MPs Expenses Again

In yet another case of avoiding the obvious, it now seems that the new Parliamentary Standards Authority, which will oversee MPs expense claims, will cost over £6m per year to run and need 80 staff.

What a ridiculous waste of our money.

The situation has descended into farce, with Knights of the Realm – Sir Christopher Kelly and Sir Ian Kennedy – battling it out. Neither of them is prepared to go down the obvious route.

First, MPs should have proper back-office staff support. Secretarial costs are the largest part of MPs expenses; but they should have House Of Commons secretaries and researchers who should be civil servants.   Parliament should operate offices in each constituency, also run by civil servants, to provide  administrative support for MPs constituency work like surgeries.  MPs shouldn’t be employers at all. If you do that, you take  the largest part of MPs expenses out of the equation, and provide much more continuity in constituency work between elections.

Second, when it comes to homes, MPs should be expected to keep a home in their constituency. Frankly, I don’t see how an MP can represent a constituency if they don’t live in it. Their constituency should be where they send their children to school.  Of course, they need to spend some time in London when Parliament is sitting, and for that, Parliament should itself rent them a suitable small flat within reach of the Division Bell.

Thirdly, travel: while Parliament is sitting, they should be provided witho a Zone 1 Oyster Card and a weekly First Class return railway warrant between London and their constituency; or, for those who represent the far-flung island constituencies, a business-class flight.

That gets rid of most of the legitimate expenses claims anyway. True, the system would need people to staff it – there’s be an additional 2000 Parliamentary employees, I guess, which would need an associated HR department. A property division to manage the Westminster flats and a clerk to negotiate with the railway companies add to the total. But it moves MPs to being more like normal people.

As for the rest, it’s easy.

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