North - £19,333.
Gareth Thomas, Harrow West - £17,209

And husband & wife team;-
Ann Keen, Brentford & Isleworth - £15,794.
Alan Keen, Felham & Heston - £14,494.


Derek Conway, Old Bexley & Sidcup - £21,634.
Jacqui Lait, Beckenham - £21,222.
Richard Ottaway, Croydon South - £21,634.
Andrew Rosindell, Romford - £21,634.
Angela Watkinson, Upminster - £17,040.

Does anyone know for what purpose these elected representatives are claiming this money? Because we don't!

  • 5.
  • At 10:17 PM on 18 May 2007,
  • Gordon wrote:

As a trade unionist I am accountable to my members. All expenses are scrutinised by a trustee of the trade union's funds and all expenses have to be receipted.

Who checks MP expenses to ensure the expenditure is valid. Is all expenditure receipted and are there audit trails?

So where is the transparancy??

MPs seem to forget the importance of perceptions, especially at time when participation and engagement are at an all time low.

  • 6.
  • At 01:14 AM on 19 May 2007,
  • melvyn owen wrote:

What about MP'S who calim 40p a mile allowance whilst driving company owned cars ? No depreciation, insurance, road fund tax, purchasse cost or depreciation, just put the fuel in. In other circumstances this would be called fraud or robbery.

  • 7.
  • At 10:38 PM on 25 May 2007,
  • mr duke wrote:

give the same holidays to every one they are t aking 10 weeks or more we are paying for them are they claiming expenses for them enough is enough

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