09 May 2009

On MPs Expenses

Two posts today- I anticipate at any rate.

It's important to get some perspective on this whole scandal over expense claims of MPs. Certain words are being bandied about, like "fraud", that aren't fully justified.

Firstly, Members of Parliament don't get paid that much. The basic salary of your backbencher is about £65,000. Members of the US House of Representatives earn over £100,000 a year. I don't know what Paul Dacre earns, but I guess it's at least £500,000.

Secondly, it costs considerably more than that to function as a member of Parliament. Some of the key expenditures:
  • The rent/mortgage on two residences.
  • Travel costs on a weekly basis to places as far away as Scotland.
  • The salaries of at least two staff members and probably more, as well as expenses for interns.
  • Office hire in your constituency.
  • Food costs.
  • Feeding yourself and your family.
  • Stationery and other office supplies (20,000 leaflets costs a fair chunk of cash)
Thirdly, there has probably been some fraud going on and it should be dealt with. However, most of this stuff isn't fraud, because that would require deception as to the purposes the money was used for. There is no evidence of that in most cases.

Fourthly, MPs do work very hard. Just because Parliament is taking a 12-week recess, it doesn't mean that MPs won't still be working. Even when in session, you can't spend all your time in the Commons Chamber.

Fifthly, there's been far worse cases of corruption, that's for sure. Try Italy.

The system needs complete reform, that's for sure. I propose an increase in basic salaries and an allowance specifically for all office-related stuff. No-one should claim non-essential social stuff on expenses.

Now, let's get this sorted out. We have more important things to deal with.

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