MPs expenses

It is amazing that some want to try to make the story “leaks” from the Commons fees office when MPs expenses are available for their annual viewing. Whilst leaking information is not a good way to behave for any employee, these are hardly state secrets that need to be held back. All this information is going to be made available to the public under Freedom of Information requests soon anyway. The important issue is not disclosure, but whether each and every claim is both legal under the rules, and defensible in the court of public opinion which will judge these things.

Each party leader moved quickly yesterday to demand reform of the system. They can all see that some of the individual items claimed by MPs are too easy to ridicule or to challenge, alongside the more fundamental questions over some MPs choice of second home and designation of primary residence.

Looking at the overall figures it is the staff and office costs that represent the most serious chunk of public spending, but these only seem to get scrutinised if the MP has chosen to employ a family member.

Is £93 million good value? No it’s not. Could it be less? Yes it could. Is it going to be? Probably not. Public sector reform under this government normally takes a long time and costs more. Are these costs out of line with the rest of the public sector? No they are not. Indeed, the salaries and expenses at the top of quangoland and local government make this all look like small beer. It’s just that people have heard of the perpetrators, and feel they have some chance of making them accountable becuase they have to stand for re-election, unlike the executive public sector bosses.

(In the interests of disclosure my total expenses including travel were £106,000 compared to the average of £146,000 and the highest of £187,334)

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36 Comments

  1. Stuart Fairney
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    I was amused by Mr Harry ‘I’m a better MP than Churchill’ Cohen’s claim that a caravan was in fact his main home, in today’s Times

    http://timesbusiness.typepad.com/money_weblog/2009/03/mps-10-most-outrageous-expense-claims.html#more

  2. Simon D
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 6:50 am | Permalink

    The press does not yet seem to have locked on to amazing increases over the last five years in the levels of public sector remuneration and expenses. Any young person considering a career should seriously think about choosing the public sector. In addition to high levels of pay, the public sector invariably also provides fantastic final salary pension arrangements funded by the taxpayer. One of my friends was made redundant by the private sector and now works in Whitehall. She is full of praise for the public sector pay and conditions and the better and more relaxed lifestyle.

    The spat over MP’s expenses should be seen in context. Why do we get so worked up about MPs when £100,000+ is unremarkable in local government, the NHS and quangoland? The Director General of the BBC has to stagger along with a mere £700,000 per year.

    The revolution has occurred but the Press has not reported it. If you want a gold-plated client state this is the way to do it.

    • mikestallard
      Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

      Be careful! this was the case in Argentina when the Public Sector got very bloated until the currency went belly up.
      It was (cp France) the Public Servants who thronged the streets first rioting then desperately selling things.

  3. APL
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    JR: “but whether each and every claim is both legal under the rules, ..”

    Problem is Mr Redwood, many observers have concluded ‘the rules’ along with ‘an investigation’ are two phrases that have now be twisted and bent out of all recognition.

    Self regulation of Parliament was fine and worked tolerably well when there were people in Parliament who were prepared to exercise some modicum of restraint.

    Parliament is no longer either the highest authority in the Land nor does there seem to be many there who know what ‘self restraint’ means. Orwell surely, was writing with the aid of a crystal ball!

    JR: ” and defensible in the court of public opinion which will judge these things.”

    Oh, please! Lets have less of the ‘court of public opinion’, I don’t think many people tried there like the verdict, rather let’s have some trials in the court of legal opinion.

    Yesterday, you suggested that a person chiseling his or her expenses might not be committing theft, would embezzlement be a better description? Perhaps it simply a matter of class? The lower orders get convicted of theft, the privileged establishment think “the rules” need to be looked at!

    JR: “Each party leader moved quickly ..”

    That is a matter of opinion! They have known about this and by not doing anything about it before tacitly condoned the behavior. The ‘leaders’ are almost certainly compromised by the same behavior too. That explains their inertia.

    JR: “Are these costs out of line with the rest of the public sector? No they are not. ”

    That would be the old excuse beloved of children everywhere, “But Miss, he did it first!”

  4. Mike Paterson
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    The Court of Public Opinion? A slip of the pen, surely, in the wake of Harman’s appeal to this august body a few weeks back. This stuff is petty corruption by any objective benchmark. Let’s stick to that.

  5. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Too many MPs appear to think they should pay for nothing with their own money and enrich themselves at the taxpayers’ expense. Why should taxpayers pay for TVs, hi-fis, furniture, towels, pay-TV subscriptions…. the list is endless, in fact isn’t it called the “John Lewis list” at Westminster? As you say, the whole issue of staff and office expenses has hardly been scrutinised. This is an abuse of taxpayers’ money and to add insult to the taxpayers’ injury the rules for expenses entitlement are drawn up by MPs themselves. An arrogance has developed amongst many MPs that they are so important that rather than taking less they think they really should be entitled to more. The result is that many if not most people think that MPs are just interested in lining their own pockets. MPs don’t know, many would say don’t care, how the cost of living affects their constituents as they don’t feel the effects of it. MPs also have the best final pension schemes in the land. The result of all this is that politicians are held in very low esteem. Given the economic situation and the way in which the public debt burden is rising inexorably this poses a toxic mixture which threatens our democratic system.

  6. Michael Taylor
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    This is a classic case of regulation versus disclosure.

    With mandatory full disclosure and full transparency, the ‘issue’ of MPs expenses will be dealt with, fully, by voters.

    But what we’ll get is. . . . regulation. Which, as usual, will be expensive to administer, unsatisfactory to voters, and. . . . won’t work.

  7. Deborah
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Quite right – whether or not these figures are leaked (like so many other things) before being officially released is not of much interest.
    Either the correspondents in the mainstream media are stupid or they are knowingly causing a distraction rather than reporting on the real issues.

  8. Acorn
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Cheap as chips JR. The problem as I see it is parliament is heavily over-maned in true public sector style. We persist in keeping the “executive” mixed up with the “legislature”, even though that executive ignores the legislature. The Commons and the Lords have been reduced to college debating societies. So, £146k a year plus salary, is probably good money for the job.

    If you were a US Congressman you would be on about $174k salary for representing about 650,000 rather than about 70,000 people. You would have a staff allowance for up to eighteen, paid for by the taxpayer; and, your office would cost on average about $1.3 million a year to run. A US Senator’s office would average about $3 million a year to run, (two per State).

    I rarely mention this, (see my previous posts), but we should elect our Prime Minister separately from the Commons. The PM should appoint his “executive” cabinet from non MPs. (Keep in mind that Obama will appoint about a thousand White House staff; we have 119 ministers of one grade or another).

    Our Select Committees are pathetic; nobody messes with a US Congressional Committee.

    Perhaps then, the “voice of the people”, the Commons, would start doing the job it is supposed to do; holding the executive to account. And; the people might, just might, give MPs the status and respect they should have.

    We desperately need a new beginning, including a similar structural overhaul of local government.

    • Toby
      Posted April 1, 2009 at 7:14 am | Permalink

      who gives a toss what american congressmen get paid and represent.. the yank ‘bigger is better’ model/argument is utter rubbish.

      bloated, easily corrupt, and even more entrenched in a bigger bubble, the US political system is so far removed from its voters it requires a massive polling lobby and endless streams of hangers on who represent corp interests and not much else.

      yes our system needs an overhaul, but not in a million years like the ‘democracy’ accross the pond thanks

  9. Duyfken
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    If the lists have been leaked, this may act as a safeguard and a brake on MPs when deciding how to redact any items of their claimed expenses.

  10. Andy
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Reading your blog, I have come to think of you as a fairly reasonable guy. But I’m sorry, 100,000 on expenses is ridiculous; the fact that you aren’t the worst is even more depressing. I write the following because I believe that you are one of the few who will understand it, and appreciate how the issue of MPs expenses is seen by those of us who fund them. It is not meant as a personal attack upon you.

    Even if the expenses are legitimate, I have grave doubts that they are necessary. I suspect that the “simple shopper” syndrome is in play. No public sector expenditure ever gets value for money. Where a private sector employee would be issued a computer, bought en mass by the IT department for (quick glance at Dell’s website) around 300 pounds, somehow the public sector will find the most expensive consultant to obtain a Dell on their behalf for 1000 pounds. That computer will occasionally break down, and will be taken to some computer servicing facility, or perhaps sent back to the consultant, where the taxpayer will be charged hundreds of pounds to have it sorted out. The rest of us would find a small, privately owned computer shop in our local town and pay £50, and get a better job done. A company would have employed an expert to deal with these things for the whole site, making an enormous saving.

    Where a private sector worker will take work home (to the home they bought) and use their computer (which they bought) and their internet connection (which they pay for) and their own desk (bought), chair (bought), printer (bought), telephone (bought), television, scanner, DVD player, stereo, and toilet paper (bought, bought, bought, bought), MPs will have all of these provided for them. The fact that this is “within the rules” is irrelevant. It is utterly incongruent with what any private sector worker (and most public sector workers) gets. All of this “stuff” that is claimed on expenses because it is “vital for my work” represents, for the rest of us, the places that our disposable income goes – this is what we have to work for. An MP gets to keep that same cash, I have no idea what any of you find to buy with your own money actually. Even better, once the “vital” full satellite package is installed at their second home, their highest-possible-peed internet connection installed on their highest-possible-spec computer, well, no one would object to them watching a bit of Discovery Channel or surfing to YouTube to watch that funny clip of a dancing cat would they? Of course not; except that we all had to pay for those luxuries and the MP did not.

    If I am a small business owner, and I buy myself a telephone line for my home, the tax man requires that I designate what percentage of it’s use was for personal purposes. Tell me – what percentage of an MP’s taxpayer-provided facilities are for personal use, and how many MPs take that into account in their claims?

    When an MP has a dinner party for friends at their taxpayer-provided residence using their taxpayer-provided kitchen serving taxpayer-provided groceries, stored in their taxpayer-provided fridge, cooked with taxpayer-provided gas, listening to taxpayer-provided CDs on their taxpayer-provided stereo, powered with taxpayer-provided electricity – how is that accounted for in the expense claim?

    If my company provides me a laptop for performing company work at home, and I later resign, I would obviously return that laptop to my company. Tell me – when an MP loses their seat, do they sell the “second home” and return the money to the tax payer? Does the tax-payer’s kitchen equipment get returned to central stores ready for re-use by the next MP?

    How many MPs claim a gym membership on their expenses? How many MPs have their second residence at a luxury facility with on-site gym, swimming pool and spa? Do you realise that your constituents don’t get these thing paid for by someone else?

    How many MPs use public transport (which costs a fortune) for their regular journeys? How many have bought a second hand car and drive themselves from Bolton to Westminster? How many of them have got together to arrange a car-pooling scheme? Private sector workers in the same office regularly do this (and they have to pay for their travel to work out of their own pocket)

    How many MPs employ a family member to do secretarial work have advertised that post at half the salary they pay that family member to see whether they could get better value for the tax payer? I promise you – no private sector worker is using expenses to employ a “helper” – if they have an assistant, that assistant is provided by the company, and value-aware hiring practices are used.

    Please excuse the aggressive nature of the above, I don’t actually think it is practical to detail every last bit of expenditure to find that which is personal and which is necessary for the job, but I would rather that MPs recognised that they don’t have it quite as hard as they would have us believe. Find me 646 private sector employees with a similar type of work and a mean boss (they’re all mean in the private sector) who is getting 100,000 a year in expenses passed the accounts department. Find me the private sector employee who works away from home a lot who has that second home given to them.

    MPs live in a dream world. If you lot had an accounts department as private sector workers do, were you would be required to hand in every receipt for scrutiny by someone who doesn’t want to pay for them you would understand why the rest of us find your expenses claims so objectionable. There is no real oversight, and when oversight is talked about it is another MP, or ex-MP or a peer – all of whom have a vested interest in not clamping down on expenses.

    On a less individual basis, in the private sector if a department wanted to grow from 500 to 600 employees (or crawl to a boss for the extra budget), it would have to find the money for those 100 extra from its existing budget. Parliament can simply vote itself more seats and the extra 300,000 a year to pay them magically appears from the infinite pot of cash.

    You might reasonably argue that this would make no difference at all to the massive pit that is public expenditure – and you would be right in pure money terms. However, I suspect that if MPs were subject to a bit more belt tightening and agressive cost cutting we would suddenly find them far more willing to share out that pain to the rest of the public sector.

    How to do it: get rid of that rule book you have for what is allowed to be claimed, and institute the equivalent of a private sector accounts department. Fill it with Scrooges, who do not get expenses, cannot be fired by MPs and have the power to say “no” to a claim. I reckon five people could deal with 646 expense accounts without much trouble. I would be delighted to be Scrooge #1 if you’re looking for volunteers.

    Reply: You are right to be angry. Of course Parliament – and the rest of the public sector – could do what it needs to do for much less. I set out here how the costs of MPs could be brought down substantially, by reducing both the number of MPs and the staff they employ.

    • Andy
      Posted March 31, 2009 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your reply.

      In terms of MPs claiming expenses; I don’t actually blame them. The expenses are there to be claimed. The problem is that whenever some new expenses scandal arrives the answer is always “the rules weren’t clear, we must have a review”. The “review” comes back with the only conclusion that it would be allowed to come to – “the MP was perfectly entitled to that claim, but the rules weren’t clear that this was legitimate”. So the claimable items are expanded and MPs can claim more and more as time goes by.

      The problem then is those responsible for performing the reviews. They clearly don’t have big enough teeth, and either aren’t brave enough or have enough vested interest to never want to reduce the claimspace.

      Given that the reviewers are probably claimees themselves (of some sort), we shouldn’t be surprised that this is what happens. Therefore I do blame MPs for not knowing and recognising this and sorting it out.

      The implications fo sorting out MP expenses are much wider than the (relatively) tiny bit of public money we would save. The result would be that this attitude would trickly down and down through the whole of the public sector. My suspicion here is that even the most honorable of you would not be allowed to sort the mess out because civil servants will block you at every stage.

      The conclusion then: get yourselves some balls, get some power over civil servants (i.e. the ability to fire them) and get firing. Private sector employees all stand a bit straighter, and make sure they’re busy when the big boss is wandering the office. Why? Because if you’re caught slacking by him, there is no higher authority – you can be fired. That is what is missing in the public sector, everyone knows they can’t be fired, “I’ll be here long after you’re gone Mister Minister”. Demonstrate to them that that is not the case.

      • alan jutson
        Posted March 31, 2009 at 5:47 pm | Permalink

        Andy
        All excellent comments clearly made clearly from a businessman in the Private sector.

        The simple solutuion to all of this is to TAX MP’S in exactly the same way as the General Public get taxed, with the same allowances and Taxes that are allowed to all of us, then let the Inland Revenue inspectors and VAT inspectors visit them every so often to check it all out, and then fine them for any mistakes.

        We then may get some commonsense rules on Tax and the like, as those that make the rules, will have to obey in the same manner as everyone else.

        John
        Just out of interest as a general rule, are MP’s regarded as PAYE or Self Employed, a mixture of both, or are they registered as Individual Private Companies.

        Reply We pay PAYE on our salary like most other people, and have to declare expenses to ensure that only the allowable ones are tax free.

        • alan jutson
          Posted March 31, 2009 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

          John
          Many thanks for info.
          So if MP’s are regarded as PAYE and employees, how can they then Employ their own staff ?.
          Is there a fixed allowance to do this ?
          If so I assume all of the money has to be spent on staff and office expenses etc.
          or
          Are Mp’s allowed to keep the extra, if they run their offices under budget ???

          Sorry about the Questions, but I am not aware as to the structure of Salaries, payments, allowances, expenses etc in Parliament.

          At the moment it all sounds very confusing and inefficient to a simple businessman

          Reply: No, an MP can only claim for expenses incurred, and cannot make a profit on it. Any staff employed by the MP are given civil service styke Parliamentary contracts and paid centrally, yet MPs still have to report this as if it were some part of their package.

  11. A. Sedgwick
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    A root cause of this situation is that MPs are underpaid. There is absolutey no need for the current number. If the number was halved and the salary doubled with the removal of flaky expenses and allowances I am sure more talented people would consider becoming an MP and the Commons would be a more responsible and responsive legislature with some semblance of the will of the people being evident.

  12. mark
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 9:52 am | Permalink

    @ ‘Andy’. You have saved me thinking and typing, and stated exactly what the reality is. Thanks.

    And that is exactly why it will never change. The whole political class is corrupt by definition, by nature and by its own definition of its own reality.

    In other words, they write the rules for themselves. It happens anywhere that politics rears its head. Local government, societies, committees, charities etc…

    Power hungry people take over, and the loudest most aggressive voices win. Kind of similiar to our current administration in fact.

    • mikestallard
      Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

      I don’t think I agree with this.
      Frank Field? Anne Widdecombe? William Hague? the Beast of Bolsover?
      Honestly, do you think they are in it for the money? Our own MP, Mr Moss, who is resigning for the next election has always been really interested and helpful.

  13. Tom
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    John,

    I think the key thing here, and something that no one else picks up on, is the fact that MP’s offices are, in part, run by interns. This is mainly (as far as I can gather (and I have interned in Parliament)) due to the fact that expenses for MP’s offices (both constituency and parliamentary) are set extremely low. Surely it would make more sense to increase the allowance for running an office so you can have at least two paid members of staff and pay interns at least the minimum wage.

    The problem with not doing this is two fold:

    1. you have a constantly rotating workforce in the offices, with no real allegiance to the MP you work for.

    2. You only have the middle and upper classes applying for the internships – you try living in London without having financial support from home. This results in the only people being qualified for work in Parliament (all job descriptions state the need for at least 3 months (with 6 preferable)) heralding from the upper and middle classes. On this note it is also frightening to see the predominance for male, white staff members. Certainly not ethnically representative of this nation.

    Not only that but I can tell you from experience that fighting it out with 50 or so other interns (all with similar degrees and abilities) for an underpaid £19k p/a job as a Parliamentary researcher is not fun.

    So, my idea would be to increase the allowance for staff and decrease the allowance for second homes etc. Pay more for your primary researcher (£22k to start rising to a max of £28k ish – also thus preventing the tendency for researchers to abandon ship after a year to work for lobby groups in the private sector) a little less for a second researcher (if deemed necessary) and min wage for interns, thus opening up the ‘corridors of power’ to those who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

    Thoughts? You have my email address and I would be delighted to hear your response. (Or should I say your intern’s response (I wouldn’t be surprised if they both wrote this and monitor it for you!).)

    Reply: I write and monitor this site myself and pay for it myself, as it is outside Commons rules for such sites, which have to be bland and apoliticial if paid for out of expenses.
    I am afraid Parliament is already well ahead of you on expenses. We can claim for three full time well paid staff members already.

  14. Thomas Widmann
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    AFAIK, members of the Danish parliament (the ‘Folketing’) get free train and air travel within Denmark. Also, they get a fixed supplement if their constituency is not within commuting distance of parliament.
    And staff and researchers are employed by the parties, not by the MPs themselves.
    Couldn’t something like this be introduced to get rid of the whole expenses circus?

  15. Neil G
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    Andy’s long comment is SO right. It just seems that neither the MPs themselves nor any of the political journos “get it”. The average taxpayer is earning about £25k, why are his taxes being used to buy sofa beds, plasma TVs, second houses and goodness knows what else for “underpaid” MPs who’re already earning a multipe of his wage? And I second Andy’s question – what do MPs think their salary is for, exactly? They seem to think that all their basic costs of living should be paid for separately, tax free, by the public purse. £60k might seem like a modest salary, but it’s very generous pocket money!

    Look at the reaction to Eric Pickles on Question Time – has a QT audience ever bayed for a panelist’s blood like that before? MPs need to get a grip on the public mood on this.

    If the Conservatives want to paint themselves as the party of fiscal discipline and personal responsiblity, they are going to have to take a lead on this matter. People are angry and the question of MPs’ expenses isn’t going away. If the Conservatives give the impression of getting reluctantly dragged along by public opinion every step of the way, they are going to have a tough time convincing anyone that they care about public sector spending discipline.

  16. Mick
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    The important issue is not disclosure, but whether each and every claim is both legal under the rules….

    After recent revelations I’m at a loss to know what would actually be illegal.

    And let’s be fair, they’re never illegal, because if they were MPs would be going to jail. They’re simply “not allowable” in which case the porker concerned has to pay back a bit of the loot and apologise.

    Time to jail a few of these swine and end this parliament of whores.

  17. Mark Reckons
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Related to this, just fisked Polly Toynbee’s latest comment piece attempting to defend MPs here if anyone’s interested.

  18. Mark Reckons
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:10 pm | Permalink
  19. pipesmoker
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    JR you are worth every penny of it and I have no doubt there will be no unpleasant surprises in you expenses claims.

    I look forward to the press doing doing the same hatchet job on members of the European Parliament and their fraudulent expenses claims, that really would put the media hype over a couple of mucky films, a stone sink, fireplace and a bath plug into context!

  20. HJ
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

    What puzzles me about MPs expenses is that they appear not to need to comply with HMRC rules.

    Generally, employees and the self-employed have to comply with certain rules on expenses, otherwise HMRC will consider them as income (and therefore income tax and NI will be payable).

    Could John comment on this please?

    Reply: There are Revenue rules on MPs expenses and a special return we have to fill in so they can assess us to tax properly. Clearly I do not pay tax on the income of my assitant, as he pays his own tax on that and it is no direct benefit to me as an individual.

    • HJ
      Posted March 31, 2009 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

      John,

      Thank you for your reply. Of course it’s reasonable for you to employ an assistant and, of course, your assistant will pay his own tax – I wasn’t referring to this.

      What I was referring to was, for example, MPs effectively claiming £20k+ for the use of a bedroom in a family members home. HMRC wouldn’t allow me to claim this was my main residence and then to charge for my mortgage payments on my ‘second’ (i.e. real) home as expenses. There’s no way they’d accept this. How come they allow MPs to?

      Surely the whole problem would disappear if HMRC treated MPs like the rest of us.

  21. Nick
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    All this information is going to be made available to the public under Freedom of Information requests soon anyway.
    —————-

    No its not. The MPs are currently active with the black marker censoring the bits they don’t want released.

    However, we now know there is a version going around that is uncensored.

    It’s going to be interesting to see just what MPs want to hide.

    You can’t have it both ways. You want to spy on the rest of us, record our calls, record our movements, look into our bank accounts, prevent us from keeping things private.

    Well the tables are turned. We’re going to look into your private affairs as a consequence. Renting porno videos? You will be outed. Buying antique fireplaces to feather your nest, you will be outed.

    A few are going to lose their jobs over this. John, for the rest of us, I hope you haven’t been fiddling your expenses.

    Andy is spot on with his post. It’s not the House of Commons anymore, its the House of Conmen.

    Nick

  22. mikestallard
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    I went to the doctor for a check up this week. She is polite and kind and renewed my prescription pleasantly. But, do you know what? She earns £100,000 a year (minimum). She is a very very rich woman who is a government employee, like the very senior Police or Civil Service. She doesn’t need me (she gets paid anyway) and I don’t feel that she is my medical friend any more.
    Our Parish Priest earns £3,000 a year. He gets anything he needs because he asks for it and, if we think it is right, someone gives it to him. His computer system, for instance, is second to none. He goes on convalescent holidays to Ireland. Because we support him, we feel that he is one of us. He is a living example of poverty.

    Of course MPs are underpaid!
    Compared with the placepeople at the EU, they are destitute. Lord Mandelson did not starve completely as a Commissioner. His successor, for a few months’ work, will walk away with a pension of a million (Open Europe).
    Andy is so right with his comments. But tell me please, who is checking on the EU expenses? Or on their turn up pay?

    • HJ
      Posted April 1, 2009 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      Mike,

      GPs are, in fact, mostly independent contractors to the NHS (even though they get NHS pensions). Their contracts are not subject to price competition, nor renewal. Don’t you wish your company could get this type of contract?

      My GP isn’t much good but she gets my money anyway. On the rare occasions I need help, I go to the small injuries unit (good nurse practitioners there).

  23. Nick Leaton
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

    There is the obvious question for any MP.

    Do you operate under the same law as the rest of us when it comes to taxation, or do you have privileges that we don’t?

    If its the same law, I look forward to your support making similar expense claims.

    If there are laws just for you, we will draw the obvious conclusion about the HoC

    Nick

  24. ManicBeancounter
    Posted March 31, 2009 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    For me, it is not the rules that need changing, but the attitude of some MP’s. The taxpayer should be willing to pay for legitimate expenses incurred by elected representatives carrying out their duties. This includes paying for a second home.
    However, for this to work well, you need integrity on the part of those same people. What it is not required are those who bend the rules for their own personal gain. What we will end up with the vast majority of honest MPs having their personal tastes examined for public entertainment. Also, the new rules will, no-doubt mean MPs spending more time form-filling and covering their backs, rather than getting on the job in hand. A bit like teachers and social workers.

  25. bill
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 12:09 am | Permalink

    Jacquie Smith seems to be a nice unpretentious person, with no edges.

    She may have been operating within the rules, but you don’t need a GCSE in common sense to see that a stay over arrangement with her sister, a house in which she has no equity, cannot be classed as her main residence and the constituency home that she shares with her husband and children and in which she has an equity stake is not her main residence, is absurd.

    What a terrible example for a senior minister to give. Maybe she thinks that her wafer thin majority will melt away and she should build some capital.

    A few years ago I had a small flat in Chelsea Harbour I was working most of the week in London and returned to my home in Northumberland, where my wife and kids were, at weekends.

    I owned the equity in both houses, but when the time came to sell the London flat (It had a higher value than the Northumberland property) the revenue would not wear the notion that the London property was my main residence, consequently I took a 40% hit on the capital gain. Now this was a significant sum to me a former council estate lad.

    Where is the justice here?

  26. jt
    Posted April 1, 2009 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    There’s been no discussion on this issue with regard to other income that MP’s earn ~ through work / consultancies / quangos. Or that for many MP’s being an MP is not a full time career.

    Reply: An MP’s job is designed around the principle of two jobs, to allow MPs to be Ministers, Whips etc as well.

  27. george r manley
    Posted May 8, 2009 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

    Income tax. your rules say ok. the inland revenue may disagree.
    Are MPs outside revenue investigation?

    if an expense is not wholly & essential for your business, it’s taxable. Going back how many years john?

  28. Nick Dobson
    Posted May 17, 2009 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    The simple fact is that there is no way back now except for an election (soon) in which the vast majority of current MPs are unseated by their deselection by constituency organisations on a mas scale. Only a very small – perhaps 5% or 10% – of those there now are re-electable. Only this will clear the air. Nothing else will do. No other path to rdemption. I’m pretty sure our JR would be one of those 5-10%. But I can think of plenty of others who I held in respect until recently who would not.

    If you think about it, there’s no real incentive for the current Government to hang on for another year anyway now all this has come out. They were only doing so to get a bit more troughing in before their inevitable demise, and now the troughing party is over, I’m sure that they’d like to get stuck into building their new careers as soon as possible.

    Nick

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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