Today, finally, the Commons publishes the expense claims of its members. A few of us wanted this done a long time ago.
The BBC this morning criticised the Commons for deleting the addresses and making it impossible to work out if someone had sold a property without paying capital gains tax. It is right that the public should know that the properties concerned are located to allow the MP to carry out the job, and that taxes have been paid where appropriate on properties where taxpayer money is received to pay some of the bills.
This Parliament I claimed for a rented flat in St George’s Square Pimlico, and more recently for a bedsit I purchased in Grosvenor Road Pimlico. Both are in walking distance of the Commons , saving time and money on travel on busy and long days. I did sell a property at the time of the 2005 election. I did not claim for it, and did pay capital gains tax on the sale.
At the beginning of the 2008-9 year I decided to cut my total expense claims by 10% in each of the following two years, as I believed we needed to cut public spending without harming front line services. When they get round to publishing the 2008-9 figures they should show I achieved this target for last year. I stated in May 2009 that I would be making no further claims on the housing cost Allowance, which should guarantee cutting more than 10% from my total expenses again this year.
Most people in the Commons now agree the old system was too generous and too laxly administered. The sooner Parliament can agree a system which is fair and offers value for money to taxpayers, the better.