MPs expenses – what do you think?

( NOTE TO MEDIA I am not expressing a view on this topic as IPSA is independent and responsible, and I am not planning to give interviews on this topic for that reason. The questions beneath are to sound opinion, are meant to be neutral, and are designed to give my bloggers a chance to express their views on something of interest to them)

I understand the wish of many of you to discuss the issue of MPs renting flats. Now I have seen the newspaper reports and understand what is going on, I am happy to provide this forum for you to ask questions of IPSA. As you appreciate, IPSA, the independent watchdog, makes the rules and enforces them. IPSA can change the rules if it wishes. Parliament does not seek to make or amend the rules.

At the heart of the latest stories are three questions:

1. Should MPs be able to charge rent for a small flat in central London, on the grounds that many cannot return to their main home in their constituencies on working nights at the Commons?

2. Should wealthier MPs who happen to own property investments be barred from claiming rent for a central London place, where MPs without savings can do so? Should there be some kind of wealth test over any rent claim, to avoid a richer MP selling property investments and putting the money into something else to still claim rent if the rules change?

3. Does it make any difference if renting is allowed for all MPs if some MPs happen to rent out property investments to other MPs, assuming it is done at market price? Is renting from another MP much worse than renting from a third party? Is an MP holding a rental property as an investment wrong, but an MP holding a bond or share as an investment OK?

As you seek to answer these questions you will find IPSA do not have an easy solution, if you accept the proposition that MPs do need financial assistance with a second home or to stay in London at all. I do not rent a property for my use, nor do I have a property to rent out, so I have no personal interest in the answers to these questions. I would be grateful if you did not personalise the answers to individual MPs for legal reasons. I note that MPs of all three main parties are involved so there is no party advantage to be gained on this issue.

I would also be interested in your answers to the following

Should all Ministers travel second class on trains and economy on planes?
Should MPs be allowed to buy an advance lower price first class ticket instead of a full fare second class ticket?
Should MPs always travel second class?

Again, I am not expressing a view. I have made no claims for travel costs this Parliament.

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175 Comments

  1. Electro-Kevin
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:34 am | Permalink

    Should Ministers travel in standard class ? No. Of course not. Should taxpayers pay for it ? Yes.

    Housing provision/sub-letting ? It’s all part of the confusing circumvention of paying politicians the very high salaries they ought to be getting for their responsibilities and they hours they (good ones) put in.

    I’m all for paying politicians better – much better in fact. On one proviso:

    We bring back powers ceded to Europe and make our own politicians relevant once more.

    As it stands I can see no better way of saving money than scrapping Parliament and the whole system that has no purpose other than to deceive the British public into believing that they live in a democracy.

    That politicians – of all people – can state that police officers, nurses and soldiers are a drain on funds and their jobs must be cut beggars belief.

    While we’re at it we could make huge savings in the judiciary too.

    Either EU or UK parliaments. We can’t afford both.

    • Electro-Kevin
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

      To clarify:

      Out of Europe

      Divvy up the savings from leaving the EU Parliament among our own politicians through their payroll. Then scrap the confusing system of allowances etc.

    • lifelogic
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:15 am | Permalink

      On first class/second class I have never ever gone first class (other than the bargain first for £2 or something) and I am fairly rich but then I am always using my own or my businesses money.

      It would perhaps keep them in touch with the the real world, the over crowding, filthy loos, the nature of people and their views, the endless irritating announcements and the likes. I would pay them for second class and let them pay the extra themselves if they wanted too.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:49 am | Permalink

        With respect lifelogic, you and I wouldn’t be knowns from Adam, I can just see some members of the public acting like a pact of hyena’s if a MP (or worse still a Minister) sat amongst them, which might then give the politician a fails idea of the average real world “Pleb”…

        • Bazman
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

          Just give them their own sumptuous carriage with butlers etc. First class is never full anyway.

      • Disaffected
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

        JR to be clear the premise in your paragraph is flawed. IPSA is not independent. You might recall MPs became upset with IPSA and so Cameron made threats that unless they got their act together he would intervene. How would he make threats if they were independent? So it caved in and can only been seen as lip service to independence at best.

        Kennedy should never have been appointed. No cronies, associates, friends, other non-job quango heads or loose connections to MPs should be entertained.

        Bercow could not make the same protests as his predecessor to censor information that should be in the public domain. Security is a fictitious reason and Bercow knows it. IPSA should have told him to take a run and jump.

        Martin should have been sacked full stop, not asked to stand down and then promoted to the Lords in three months. This, once again, shows how corrupt parliament has become.

        MPs have over inflated egos, like CEOs of local authorities, who think they should be paid enormous sums. Ministers salaries are on top of their MP pay. Once more, not worth it. Look at the current crop of dross in office. As you have pointed out so many times, much of our legislation comes from the EU. Why do we need so many MPs and why do they need to spend so much time at Westminster when the Whip system forces them to vote for the party line rather than what their constituents want? They could do this by electronic voting or video conference etc- blind adherence to the party system.

        MPs expenses are outrageous. Second homes, dinner service sets, subsidised meals at Westminster, bar subsidised, house flipping to avoid tax and then the ones who have done this tell about tax avoidance- utter cheek and hypocrisy. Time for a change. Olympic village is completed with furnished accommodation, perfectly suitable for politicians. When they are booted out another can over the room. Australia has fixed accommodation.

        Reply: Of course Parliament could decide to take expenses back in house as you say. Many of us want this body to remain independent, as it currently is, and for that reason we are not seeking to influence its judgements.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

          Indeed any organisation that feels the need to call itself “The Independent ………………… rarely is.

        • Disaffected
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          Clearly Mr Cameron was able to influence or his threats to sort it out would have been pointless. True independence with the right to recall MPs is required.

          JR, how about the right to recall MPs that Messrs Cameron and Clegg promised and put in the Coalition agreement? As normal, Cameron spoke in forceful terms to make it sound genuine- which we now have come to accept as blowing empty hot air. It is there, unlike gay marriage which is not nor is it in any manifesto either. Early legislation was going to be introduced for right to recall MPs. We need might need it urgently now that names are coming out of the wood work for rent swaps. There was much injustice with last MP expense scandal, mainly because such a low proportion of MPs were investigated by the police or appeared in court. Possibly a policy decision, not sure by whom. However, three years on this should have been resolved to restore the credibility of parliament. Is the Kelly report still sitting on the shelf ?

          Reply : I do not know what they are planning to do about this. I did not put that proposal in my own manifesto.

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

        A shame, Lifelogic – as you are a first class chap.

        • Electro-Kevin
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

          The irritating announcements have been caused by no-win-no-fee lawyering.

          They are not done for the fun of it.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

          Thanks, it does not bother me, if it did I would pay first I suppose but I would probably get too fat in first class anyway I suspect.

        • lifelogic
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

          I never buy new cars either, it seems such a waste when perfectly good second hand ones cost so little often less than 30%. I can use the money far better invested in my businesses. Also I would not want all the staff thinking they deserved a new one too.

          Much greener to run a good old car too than build a new hybrid nonsense and more reliable too I suspect.

          • Mark W
            Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:07 pm | Permalink

            Totally agree. New motor is a waste of money.

          • zorro
            Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

            Yes, I keep my old BMW because the build quality is better and cheaper to run.

            zorro

          • Bazman
            Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:00 pm | Permalink

            Good point, but what else to ‘the staff’ not deserve?

          • lifelogic
            Posted October 23, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

            The staff deserve to be treated fairly, not put at risk and paid as has been agreed.

            If any do not like the deal they should get another job that they might prefer.

          • Bazman
            Posted October 23, 2012 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

            They can ram it and so can you? Could be expensive?

  2. Nina Andreeva
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:37 am | Permalink

    My other half is a NHS hospital doctor who used to works at King’s in London and lived in Rochester. The hours of a hospital doctor are a lot more anti social than that of an MP and an “all night sitting” for a doctor usually literally involves matters of life and death. So why does an MP need a tax funded second home when he could commute back and forth just like other people who contribute a bit more to society than he does?

    Reply: Because MPs may live and represent places hundreds of miles away from their place of work, unlike doctors. MPs who represent central London areas are not allowed second homes on expenses.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:41 am | Permalink

      and another thing the costs of commuting come out of taxed earnings too!

      • Electro-Kevin
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

        Nina – If you drive a car to work you are paying 200% extra in tax on the unit cost of the fuel. Then the parking.

        In many cases the economic benefit of taking a job or sticking two fingers up to society is pretty marginal.

        The Tory party should forget all about trying to be ‘nice’.

        We need a Thatcher moment. And a permanent reminder never to have a Labour government again.

        That some of the people who caused this will probably stand for office again is quite unbelievable.

        • Mark W
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

          A thatcher moment is exactly what we are crying out for, but Gordon spent over a decade using your money to ensure they built up a reliant base to vote for them. The last thing the left want is a fair society as the idea that strivers would hand over their toiled for loot to the idle is a fantasy.

        • Jerry
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

          Sorry Kevin, we don’t need Thatcher back, we need someone like Harold Macmillan, no disrespect to our host but many (even on the centre right) blame Mrs T for some of the mess we are in, after all she signed and ratified the Single European Act -which directly lead to the creation of the EC and then in time the EU, the process that lead up to the ERM fiasco and it was under her watch that the Big Bang happened which lead to the current light touch regulation and remote dealing etc. within the financial sector that allowe3d people to deal in ‘products’ such as “Credit Default Swaps” were not even the people who invented the ‘product’ together truly understood then of their effects.

          Reply : It was signing the Treaty of Rome which led to our membership of the EU, a decision endorsed by a referendum vote.

          • Jerry
            Posted October 23, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

            @Reply: No is wasn’t, we joined and were asked if we wanted to remain members of the EEC, a quite different beast (and one many would still not object to being members of), it was the Single European Act that paved the way for the EEC to morph into the EC and ultimately the EU / Lisbon Treaty.

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single_European_Act

            [Sorry for the long citation/summary]

            The Single European Act (SEA) was the first major revision of the 1957 Treaty of Rome. The Act set the European Community an objective of establishing a Single Market by 31 December 1992, and codified European Political Cooperation, the forerunner of the European Union’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. It was signed at Luxembourg on 17 February 1986, and at The Hague on 28 February 1986. It came into effect on 1 July 1987, under the Delors Commission.

        • Bazman
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

          You won’t have a job then, so that’s the commuting problem sorted.

    • Nina Andreeva
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:17 am | Permalink

      Yes but what about those who are in easy commuting distance of Westminster? Jock McTavish from somewhere in Scotland could easily be given a voucher for the local Travel Lodge

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      They do not truly represent any area when the Whip system is in place. Under graduate politic question- who does an MP represent? Its constituents, interest groups, party etc. Long gone are the days that an MP represents it constituents. Greed and ambition always appear first on the list. How is the enactment of the Kelly report coming along?

    • StevenL
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

      Why do MP’s need to be in London anyway? Surely we could shift Parliament somewhere cheaper, like Stockton-On-Tees, and buy the MP’s a cheap second home there each. We could apply this regional pay to them too. Then we could convert the Palace of Westminster into plush apartments and sell them off to wealthy foreign plutocrats to help plug the deficit the MP’s have stung us all with?

  3. lifelogic
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:38 am | Permalink

    Just give them a fixed sum say £15,000 tax free for subsistence and just let then spent it just how they wish, be it a tent, a mates house, a hotel, a mortgage or a bin bag under the railway arches.

    If you pay them for rent and not for a mortgage they will clearly rent (and rent out theirs). They are fairly rational (when their personal expenses and financial interests are at issue anyway).

    Just a shame they so rarely are when if comes to government policy. Things like no EU, a smaller government, no green quackery, lower taxes and easy hire and fire never get a look in.

    • Disaffected
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Fixed accommodation like Australia and a canteen at Westminster- no bars. Like the public sector these should have been banned from the buildings. £15,000 for expenses!! I don’t think so.

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

        If they ran that, with their customary efficiency, it would cost far, far more than the £15k each.

      • Mark W
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

        A blanket payment is easier to operate. Maybe scrapping the 40% tax band so they get all that tax back. Then so do many others too. Just cut spending in line.

    • Bazman
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

      I think you will find. I don’t want get pedantic or technical though. It’s called pay rise. The public would not like it.

  4. Sir Richard Richard
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:09 am | Permalink

    Let us not forget why MPs are paid at all. Being an MP used to bring you no remuneration at all. As such, it attracted the rich and the poor started shouting that this was unfair to those MPs who weren’t wealthy bankers/industrialists. We brought in a salary so that the less well-off could still represent people. Since then, an unhealthy belief has developed that being an MP is just like another job and that it is not a privilege on the part of the Honourable Member to be representing his constituents. Accordingly, a remuneration package to match this expectation of a senior ‘civil service’ job has developed.

    Now, instead of the rich but noble, the position of MP tends to attract the career politician type; such expenses ‘scandals’ are proof of this.

    The solution? I’m not certain. But it strikes me as though there should be two options. Either 1) MPs get their outrageously high £65,000 and NO expenses, or 2) MPs get their expenses, but their salary is pegged at the national average. The benefit. The benefit of the first system is there are no expenses to deal with, IPSA can be dissolved, money can be saved. The benefit of the second system, is that if an MPs salary is pegged to the national average, they have an incentive for producing good results; if the country does well, they do well. In theory Labour could have no ideological opposition to this. But then of course, all animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others…

    • A different Simon
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Why quote a gross salary of £65,000 when the pension takes the package to comfortably in excess of £100,000 ?

      Better to pay MP’s £100,000 a year and scrap their defined benefits pensions .

      They will then have the moral authority to scrap all the other public sector defined benefits pensions and replace them with defined contribution plus a salary increase to compensate .

      • lifelogic
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        Indeed the pension almost doubles the salary it is so generous.

  5. Mark W
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    I see no issue with first class travel. I’d guess it makes it easier to work on the go. The details of the latest story are not what they seem if you read beyond headline.

    Renting flats. I don’t see issue of why flats need to be in central London. MPs are as free as anyone else to own and rent out property. Where dispute arises is if they own a property but choose to rent one instead in close vicinity. To navigate the rules. This is annoying as they could vote themselves and everyone else a pay rises by lifting 40% tax threshold. If they can’t make ends meet on tax levels they set, they shouldn’t work a system that eases themselves and no body else on a similar income.

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:01 am | Permalink

      I could offer a slightly childish dig tho. If the average person earning over £60k has shoulders too broad for child benefit then aren’t MPs shoulders too broad for these expenses? I agree with neither being too broad but I’d like to hear it addressed.

  6. alexmews
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Thx John.

    I have no issue with first class travel for ministers and that it should be paid for by the taxpayer. MP should also have a funded office and reasonable staffing costs subsidised so they can carry out their local work.

    As for accomodation – there should be hotel or condo style accomodation in Westminster for overnights. Being an MP should not enable the taxpayer funding of a property portfolio as has been the case.

    I would even support a higher salary for MP.

    We do need vastly fewer of them however. With devolution, with Europe, with local mayors in my case as well as town councils – we are vastly over governed. bring on the boundary review and the hardly ambitious 10% headcount cut.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:08 am | Permalink

      @alexmews: “As for accomodation – there should be hotel or condo style accomodation in Westminster for overnights.”

      If you mean a centralised place for MPs to lodge, wasn’t that looked into at the time of the expenses scandal, whilst possible it was deemed a security risk and such hotel would require expensive 24/7 security that might actually end up costing more. Of course if the idea is good to go then there is always a certain very secure venue now not being used close to Stratford International station. This would also leave the venue free during the summer should the venue be used once again for a major sporting competition.

    • Bernard Juby
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Permalink

      “As for accomodation – there should be hotel or condo style accomodation in Westminster for overnights. Being an MP should not enable the taxpayer funding of a property portfolio as has been the case.”
      Fully agree with this (as with many of the other points raised).
      They built purpose built offices just across the road so why did they stop there & not have made them bed-sitters? Then they could have prevented flat-owning MPs from renting them out to fellow MPs especially if the tax-payer has helped to buy them in the first place. If an MP has done this then any profit made on a re-sale should go back into the public purse and NOT be trousered by the MP..

      • Jerry
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Yeah, and the MPs family does what, file for divorce?…

        • Bernard Juby
          Posted October 25, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

          No earthly reason why they should. MPs can commute back & forth (at our expense) if their marriage is that rocky. Perhaps they should have spent more time with their families in the first place?

  7. Julian
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:16 am | Permalink

    Ideally, MPs and Ministers should be able to travel first class (or business class on planes). Ideally though, MPs and Ministers would have the respect of the people and would be seen to be improving the financial situation of the country and cutting government expenditure. In that context, a little extra on fares would be worth it.

    I hardly need to say that we aren’t in that situation.

    Ministers and MPs should therefore be reimbursed the normal cost (not advance) of a standard class or economy ticket for the time of their travel. They should be allowed to claim if they have bought a ticket but if that ticket is first class, they can pay the difference.

    Many MPs (e.g. George Osborne, Ed Milliband) would be able to pay the extra for first class travel without even noticing. If they want to do so, that should be up to them.

    • StevenL
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:07 pm | Permalink

      Ideally though, MPs and Ministers would have the respect of the people and would be seen to be improving the financial situation of the country …

      On that logic, they should be made to walk everywhere, with a ball and chain attached to their ankle.

  8. JT
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:18 am | Permalink

    managing the expenses system is a waste of time, effort and money.
    scrap it.
    Adjust the salary higher to take into account the current average claims – and adjust for distance from parliament .. include travel as well. So an MP from Scotland will get more, than one from London. But that will reflect costs. Throw in a fixed fee for office expenses. Require MPs to detail any payments to family or connected parties in their report to constitutents.

    • Sir Richard Richard
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:41 am | Permalink

      Adjust the salary higher to take into account the current average claims – and adjust for distance from parliament .. include travel as well. So an MP from Scotland will get more, than one from London. But that will reflect costs

      You’ll still need a quango to oversee this and you can bet that, over time, MPs will go “I need a higher amount because our constituency has a BBQ that I simply have to go to as part of my duties”.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:17 am | Permalink

      [scarp expenses and make MPs salary higher, adjust for distance] So an MP from Scotland will get more, than one from London.

      Nice constituencies if you can get them! The benefit of having an expenses process is that the travel (or accommodation) actually has to be used, it does stop the practise of not being a good constituency/parliamentary MP, one does have to actually turn up…

  9. Julian
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:19 am | Permalink

    Here’s a suggestion that would save the whole of IPSA and avoid any complaints about expenses.

    When MPs stand for election, they should state how much they will claim per year in expenses. Then, when the electorate vote, they are explicitly agreeing that this is what the MP may claim. If someone wants to stand on a platform of being less expensive, let them do so and see if they get elected. Once elected, the MPs would be paid what had been agreed, regardless of what costs they incurred, and pay tax on it.

    • APL
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

      Julian: “Here’s a suggestion .. ”

      I like it, but perfer my suggestion posted on Mr Redwoods blog some time ago. MPs should be paid for a tax levied in their own constituency.

      It should appear on your Council tax just as the precept for Police or Sewage currently does.

      I believe that would encourage more people in a constituency to engage with the political system.

      Perhaps people might begin to wonder if they need an MP, MSP, MWA, all at once if they could see how much it all cost them personally.

  10. barnacle bill
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:26 am | Permalink

    I do not care what we pay our MPs, all I ask is that they be subject to the same rules and regulations from HMRC that us mere plebs have to live under, no more no less.

    • Lord Blagger
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:05 am | Permalink

      Quite right.

      However, I would apply the rule in a different way.

      There needs to a law saying we are all equal under the law.

      If MPs vote themselves perks then we all get them.

      e.g. Shortfall in a pension fund? MPs vote themselves extra cash. We all get it.

      MPs exempt themselves from money laundering regulations – that applies to all. So far no MP has managed to explain to me why they need that. Along with how much they owe for the state pension and other hidden debts.

      Exemption from income tax on expenses – should apply to all. Plus the little bit, no investigation by the tax man. Applies to all.

      Vote themselves a tax free per diem allowance. All can use the same number as a tax free per diem allowance, and so dodge tax – legally.

      Until we have a pleb law enacted, the theft will go on.

      • Mark W
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

        Spot on. Best idea yet

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:47 am | Permalink

      I prefer the idea of higher pay, maybe on a constitunency basis to reflect travel, but then again South East MPs have higher housing costs, so difficult.

      Higher Pay is better than expenses as it is subject the HMRC like the rest of us. Maybe out of town housing as opposed to central London will make them order Boris to scrap congestion charge if they had to pay it themselves. Who knows.

      But if they had their cash in pocket affected by tax rates like everyone else they just might stop the games of calling poeple on £80k a year ‘rich’ and scrap the 40% rate altogther and just keep the 45% rate at £150k for the very much better paid, but not necessarily rich.

  11. Steve Cox
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:34 am | Permalink

    Why doesn’t the government use some of its vast central London property portfolio to house those MP’s who need overnight accommodation? I’m sure that if you look around you will find unused office space that could be converted into comfortable apartments suitable for overnight stays. All those thousands and thousands of civil service job cuts that we have been told about must have left plenty of empty desks, so use the space productively to house MP’s. Compared with buying or renting property in central London, conversion of existing space into flats is very cheap.

    On the issue of rail and air travel, I find that rather complicated. If an MP or minister must work during the journey then there is a clear case for first class travel, but who is to say that they MUST work? These problems have been faced by the cost cutters in some of our largest and best companies, and so I would suggest that Francis Maude talks to the HR people in a few of them, such as Shell, Tesco, BT and GlaxoSmith Kline (avoiding the financial sector for obvious reasons), and produces a code of practice that adapts the cost savings realised by these highly efficient and effective companies to the situation of MP’s and ministers.

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Very good point of travel expenses.

  12. MickC
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:45 am | Permalink

    The state should buy a block of flats for MPs to live in when they have to stay in London. The rent should be an expense which is re-inbursed to them.

    If they choose to live elsewhere it is a matter for them and they should pay for it themselves.

    In general, the “Princes of Westminster” are widely regarded as arrogant and corrupt with little regard or respect for those who pay them and whom they are supposed to represent. Contempt is the usual emotion, although that is rapidly becoming hatred. Unfortunate-but true.

    • graham
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:45 am | Permalink

      A great opportunity was missed with the Olympic village. There are several thousand flats there and a few hundred could have been taken for those MPs who actually need a London base. It is within easy travelling distance from Westminster and they would not have needed to claim anything as they could have been provided rent free. If the standard of accommodation was good enough for world class athletes, it should be good enough for bog standard MPs.

      • Single Acts
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

        I suspect Jessica Ennis maybe more slender than some MP’s

    • A different Simon
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:46 am | Permalink

      MickC ,

      Agree with one small modification .

      Our Parliament should be moved out of the cess pit which is London , perhaps to Birmingham .

      (sorry Brummies)

      • Jerry
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

        Unless someone does something about it, rather than get side lined by the hyena’s wanting more blood in the name of expenses, it will be moved out of London – to Brussels…

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      I rather like the idea, but I wonder if a few spouses might get a bit edgy about the possibility of wandering the corridors at night. Might make some great newspaper headlines though.

  13. alan jutson
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:18 am | Permalink

    This whole situation is bought about because of the complex way in which Mp’s are funded.

    Why is there not just a simple salary under PAYE terms, with all business expenses paid for by Parliament under HMRC rules as for everyone else.

    Constituancy employees and office expenses also paid by parliament with regional cost limitations.

    The simple solution given that their second office is located in London, would be for Parliament to own and manage a block of simple but functional one bedroom flat close to parliament, which are fit for purpose, and Mp’s stay free of charge.

    Should an MP wish to stay elsewhere then they do so at their own expense.
    Thus if they wish to purchase a property absolutely no problem, but no financial help should be given in any way for them to do so.

    We seem to have at the moment a situation where an MP purchases a second home, and chooses not to use it for themselves, but instead rents it out to a another MP who is funded by the taxpayer, whilst they themselves rent another place at the taxpayer expense as well.

    Clearly I would have thought this is against the spirit of the system.

    No let Mp’s suffer exactly the same HMRC rules as everyone else, then perhaps we may get better tax laws for the rest of us plebs.

    As far as personal investments, savings, property purchase is concenerned, an MP can do as they like, just the same as everyone else, butcertainly not with taxpayer funded money.

    John, I see no reason why you should not claim legitimate business expenditure, if those expenses are for carrying out your duties as an MP.

    First class travel, so Mp’s can work at the same time, also not a problem but only if they are travelling to and from a legitimate business meeting or to parliament.

    Its simple really, we do not want taxpayers funding property empires, personal travel, or excessive entertainment.

    We simply want Mp’s to play by the same rules as every other taxpayer.

  14. John Fitzgerald
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    John

    I am a freelance computer specialist and as such if I work away from home, regardless of the distance, I cannot claim the cost of a flat in the place where the work is. This would be considered a “benefit in kind” by the HMRC. If that is the case for me why should an MP be different?

    Reply: You can claim hotel or other costs for working away from home.

  15. Old Albion
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    When i was a working man (i’m now retired) I got myself to work and home again at my own expense. Just like most working people do. Whether i was 12hr days or 12hr nights.
    Any MP representing a constituency within (say) the M25 should do exactly the same.
    Those living further afield should be entitled to book into a Travelodge at no cost to themselves but charged to Westminster direct. The cost of transport to the Travelodge should be borne by the MP.
    The whole system of second homes, which has been abused for years needs to be scrapped.
    MP’s travelling on governmental business should have their expenses paid at 2nd class level. If they wish to travel 1st class they should pay the difference.
    Scottish, Welsh and N. Irish MP’s in Westminster should have their salary cut to reflect their massively reduced workload. As their own countries administrations have taken over between 50 and 70% of their work. Leaving them to spend their time interfering in English business (notably tuition fees)
    In fact with the continuing rise of the EU governence of the (dis)United Kingdom
    English MP’s should have, at the minimum, a pay freeze until either the EU takes full control of England. Or we get out.

    Reply MPs within the M25 cannot claim second home allowance. Travelodge for say 200 nights a year might be dearer than a small flat.

    • Old Albion
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

      Reply MPs within the M25 cannot claim second home allowance.

      Thank you for pointing that out, i didn’t know that.

      Travelodge for say 200 nights a year might be dearer than a small flat.

      I doubt it, i equally doubt MP’s do 200 late sittings a year. Assuming ‘late’ means after around 10PM. In fact i’m not sure MP’s work in Westminster for 200 days ???

      Reply: Getting home to the Orkneys or to Land’s End would not be easy even when Parliament ends at 7.15 pm

      • Old Albion
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

        Quite, but then the Orkneys MP(s) ? or Lands end MP are not going to be doing 200 late night sittings are they……if you are honest.
        Anyway as i pointed out to you. Scotlands (Orkneys) MP’s should be keeping their noses out of English affairs.

  16. Jerry
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    As for renting out properties, I see no reason why MPs who have more than one property within a reasonable night-time commute [1] from the HoP should not rent it to a fellow MP, the problem seems to be with the suggested practice of pairs of MPs renting each others only property and then claiming expenses.

    Regarding first class travel, yes ministers and MPs should be allowed to travel first class, for a number of reasons (security being one, needing to work is another), tickets should be booked in the most cost effective way, perhaps the franchises should have written into them that government officials on official business should be automatically upgraded to first class, perhaps even travel free – after all many if not all of these franchises are reliant on public subsidies. Didn’t a similar arrangement exist under BR?

    What worries me about the way the expenses issue is shaping up is that only two t7pes of person will be able to be an MP soon, we will be returning to the days of old were one either needed to have wealth and be of independant means or be sponsored by someone or an organisation, do we really want to go back the days when MPs were either land/business or union barons? I know our host has said that IPSA makes the rules etc but did MPs really create an self-governing, self policing Authority, just where is the accountability of IPSA, if it becomes clear that it’s not fit for purpose who and how can it be replaced or reconstituted…

    [1] and no I don’t see 24/7 trains, such as those to Brighton, as a reasonable night-time commute, even if it is only a one hour journey as this doesn’t take into consideration waiting times and time to and from the railway station.

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

      Interesting point. As there are only 650 odd MPs issuing travel warrants for all UK railways would be a good idea. And it’d be churlish to deny our representatives 1st class travel. Argue with them on the merits of individual subjects by all means, but you can’t expect people with their profiles to travel in 2nd. I wonder if the ticket inspector last week had found someone like David Beckham without a 1st class ticket whether it’d have played out the same.

      I’m no fan of George Osborne, but the full story isn’t half as bad as the headline. And he’s the chancellor for crying out loud.

  17. The PrangWizard
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    I have learned a lot these last few months. We should be concerned about the way MP’s, especially Ministers, are treated. How long before they are assaulted in the streets? After all we had the police, like some politically motivated Mob, loudly demanding Mr Mitchell’s resignation; that could be easily be taken as justification.
    The media must regain a sense of proportion and honesty. More facts and less opinion and repetition and exaggeration. The hounding of Mr Osborne was unsavoury. How many reporters I wonder have gone into a 1st class compartment of a train without a full ticket. I ask them now, own up. Maybe they get 1st class travel always, some of them, which ones I wonder? And the BBC and Sky people?
    And I’d like to know, because I don’t know, who pays when they go flying off round the world with these same MP’s, and especially the PM, on the same plane. Should they not find their own way there? Where do they stay and at what standard? What makes them so special?
    And how about a Public Enquiry into press and reporters expenses? I can hear the protests now!
    There is something extremely unsavoury about the trend to hound MP’s, it is a kind of mob hatred about it, and someone with influence should speak out against it. Is there anyone?
    MP’s are different because of what they do, they cannot be singled out because the are different and are so-called ‘servants of the people’. Are we turning them into slaves? They must be allowed to get on with it in their personal lives, without endless intrusiveness. There are enough rules governing their conduct.
    And don’t forget, let us think about our own many offensive comments on these pages and our own behaviours. Are we innocent and blameless?

  18. Lord Blagger
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    1. Should MPs be able to charge rent for a small flat in central London, on the grounds that many cannot return to their main home in their constituencies on working nights at the Commons?

    ==========

    No. It’s a five year job. They should make their own arrangements like the plebs.

    If you apply the same treatment that you force on us to MPs, then question 2 and 3 are irrelevant.

    Now. What about Denis McShane?

    (etc etc)

    Why are your expenses exempt from income tax and scrutiny by the tax man? The plebs aren’t allowed that perk. We don’t get to vote on our tax arrangements unlike you.

    Reply: MPs expenses are subject to tax scutiny like anyone else’s and like other people’s they are usually tax exempt as wholly incurred to do the job. The main expense claimed is staff pay, which is taxed like anyone else’s. People in business do not have to pay extra tax on their employees pay on their own tax bills.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      @Blagger: It’s not a “five year job”, an election could be called at any time within that period, five years is the maximum for the parliament. The first Wilson government of 1974 lasted 6 months, some Tories elected in February lost their seats in October.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

        Never could add up!…. 🙁

  19. Chris Burge
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:02 am | Permalink

    1. Hotel stay is allowed and is generally what happens in the private sector. If they wish to rent for convenience or greater comfort, they are free to do so with their own money in the way that many remote workers do – I know many with families in London and working in Yorkshire, renting accommodation here.

    2. No – certainly means testing makes little sense given every MP has a high salary already.

    3. No – though ‘market price’ is relative. It should be judged by whatever criteria is used when the state pays housing benefit. If the arrangements would be judged as fraudulent under the ‘normal’ rules then they should be treated in the same way.

    Ideally, the constituency would purchase the property (perhaps using a one-time grant from government?) for use by its MPs across parliaments. The maintenance could be paid as used to be the case, but no MP would be personally enriched for the convenience of having a second home available.

  20. Alan Wheatley
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    I continue to be amazed at how inept MPs are at arguing their own case!

    What the public can reasonably expect is that MPs are treated exactly the same as all other business people as to expenses and allowances. Such rules are well established, so why not use them and stick to them.

    One of the key things which has caused MPs to get themselves in such a muddle is to fail to distinguish between expenses and allowances.

    It also needs to be clearly established and understood the “normal place of business”. For all MPs to be treated the same I would have thought this has to be the MP’s office in the constituency. The costs of travelling to other places, such as the Commons, in able to carry out their job should be reimbursed as expenses. If working away from home then allowances can be paid the same as for other people in business. How individuals chooses to spend the allowance is entirely up to them.

    Entitlement to expenses and allowances should not be influenced by wealth.

  21. Peter Day
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:23 am | Permalink

    John

    So, Joe Bloggs MP books a cheap first class ticket in advance and expenses it.

    He certainly could have booked a standard ticket in advance for cheaper, but went for the more expensive option because he liked the more extra legroom. Overall this is cheaper than a last-minute ticket, but he still has paid a premium for a luxury seat and charged it to the taxpayer. In this instance, he has asked ‘What’s the most I can get away with’ rather than ‘What is fair value to the taxpayer’.

    Jane Bloggs MP, realising her own London home can no longer be subsidised by the taxpayer, has opted to rent it out, and then claim rent expenses on a different property.

    The public subsidy for MP’s rent is so that public servants who cannot afford to live in London have somewhere to stay. It is not an entitlement, which MP’s should manipulate to make sure they take full advantage of. Again, in this instance, she has asked ‘What’s the most I can get away with’ rather than ‘What is fair value to the taxpayer’.

  22. Ex Airman
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Neither MPs, nor Housing Allowance claimants, should be allowed to benefit from these “I rent yours – you rent mine” arrangements. All these systems encourage fraud and the claimants will invent schemes to circumvent the checks.

    The only solution is to cut all the expenses. Give them travel warrants, like the Armed Forces. Give them overnight rooms in Officers Mess style blocks, which could be anywhere within Greater London. Match their food allowances (for working away from home) with the Armed Forces rates.

    Welsh taxpayers subsidise a Cardiff /Anglesey air route by £150 per passenger/£300,000 per year, mostly for the benefit of a few Welsh Assembly Members.

  23. Mactheknife
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Many questions to answer here, but I dont think I will attempt to answer each one. Putting aside some of the media hysteria around expenses, it is common sense that some MP’s will need a place in London during their weekly stay. If you represent Newcastle you can not possibly commute everyday !! So there should be an allowance to either rent a flat or a hotel room, plus some expenses for the basics. If this is monitored all well and good. What concerns me is that we hear of MP’s renting their flat / house to other MP’s and then making some other claim for accomodation. I dont profess to know the new rules (and perhaps you could spell these out for our understanding) but it does begin to raise questions, particularly after the previous debacle. If the system is at fault then it needs to change until we get it right.
    As for travel I look to my own travel arrangements. If you buy an advanced ticket based on specific off peak trains at lower cost then 1st class is fine as it will usually be cheaper than a standard open return. But I have seen MP’s / Ministers on trains in first with their advisers and hangers-on which must have cost the tax payer a fortune. This is not acceptable.
    In short…common sense and honesty is whats required.

  24. Glenn Vaughan
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:55 am | Permalink

    My understanding is that a backbench MP earns (sorry, I meant receives) a minimum salary of £65,000 per year. The annual salary of a cabinet minister is considerably more, while the majority of working people resident in the UK have to manage on substantially less annual income.

    Consequently ALL expenses should be terminated forthwith and IPSA should be redundant!

  25. j goodchild
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    Ans 1 yes id by charge you mean claim.
    2 yes
    3 yes it does if he/She is claiming rent on another. its not wrong to hold rental properties as long as mps are not claiming rent or expences on another. also it shoukd stop at rent. all other costs for plasma tvs new kitchens etc should be met either by mps.landlords or mps themselves.
    All ministers should travel 2nd class except for cabinet ministers for security reasons.
    2a. yes why not
    3a they shoukd be able to travel first class as long as tbey pay the difference out of their own pockets.

  26. Johnny England
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    I fail to see how anything so simple can be made so complicate, there are hundreds of companies who have very straightforward policies with regards to remuneration and expenses.
    I would suggest the following: basic salary £50K, attendance allowance up to £15K to be triggered at 90% attendance. Minister allowance: 3 levels. Prime, senior and junior
    Housing benefit: £1.5K per month (taxable)
    Travel: senior ministers, 1st class travel trains, business class air, others members standard class
    Expenses: All claims must be accompanied by receipts and must be business related.
    Car use: 40p per mile up to 10k miles after which it drops to 20p
    Serviced office supplied with staff allowance of £25K per annum.
    PS
    I would suggest the same is paid to MEPs with a 10% bonus for the extra hours spent travelling
    Bit too easy really but I am sure the civil servants could arrange for a review by their chums to be set up which will take months or years and cost many millions that’s the true waste of tax payers money.

  27. L Edwards
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:29 am | Permalink

    MPs should be entitled to a certain degree of ceremony as representatives of the people and our democracy. As such I think they should travel first class on the same principle as we give ministers decent cars rather than reliant robins. However since the economy is currently not healthy, to save the expense they should only be reimbursed for the cost of second class for the present. They should get the cost of a second class ticket whether they in fact purchased second or first class – they should certainly not have to buy a second class and then pay the extra expense of an upgrade rather than taking advantage of the cheap offers available by purchasing first class in advance.

    Housing is harder. Ultimately I feel what we need is not a detailed rule book that will inevitably be full of loopholes, but instead more openness and the ability for constituents to call an early by-election if they wish. We are edging towards more openness, but without a recall mechanism those in safe seats will still always feel themselves immune and more beholden to the party than their constituents. Really only the individual constituencies should be deciding what their MP needs and is entitled to claim, based on their circumstances, the distances involved and what they feel they ‘deserve’. Not some Whitehall based quango.

  28. John Harrison
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Did anyone ever see a senior member of the last government travelling second class? (I dare say some did but I’m thinking of one in particular. I won’t name names.)
    Of course ministers should travel 1st class if on govt business. (Red boxes, confidential conversations and so on). Otherwise they should travel in whatever class they can afford, or as paid by their local party if on constituency business.

  29. Derek Emery
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:36 am | Permalink

    If politicians are using their own money to buy flats in London and rent them out it will not concern the public. If politicians are using government money to pay for these flats and then renting them out the public will read this as a scam to make money on the side using taxpayers money.
    Most companies pay for their top executives to travel first class. On that basis MPs should be allowed to use first class travel on trains.

    • Wonky Moral Compass
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

      “Most companies pay for their top executives to travel first class.”
      The multinational company that I work for does not though we use planes rather more than trains. First class flights are not allowed. Business class flights need approval from divisional heads. Pretty much everyone, our CEO included, fly economy with economy plus allowed for long haul.

  30. David
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    “1. Should MPs be able to charge rent for a small flat in central London, on the grounds that many cannot return to their main home in their constituencies on working nights at the Commons?”
    Is it an allowable expense for other employees who work late nights in central London? If yes then yes.
    If not then you must be joking.

    Reply: It is not of course allowed to London based MPs, as it is assumed they can get back home at night.

  31. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’m not unreasonable in general and I wouldn’t be unreasonable as an employer of MPs and ministers, but I would expect them to also be reasonable in their behaviour.

    Maybe IPSA should start using juries of ordinary people to decide test cases where claims are contentious, allow them to decide what they think would have been reasonable under the circumstances, and so bring the guidelines into harmony with public opinion.

    In my view it would be unreasonable to expect MPs to commute daily from constituencies outside the normal commuter belt; and it would be unreasonable to expect them to pay for the cost of travel to and from their constituencies and/or for accommodation closer to Parliament; and it would be unreasonable to say that the accommodation must be just for the MP and not for his family, which in these modern times could be held to include his close friend; but it would also be unreasonable for the MP to deceive the authorities about his arrangements to claim more taxpayers’ money than is justified.

    For MPs with constituencies in normal commuting distance then the expectation should be that they will normally commute like other workers, and pay for the costs out of their taxed salaries like other workers, but with some latitude for special circumstances.

    I think it very unlikely that a maniac will try to assassinate Mr Redwood on his way to or from Wokingham, but that must be a significant risk for the Home Secretary Mrs May who is the MP for the adjacent Maidenhead constituency.

  32. A different Simon
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The problem is where MP’s let their personal interests influence national policy .

    – their interest in their property portfolios prevented them doing anything to stop the house price bubble or housing crisis .

    – their interest in their defined benefit pensions have prevented reform of pensions and lead to both pensions apartheid and no interest in ensuring private sector folk are able to make provision for their old age .

    John , these two examples show how your colleagues have derelicted their duty on the basis of “I’m all right Jack” .

    I’d be happy for the basic salary of a backbencher to be increased to £100k to compensate for their defined benefit pension scheme being closed .

  33. English Pensioner
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Q1.Only if it is cheaper than other options, such as taking a taxi home or staying in a hotel.
    When I was working I often had late nights, finishing at gone midnight and had to drive home. The Civil Service wouldn’t have paid me for overnight accommodation.
    Q2. If they are eligible to claim for a London home it should be available to all MPs, but there should be a limit equivalent to a small flat
    Q3. In principle, no, but there does appear to have been some strange dealings so that a few MPs can get more in rent from expenses than they are paying.

    With regards to travel, I would expect ministers to travel 1st class, and I think MPs should be able to do the same on longer journeys, say over an hour.

    I think that the best thing would be to put them onto Civil Service travel and subsistence rates as applicable to Civil Servants in the same salary band.

  34. Denis Cooper
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Off-topic but apropos a recent exchange about the 2010 election in Buckingham, I think it’s worth drawing attention to the comment by Rupert Butler on this recent article about candidates for the forthcoming police commissioner elections:

    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/localgovernment/2012/10/lib-dems-only-contesting-half-the-police-commissioner-contests.html

    To avoid putting JR to the trouble of redaction, I’ll do it for him:

    “——– is standing as an independent candidate for P&CC while I believe there is no official Lib Dem candidate. We have in the past seen, whenever it suits them, former Lib Dems standing here for district office as Independents and seen the agents who last supported them as Lib Dems doing so again.

    Subscribers on this thread may find a national pattern that joins the missing Lib Dems and the many Independent candidates for P&CC.”

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I think this sort of situation is more common than you think. My neck of the woods is blue rosette on a donkey territory. But as a conservative myself I always voted for an independent in a council election who was a Labour man. I would still have voted for him if he’d stood as Labour, but many wouldn’t. He was very good and a top councillor. I’d never let national politics interfere with a sound decision in who to vote for locally. I don’t think it is dishonest, just rational.

  35. Chris Davies
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    I think that the issue most people will have a problem with is the idea of MP’s renting property off each other. While I accept the point that an MP is theoretically a private landlord like any other, it does give the impression that the expenses system can be used as a subsidy for making a speculative buy to let property investment, and allowing the taxpayer to pick up the tab. Like it or not, impressions matter when we are talking about our elected representatives, particularly in difficult economic times when many people are struggling to afford accommodation, especially in London. The idea, whether it is fair or not, that an MP can use their position to top up their personal wealth with taxpayer funds will not pass muster.

  36. Magnolia
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:08 am | Permalink

    Very interesting to discuss this in an open debate.
    It touches on our sense of entitlement and our sense of our self worth in financial terms.
    That some MPs rent out property, that they themselves could live in, to other MPs, so as not to lose their ‘entitlement’ to rent, which is within the rules, seems to me to have some similarity to the entitlements of welfare recipients lower down the income scale who may have, say, large amounts of housing benefit paid out to them because of their right to have large families etc.
    Years ago, when I became unable to work for a while, I was strongly encouraged to apply for invalidity benefit because I was ‘entitled to it’. The rules allowed it, so it became my right. The truth however was that I had enough savings to tide me over and my spouse was happy to support me financially. We did not ‘need’ the money that we were legally allowed to claim.
    I never did manage to work out if it would have been wrong or not to take this money.
    Child benefit put us in a similar position. We did not need the state to pay for our babies because we could afford them ourselves. We saved the money for them in the end, but should we have given it back instead? These are moral dilemmas. Some people will rely on their benefits/expenses/allowances etc. because they could not manage or do a job without them but if everyone is entitled and takes despite having no need then what about the tax payer who funds all this? and how do we encourage saving if only those with nothing get state support?
    Life gets even more complicated when tax payers view an allowance or benefit as a relief or rebate to which they are entitled!
    MPs are in a similar position with regard to their pay and expenses as the whole country faces with our dilemma over state funding versus state cuts and the balance between the rights of recipients of state spending versus those of the tax payers who earn the wealth in the first place will determine the eventual outcome. Perhaps we need an MPs allowance cap?

  37. Sue
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Here’s a novel idea. Why not use taxpayers money to buy enough flats in London to accommodate all those that have to stay overnight? You could charge a minimum rent for long term stays and they could be used as courtesy flats for overnighters.

    That way, no MP can profit from taxpayers money, costs would be substantially lowered and the properties remain as publically owned.

  38. forthurst
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    In principle, MPs who live in their constituencies which are not within reasonable commuting range of Westminster, should be paid a fixed annual allowance for renting a property within commuting range of Westminster irrespective of other considerations.

    MPs who do not normally live in their constituencies, ie they have a main home elsewhere, should only be allowed to claim for office accomodation in their constituencies and should not be allowed to claim for renting a London property irrespective of where is their main abode.

    As ministers have ministerial cars, presumably they use the train in order to save time whilst ‘at work’. If it is reasonable for ministers to have chauffeur driven cars, then presumably it is reasonable that they can travel first class by other means as well. Does that apply to accompanying advisors? Presumably, but all these expenses should be incurred by the department, not the minister.

    What about MPs? They should be paid a fixed travel allowance which they can use how they like, depending on the location of their constituency if they qualify for the ‘Westminster’ allowance.

  39. Mark
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    All MPs are supposed to attend Westminster. The assumption should be that they have a base from which they can commute to Parliament, and pay should be set accordingly. The only MPs who need a second home are those whose constituencies are further away. The second home would be in the constituency, not in expensive central or suburban London. Allowances should be set in a standard manner, much as they are for the rest of us, and follow HMRC regulations. I’m sure you will find people in say the oil industry with headquarters in London spending significant time in Aberdeen as parallel circumstances. That would have the benefit that MPs would understand which regulations are petty and unduly restrictive, because they would suffer them.

    Administration of expenses should be contracted out to the HR department of large organisations that already handle similar arrangements, probably achieving a cost saving of 90% of the cost of IPSA.

    I believe it used to be the case that MPs were granted a first class season ticket in the days of BR. It seems perfectly reasonable to permit first class travel. The process of claiming for it should be the same as for the rest of us.

    Transparency is all. I am in favour of continued publication of MPs’ expenses, so their voters can decide whether thy are getting value for them.

    I’m also in favour of MPs being able to do additional jobs, so long as these are publicised, and conflict of interest is carefully avoided. When speaking in the House, MPs are usually punctilious about drawing attention to their interests. The real problems arise in the insidious composition of select committees, where representation of alternative views are often suppressed, and declarations of interests are more in the nature of a warning to external witnesses not to upset the chair with contrary views. The Climate Change Committee is a prime example.

    • Mark
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:02 am | Permalink

      I should point out that by making the second home the constituency home, it makes it extremely unlikely that there would be anything to be gained by games of cross-renting to other MPs: there could be little reasonable excuse for such a rental in the first place, except to an MP from a neighbouring constituency.

      • Mark W
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        I imagine the big problem with this proposal would be where a local candidate won a seat. They would possibly need housing in the London area but would most likely not wish to sell a family home to take on a rental one in their own home location. As MPs aren’t in the most secure of jobs it could put more off doing it.

        • Mark W
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

          I’d meant to post this as a reply to:

          Mark
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:02 am

        • Jerry
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

          Also, an MP with a family might not want to move them to London, even though they would move to their (new) constituency, and not because they don’t want to live in the ‘smoke’ but one of the easiest ways for anyone with school age kids to get to know and invloved with the locals and local life is via the schools for example.

        • Mark
          Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think it is a problem. It is up to the MP if they wish to retain their constituency home. They will simply be paid as a London based employee with an allowance for a second home in the constituency. If they choose to allocate the funds in favour of the constituency home they may, so long as it remains inside the prevailing HMRC rules.

          Anyone who is appointed to a London head office job having worked elsewhere in the country is faced potentially with a similar dilemma. A head office posting might not last as long as a Parliament.

  40. James Sutherland
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    I don’t particularly object to first class train fares, particularly for ministers – indeed, I understand until recently the office staff under them were entitled to first class train travel on our tab too!

    Charging us for travel and accommodation seems a bit much. If the late-night sittings are a problem .. why have them? Operate normal working hours, enabling normal commuting for those within all but an exceptional distance from London: if those working to fund Parliament are expected to commute from as far afield as Peterborough (as my father did for some years), so should those they are paying for. Of course, I’d also like to see a lot more done remotely: written rather than spoken questions, voting for motions without physically marching from A to B in archaic pre-electronic rituals…

    In some ways, it is difficult to compare the work and systems to others, but looking at modern business practices would seem a good start. Modernise the overall approach, streamlining a lot of it – electronic voting and document distribution, in particular – get rid of “sittings” with negligible numbers present, make more use of written submissions rather than paying a fortune for someone to stand up and read out the statement.

    Reply Commuting from Scotland, much of northern England, Cornwall and parts of Wales would never be easy, even if we finished work at 5.30 instead of at 7.15 pm or 10.15 pm.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

      The MP for the Highlands and Islands would lead an interesting life!

      Anyway, parliament is not a 9-5 job, it is clear to anyone watching via the BBC P channel that there isn’t enough hours in the day as it is.

  41. s macdonald
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    There is a massive argument in favour of providing a state-funded block of studio apartments for ALL MPs. Straightforward security, a commissionaire and laundry service, within walking distance of the HoC, one apartment per constituency, no more silly expense claims.

    Job done!

    • Ex Airman
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:04 pm | Permalink

      In 2009, high court judges used exclusive lodgings which cost tax payers £5.5 million per year. Some cases were over £5000 per room per night. Please can we avoid another fiasco like this for MPs?

  42. merlin
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    We live in an age of high technology where communication is possible at the flick of a switch there are mobile phones, GPS, video conferencing, ipads etc it should be possible to complete many administrative tasks at home without having to travel to the office. If it was compulsory that mps’s had one home I’m sure they would manage well after necessity is the mother of invention. The idea of renting out homes etc smells bad and reinforces the impression of mps as on the make, yes, I know that it is legal but it gives the general public the wrong idea.

    • Jerry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

      Hmm, perhaps someone should as people like BT and Cisco what they think about a 600+ VPN video conference call with (secure) voting facilities…

  43. APL
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    JR: questions 1,2 & 3.

    The issue is not does an MP have the right to do these things.

    But is it honest for an MP to use the public purse to enrich him or herself?

    I used to commute from Edinburgh to London, on occasion to other Worldwide destinations for a period of 18 months, my company paid my reasonable living expenses in London, that included accommodation in reasonable mid range hotels.

    At the end of a two year period, I had submitted expense claims with receipts for every item of expenditure. These were scrutinized and occasionally returned for one or another reason.

    I certainly didn’t end up owning a property in London Town, paid for at my companies expense nor was I able to sublet that property to another colleague to further enrich myself.

    That is the issue with MPs expenses, it is not should they commute here or there, although many many people in other walks of life do commute long distances each week, but should they be permitted to use the Public funded Parliamentary expense system as a personal profit center!

    I say they should not!

    Reply MPs have to provide receipts and are not allowed to make capital gains on taxpayer financed properties.

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

      JR,

      I’m not sure how a capital gain could be assessed if the property was sold long after being an MP, where for a number of years the public purse had paid the mortgage interest.

  44. Neil Craig
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    While fraud is inherently a bad thing I have no problem with MPs being very well paid as long as they provide value.

    On occasion I have suggested that MPs should get a performance related bonus. Possibly like a bonus matching salary if they hit world average growth & rising proportionately. And/or if government spending were cut. I suspect this would concentrate minds wonderfully.

    If that led to MPs taking home quarter of a million I would be happy. Currently, looking at government effect on GDP the average MP would be overpaid on zero.

    • Bernard Juby
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I have stated elsewhere that so-called “Honours” to Jobsworths should be awarded on the basis of how much red-tape have they cut and how much de-regulation they have carried out. Same applies to MPs . Rather than getting this or that gong for serving time it would concentrate their minds wonderfully.

  45. David John Wilson
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    With regard to funding properties for MPs in London, the solution is quite simple. If they claim expenses to support a property then any profit on the sale of that property must be repaid to the exchequer.

    Similarly travel expenses for MPs should be for fares at the lowest sensible rate. There should be no question of not using a first class fare that is cheaper than lowest available standard class fare. However my experience is that when there are cheap first class fares available there are usually similar reductions for standard class.
    My company expects me to travel off peak whenever possible. With the hours that MPs work we should be expecting them to make many of their journeys off peak.

  46. Alte Fritz
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:45 am | Permalink

    Going straight to the questions:

    1. MPs should be able to rent decent accommodation in commutable from Westminster
    2. Wealthy MPs should not have to subsidise the job.
    3. One MP should be allowed to rent to another.

    It’s just not worth getting over heated about the issue. There has to be an arbitrary radius around Westminster outside which renting is allowed and inside which it is not. An MP’s job should not depend on private means or third party patronage.

    On travel:

    1. Ministers should travel 1st class on the basis that they ought to be using the tiome to work en route
    2. MPs should be encouraged to buy cheaper tickets in advance by, for exaple, not being refunded a walk on fare when a cheaper one is available.
    3. If an MP is travelling for work or to and from the constituency, it should be first class. Otherwise, let the MP pay for self.

    MPs should have the self confidence to assert their own value in money terms just as they do on policy when seeking election. There is nothing to be ashamed of in being properly paid yet Labour allowed the previous expenses regime to grow in order to keep all out of view.

    • Tom William
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

      Totally agree. On internal European flights they should all, including ministers, travel economy as business class on most airlines offers no advantages other than food.

      The argument that MPs should travel second class on trains to see how the rest of the travelling public travel is absurd. Unless blind, everyone knows the difference. First class travel exists for someone to use and, provided it is not unnecessarily expensive, it is appropriate for MPs to use it while on business trips or returning to their constituency. If our elected representatives can not use it, who can?

      What next – all MPs to live in cheap flats in squalid areas ?

      Perhaps that could be kept as a punishment for fiddling expenses? (Joke…)

  47. me
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    1. Should MPs be able to charge rent for a small flat in central London, on the grounds that many cannot return to their main home in their constituencies on working nights at the Commons?

    Yes.

    2. Should wealthier MPs who happen to own property investments be barred from claiming rent for a central London place, where MPs without savings can do so? Should there be some kind of wealth test over any rent claim, to avoid a richer MP selling property investments and putting the money into something else to still claim rent if the rules change?

    Yes they should be barred. Yes there should be a wealth test.

    3. Does it make any difference if renting is allowed for all MPs if some MPs happen to rent out property investments to other MPs, assuming it is done at market price? Is renting from another MP much worse than renting from a third party? Is an MP holding a rental property as an investment wrong, but an MP holding a bond or share as an investment OK?

    Yes it does matter, it is a scam.

    All travel should be standard class. Pay should be related to average wages and state pension.

    It’s about time MPs started to live their lives under the same conditions as the vast majority of the population they’re supposed to represent, maybe then they’d be motivated to solve the problems the vast majority of the population face.

    • Winston Smith
      Posted October 23, 2012 at 11:51 am | Permalink

      I presume you are happy to take a wealth test at your place of work. Then your employer could choose whether to pay your expenses, relative to the wealth of your colleagues.

      • Jerry
        Posted October 23, 2012 at 3:36 pm | Permalink

        Indeed, reading a lot of the comments is like reading a manual for a 1001 ways to be jealous – I don’t get that (what ever) so why should someone else… Inverse Socialism!

  48. Roy Grainger
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    1) Yes
    2) Yes
    3) Yes

    Should all Ministers travel second class on trains and economy on planes? Yes.
    Should MPs be allowed to buy an advance lower price first class ticket instead of a full fare second class ticket? No
    Should MPs always travel second class? Yes

    On the last three my answers reflect the absolute fixed policy of my (private sector) employer, as soon as you the purchase of fist class tickets under some circumstances (for example if it is cheaper or if there are no second class tickets left) people game the system by choosing to travel at unusual times or to leave booking a ticket until the last minute. A blanket ban on first class travel is fairer all round.

  49. Matthew
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m very happy for MP’s to charge rent for accommodation in London. Happy for them to rent out apartments that belong to them, at market prices.

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable for MP’s to use first class travel. It’s unreasonable to expect them to travel standard class on a Friday afternoon, week after week when you can hardly get a seat in standard. I travel on East Coast a lot and often notice MP’s in first and why not?

    What I can’t understand is why this is still a live issue. When I left university I worked for BP for years, there was a very clear policy on travel and expenses – it was simple and it was transparent there were a lot of people travelling to a lot of destinations.

    There aren’t that many MP’s – can’t we just have a simple transparent view on expenses?

    Then it doesn’t have to be in the news, there are more important issues to deal with.

  50. Alan Hill
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    I think that all MPs should be (discretely but thoroughly means tested) and then assistance as required should be rendered for accommodation. What should NOT happen is that an MP claims for accommodation whilst receiving rent from another property that is fraud.
    As far as travel is concerned MPs should be issued with a ‘book’ of rail or air travel warrants depending on how far from Westminster are their constituencies the books issued annually with no ‘carry over’ option. there should be a set allowance for the office and the employment of relatives BANNED.
    I’m sure there is more, but the principle should be to run a ‘fiddle proof’ system with all allowances agreed IN ADVANCE.
    It is a pity that it’s come to this, but it appears that the Honourable Members are not honourable enough to be entrusted with mummy’s purse.

  51. Bill Stokes
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

    Re: Claiming rent.

    I think MP’s should be able to claim rent but only where there is a genuinely arms length relationship with the landlord. The rent should be subject to a maximum amount based on rental values in London.

    But a better solution might be this.

    MPs needing to rent a property buy one and rent to to themselves using a shell company. The taxpayer provides the funds for the deposit. The company receives rent from the taxpayer which it uses to maintain the property and pay the mortgage. Profits from this are used to reduce the mortgage with any reasonable surplus being paid into a trust. The income paid to the trust can be used to support causes chosen by the MP that are local to his/her constituency.

    So, you may have a situation where the profits generated by an MP renting a flat in London might be given to a local primary school to help buy sports equipment.

    If the MP loses his/her seat the right to rent the property and the power to spend the surplus then goes to the new MP.

    I think that MPs should be able to travel first class if they so wish. MPs have a heavy workload and they need to be given as much help as possibleto deal with that workload efficiently. I do however think that, given the substantial public subsidy paid to rail companies, we should be asking those same rail companies to offer first class travel to MPs at a much reduced rate.

    • Mark
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 10:36 pm | Permalink

      What happens if property prices fall?

      London prices are very frothy, and could fall a long way.

  52. Simon_c
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    The problem with the current system, is it’s still open to be “gamed”. Just like anyone else would, any MP who doesn’t have a sizable amount of cash sitting in the bank will think about how they can play within the rules. Transparency doesn’t help when you get the press hyping some things up.

    This all started when the “allowances” system which still needed *some* receipts was then assessed by the press as an Expenses system. Incidently, I am pleased that MPs now have to deal as a USER with the civil service bureaucracy that I’m sure IPSA is. This is only a taste of how every benefit claimant feels when they talk to the relevant departments.

    So, in answer to the questions:

    1) Yes, they should be able to get rent assistance. Lets use the same figures that the Housing Benefit system uses to keep it simple. 30th percentile of median rent I think it is now. £250/week right now.
    I would suggest creating an MP’s “halls of residence”, but I suspect it would end up rooms costing the tax payer over £250/night, for the quality of a £30/night travel lodge.

    2) The MP has to justify that to their constituents. I don’t think there should be any bar.

    3) However arbitrary it is, I don’t think MPs should rent from other MPs.

    In terms of 1st class travel, it has to be justified.
    If it’s a 60 min commuter journey out of London, the MP does it every night, and it’s £50 extra per day they are claiming, then no. I think it’s taking the p***. There’s not that much work that can be done by the time you get setup and have to get un-setup afterwards.

    If it’s a 4 hour journey twice a week and real work can be done, and it costs £100 extra per week, then it’s justifiable I think.

    Similarly with flights. If the MP is having a 7 day trip to the US, with plenty of down time, then business or first class is pushing it. If it’s a very busy, short trip for a minister to a conference/summit, then they extra work/rest they can get is more than justified.

    In short, full transparency should sort most of this out, but only if the media don’t start asking “when did you stop beating your wife” style questions.

  53. Graham Hamblin
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

    JR I think you know the answer to your questions. Were other so called honourable members as honest as you they would not arise. There should be perks with the job, reasonable ones, and travelling first class is one, so as not to be constantly bothered by the proletariat.

  54. RDM
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    We have too much democracy; we need to get rid of a lot of layers. Re-negotiate the
    EU ( just trade and Coop), get rid of Devolution, reduce the size and function of the House of Lords (No PR, should be based on bubbled-up merit), and then better remunerate your MP’s, treat them equally, and if a first class service is available, then they should benefit from it, the same as everyone else, if they have the money!

    If you allow free-bees, then the media will always look for an excuse! Pay the MP’s once, pay them well!

    A once a year office allowance, for which, they will need to post a pre-year estimate, and receive a yearly award.

    Regards,

    RDM.

  55. Acorn
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

    How come it takes 67 full time equivalent staff, to manage the expenses of 650 MPs and their staff? How many SMEs need a Pay Office staff 10% of the whole workforce? The IPSA Annual Report is worth a read.
    “Handled over 184,000 claims for business costs and expenses [2011/12]”; that’s 283 per Constituency!!!
    “Processed an average monthly payroll for 3,400 MPs and their members of staff”; that’s about £226,000 per Constituency.
    http://www.official-documents.gov.uk/document/hc1213/hc03/0303/0303.pdf .

    • Mark
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:28 pm | Permalink

      Obviously they need to employ a statistician or two and someone to monitor their diversity performance (27% BME, 62% female), carbon footprint, reams of paper used/recycled etc. I noted they take 500 calls /week – or 100/day, or just 1.5 per staff member per day. It’s no surprise they have managed to cut their costs 15%. I’m sure a company would handle this at 10% of the cost.

      No wonder government is so expensive.

  56. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    I think back bench MPs should receive:

    (1) A salary
    (2) Money purchase pension
    (3) An allowance for renting a one bedroom flat close to Westminster
    (4) An allowance to cover ALL other expenses of their job – office space, secretary, research, travel, hotels etc.

    Note the absence of the need for IPSA, receipts and the supporting bureaucracy. Also note that “fact finding missions” would have to be financed by the MP from (1) and (4).

    This system would enable MPs who are responsible and good at managing money to fare better than their fellows. That is precisely the intention.

  57. outsider
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    Dear Mr Redwood,
    More laws means more crimes are committed. More rules bred more breaches, more “scandals” and more sticks for the self-righteous to beat people with, usually on party grounds. I stressed this point in a submission to the Kelly Commission. Tighter rules would never solve the issues, only demean our representatives even more as regulated state employees .

    The simple and logical answer is not to pay MPs a salary, expenses or pensions. They should instead receive a fixed fee to carry out their duties, varied only by the distance between their constituency and Westminster. It should be up to them whether they spend it on research staff, computers, visiting their constituents via first or second class, paying into pension contracts or quaffing champagne in West End nightclubs.

    The fees should be fixed so that the total cost of MPs to taxpayers is no higher than today and should rise at 2.5 per cent a year or the rate of CPI inflation, whichever is the lower. MPs should, however, still be provided with free office space at Westminster.

    Same applies to ministers, who have more money to compensate for not being able to earn anything on the side. Only strictly ministerial duties should come extra.

    • outsider
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      PS. I have no problem with ex gratia “redundancy” grants to MPs defeated at elections, based on length of service, if they come out of the same total pot.

  58. Captain Crunch
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:05 pm | Permalink

    1. The MP for Inverness needs a flat in London and should be able to claim back the expense as an essential part of their work. It would be better if the Speaker provided flats around Westminster for this purpose.

    2. This is like the difference between claiming a cab or train fare compared to driving your car and claiming the petrol. If MPs are lucky enough to own a London flat already, then it makes sense they should stay in it but perhaps claim a small amount to cover some costs.

    3. You are answering your own question here!

    The Head of Finance of a large company would reasonably expect to travel first class so they could work on the train and arrive refreshed and ready to go. It is crazy not to expect our Chancellor to travel standard class and arrive in London top of his game. However, it sounds like his Special Advisor said he could not possibly sit in standard which was badly phrased. Also, it looked like they were watching a video on the laptop not discussing the economy.

    That said, just because they have a first class ticket does not mean they should use it! It might be diplomatic if they were seen in Standard Class and talked to people.

  59. Electro-Kevin
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Off topic if I may, please.

    This ‘Toffs’ issue.

    I don’t believe that ‘the people’ care as much about it as is thought.

    The people who really damage Britain are the aspirant upper middle classes. The usurpers. Those poised to displace the ‘Toffs’ and eager to make change.

    They – in my experience – are by far the stuffiest, unfriendliest and most condescending. The ‘Toffs’ are actually alright on the whole.

    • Mark W
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

      Very amusing observation. There’s some truth in that. I’m not a huge fan of class distinction but it must exist.

      I’d wish to see just what is rich, what is poor and what makes you working, middle or upper class with all their various sub groups. For a start the grey tracksuit bottom, burberry baseball cap wearing mouth breathers don’t actually work, so surely they can’t be called working class?

  60. Bert Young
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    MP’s have to face the fact that expenses have been abused and they have been ridiculed for doing so – it will take some considerable time for them to prove that they are upright and “can be trusted” representatives of the people . This in mind the answer to your questions are :
    Ministers travel 2nd class ? ……….. Yes
    MPs purchase in advance cheaper 1st class tickets ?…………. Yes
    MPs always travel 2nd class ? …………….. No
    On the question of owning and renting properties – , if a tax benefit was involved , the property should be for the sole use of the MP ; definitely NOT for the use of anyone else other than the MPs wife (or husband ) ; “Partners” are disallowed !

  61. zorro
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    1. Yes, or Parliament should provide accommodation near by.
    2. If the MP has a property in London, they use that one.
    3. Rent swapping should not be allowed as it incurs unnecessary charges on expenses.

    Ministers should always buy best value first class advance tickets as a good example. They are often cheaper than open standard class. They have gofers who can help them. They should be issued with debit cards which they can use with limits and they can keep receipts and reconcile statements. IPSA can police this arrangement.

    zorro

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:49 pm | Permalink

      Osborne should pay the difference out of his own pocket if he gets the wrong ticket…..but rent swapping is a clear abuse when the MP claims for extra expenses……It is important to remember that MPs earn money from outside jobs worth 3 or 4 times their MP salary. They are not poor.

      zorro

  62. Rupert Butler
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood

    Q1. I note that you ask about ministers rather than about MPs as regards travel costs. Surely the difference should be taken up by the department concerned – MPs paying and claiming at full 2nd class rate, ministers charging any extra to the departmental budget. The case for ministers travelling 1st class is clearly strengthened by the row recently affecting the Chancellor – he should have been shielded from the ear-wigging journalist from the beginning and we the taxpayer should pay for it out of respect for his office. Presumably the department pays in full for the aide who accompanies him, if not for a larger entourage, actually to sit with the minister being aided. As with Liam Fox, I wonder if our civil service has the competence actually to care for their ministers where embarassment might be easily avoided.

    Q2. Yes. If the cost of 2nd full fare is the right provision in principle (and you have to have an universal rule of some sort) and when there is extra value to be squeezed out of the fare structure, it is perverse to favour the railway companies over the MPs . Only in this situation do I treat myself and my family to 1st class.

    Q3. No – see Q2. I congratulate you on your not charging me for your travel when you could (some say Should). That gives you complete freedom to answer the question for yourself. If you see a civic duty for your fellow MPs to mix with hoi polloi at all times just because they are MPs, I think you are wrong.

    • Bickers
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

      MP’ s are our elected representatives (as MP’s and ministers). They should travel the same class as most of their constituents have to. Then watch them clamp down of the excesses of the public sector who swan around as though they are the equal of private sector managers who companies live in the real world of uncertainty.

  63. Pleb
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I belive MPs should experience the consequences of our society. They should not be shielded from what the majority experience. So
    Train journeys of less that 100 miles can only be claimed as Standard Class. Journeys greater than that can be claimed as First class. This is fair for long distance commuting MPs.
    We should buy either a hotel or a block of flats which are lent, grace and favour, to MPs who wish to stay in London. Any other arrangements are up to each MP to fund themselves.
    65k is enough, when the minimum wage is virtually unlivable on. Any increase in MPs wage should be equalled by the same percentage increase in the minimum wage, (for over 21s).
    Public transport should not include black cabs. Public transport is tubes and busses. MPs need to experience what we experience.
    Public sector pension payouts should be capped.
    Pleb

    • Bickers
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

      I don’t see why MP’s should travel anything other than 2nd class or economy on flights; that’s what most of their electorate have to do. Of course if they don’t like it they can resign and let someone who sees being an MP a form of public duty take over.

  64. Barbara Stevens
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    For security reasons MPs should travel 1st class. When one comes to rent on houses I don’t believe the present situation is honest and as been abused, again. My proposal would be to up the salaries of MPs to £100.000 per year with no further perks. This would cut out the risk of breeches of any code, and MPs should then be able to meet costs from their salary. No postal costs, nothing else to have just the upgrade. Rent for any properties paid out of salary. It might make MPs look for cheaper properties like hotels which there are many within access to parlament. This would cut out all the perks, all the costs, and MPs would then have responsiblity for accomodation, secretaries, and reseachers, and to live within their means. I think this would cost the taxpayers less in the long run. Some thing has to be done we cannot have MPs exposed to this and the nation it’s embarressing. where greed is exposed, it will always happen, but it should not be at the taxpayers expense, and letting MPs get away with it. Its wrong when many people are losing homes from unemployment.

  65. Liz A
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    It would be a good idea if each Constituency bought a property in the consituency and a property in London for the use of their sitting MP.

    The properties would be furnished with basic household bills and maintenance would be met.

    That way, the equity would remain with the taxpayer, the MP could use or not use the property as they felt fit, enabling them to perhaps rent out their own property for the duration of their tenure. They would then be liable for income tax on that money.

    There would be no ridiculous claims for duck sheds or bath plugs or porn movies, nor £400 a month for food.

    I am tired of the scandal of MPs’ expenses – they still don’t get it that their expenses are netting them more than the minimum wage and some of us are gettng very sick of them.

    If they were performing better, then it wouldn’t matter so much, but they don’t even seem to be delivering the goods, just dipping their hands in the taxpayers’ pocket.

    Reply No claim was made or paid for a duck house

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

      John, please tell me that you are not trying to excuse the behaviour of MPs during the expenses scandal….to pick this blogger up for mentioning the duck house is petty…

      zorro

      • zorro
        Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

        Or shall we mention all the embarrassing things that were claimed for….

        zorro

  66. oldtimer
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:13 pm | Permalink

    I do not favour means testing or highly complex administrative rules for controlling expenses – which then add to the cost of administering the system.

    There are two options that I think are worth considering:
    1 Eliminate expense claims and substitute a higher salary from which MPs then pay for their travel and accommodation. I think £100k pa is a proper salary for an MP who is responsible for all his personal travel and accommodation costs. This is as simple as it can be. IPSA could be disbanded.
    2 Issue MPs with a credit card, exclusively for MPs expenses such as travel and accommodation. MPs self-regulate, have their expenses published monthly on the public record for public scrutiny and make them subject to random (and published) audit. If anyone abuses the system it will quickly become obvious. It would help if the right of recall (once promised) was actually implemented so that scoundrels could be ejected forthwith from office by the electorate. IPSA could be disbanded, replaced by a professional auditor appointed as the result of open competition.

    Reply: Mps can use a Commons credit card and do have their expenses published as you wish.

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Reply to reply – use of the card should be mandatory.

      zorro

    • Mark
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

      I’m not sure that it is fair for the MP for Orkney and Shetland to be faced with very expensive return flights out of salary while the MP for say Bermondsey can walk or cycle along the river to Parliament.

  67. PaulDirac
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    MP’s should not make a profit from expenses.
    This I think is a simple principle which can be applied to just about all the situations you asked about:
    If you have a residence in London, you should not be able to claim rent expenses, irrespective of how many residences you have and what you are doing with them.

    You can travel first class only as an upgrade which you pay for, the reasons are:
    1. It’s nearly impossible (and too expensive) to check if the fair you claim is the best for tax payers
    2. It doesn’t pass the smell test, MP’s should be moral, dodgy deals just make you all smell like last week’s kipper.

  68. Robert Taggart
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

    Travel costs to / from home / constituency and parliament methinks fair enough.
    Bearing in mind the distances many will have to ‘trek’ – the cost will be disproportionate.
    Taxpayer funded travel – at the cheapest price for the time of travel – would help to create a ‘level playing field’.
    That said, should an individual MP choose to upgrade – they can do – providing they pay the difference out of their own pocket.
    ‘Rent a Rebate’ for housing costs for those members whose home / constituency be too far away methinks a scandal.
    Solution ? – taxpayer funded apartments close to parliament.
    Result – no need for ex gratia payments when ‘the people speak’ !

  69. JimF
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Permalink

    You seem to be making a meal out of what every small businessman asks himself every time he fills in an expenses claim:

    Is the expense wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business?

    I would say in this whole question of expenses that you should treat the money as though you were running your own business and answering to the taxman. So you are provided with a pot as maximum then ask yourself every time:

    Is the expense wholly and exclusively for the purposes of business?

    Mortgage interest isn’t, as per the rules, and I wouldn’t seek to justify this through my business either.
    Rent is, whether or not to another MP, but it has to be at the market rate, and reasonable in terms of space, vis a vis an hotel room.
    First class travel is, though I’d say if you always need first class travel on business your pot is too large. I always use second class but reserve the right to “overspend” on an expensive hotel if arriving late in an unknown destination.
    Again business air travel could be, but I haven’t travelled anything but economy since I started in business myself 18 years ago.

    I really don’t see that our Co. should be paying close on six figure sums in Corp Tax to sponsor MPs to travel in a style which we wouldn’t travel in ourselves.

  70. stan francis
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    As a company rep many years ago my employer paid the bill for me being away from home, I gave him the receipt for digs, meals and any drinks.
    An MP should be treated the same, yes he’s in the same place everytime so why not use the same flat/digs-he doesn’t need loads of books with the advent of the computer. All he needs is his PC, clothing, mobile phone. Arrangement with owner of his digs charges everytime he stays the night or week, whatever. If these as I call them digs were prearranged the owners would be only too glad to agree to this arrangement because it’s regular business for them, but NO STAY means no PAY?
    Regrads travel, well he uses his car and claims the mileage any Council worker is allowed, if he doesn’t want to drive himslef then he goes by second class travel, why would he expect First anyway? MP’s are so bvery much over ratyed people and time they were brought down to our level, we allowed this to esdcalate and time we de-escalated it.

  71. Bickers
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:14 pm | Permalink

    First of all let’s remember MP’s are our elected representatives and compared to the average working class person get paid good money. Being an MP should to some degree be a vocational calling. Where we’ve gone wrong is to make being an MP a career opportunity.

    How ‘call me’ Dave can fix the expenses scandal & win the next election:

    * MP’s travel: 2nd class on the train and flights economy class, premium economy if flight over 5 hours.
    * Government should provide free secure accommodation for all MP’s who live over 40 miles from London
    * cannot earn any money or other emoluments (Mr Yeo), other than their salary whilst representing their constituents
    * cannot accept corporate hospitality – it’s not in their constituents interests
    * cap the salary of any secretary or research assistant to median market rate set by IPSA (MP’s are using this wheeze to funnel tax payers money to their family)

    If MP’s or prospective MP’s don’t like any of the above then don’t stand as an elected rep.

    And if the EU is going to continue to rule the UK then we can either reduce the size of Parliament by at least 60% or close it down altogether. Or we could leave the EU and have Parliament run our country again.

    Also, let’s have primaries so that voters don’t have the party’s choice foisted on them.

    And finally, let’s adopt the recall system that Switzerland use so that we the voters can get rid of useless and/or corrupt MP’s

    Reply MPs staff do have to fit into pay scales laid down by Parliament, with job specifications and open competition for an appointment.

    • stan francis
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

      HIT NAIL ON BLOODY HEAD MATE!
      “First of all let’s remember MP’s are our elected representatives and compared to the average working class person get paid good money. Being an MP should to some degree be a vocational calling. Where we’ve gone wrong is to make being an MP a career opportunity.”
      (inaccurate comments re local MP)

    • Barry
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

      40 miles extraordinary generous!

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

      Some MPs would not like the idea of not getting money from other work in addition to their MP role.

      zorro

  72. Chris Rose
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

    I think IPSA was a big mistake and should be abolished.

    MPs should be able to travel first class if they want, but I would not expect them to do so all the time. They should post all their expenses on the internet, so that we can all see what they are up to.

    Then there should be some method for us to judge their behaviour, but in the case of MPs in safe constituencies (most MPs) there is none. That is the root of the problem.

    Open primaries have been suggested. They would be expensive, but then so is IPSA. I think primaries would improve our democracy in lots of ways and are worth paying for.

  73. David Langley
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    I think I will respond when I have read the download from IPSA “The MPs Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses, Fourth Edition 2012. Then I will know what I am writing about. What I know now is that expenses seem always to be fiddled and really seem to be the most common form of getting oneself fired from a decent job. MPs are only too human and the yelling bunch I see every Wednesday look like firing material to me.

  74. stan francis
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

    JOHN, please don’t say i am ranting for that can be nmisconsterwed as PISSED OFF with whole bleedin’ system ofv being taken for fools, tax money wasted, money sent abroad to countries that don’t need it..etc etc etcl.. I SPEAK 4 MANY JOHN, TAKE IT SERIOUS MATE.

  75. Barry
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

    MPs still appear to be living in a world of their own. Having spent many years working in London often in unsocial hours, I had to abide by regulations that included the heavy hand of the IR in terms of allowable expenses. The IR appears blind to the odd behaviour of MPs both in terms of allowing travel costs to places of work, benefit in kind and property speculation at taxpayers expense. If the MPs cannot afford the cost of their mortgage join the rest of UK population and sell the property. If MPs require regular accommodation in London, let the taxpayer take the benefit of any property speculation and negotiate places of accommodation for them at the lowest price. “We’re all in this together”; try and behave like it.

    Reply No MP can claim help with a mortgage.

    • zorro
      Posted October 22, 2012 at 8:11 pm | Permalink

      So does Cameron pay for his house in Witney on a mortgage out of his own money and not claim expenses…..?

      Zorro

    • Barry
      Posted October 23, 2012 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

      My concern is the double standards of the IR …MPs one class and the rest a lower order ….Expenses claimed for journeys to place of work is an example that IR does not allow for the “rest” nor special arrangements for second homes near to place of work.

  76. sm
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    1) Only if it is needed for the better performance of duties, approved by the constituency . It may be better to acquire a block of apartments centrally or individually by each constituency. No secret profits should be enabled or allowed. Rights of recall etc and full transparency.

    2) Those already with a suitable property in London should be expected to use it or sell it. (Its simple)

    3) Look this renting betwixt MP’s smells, it too chummy, and doesnt pass the would you be happy to read the full details about it in the newspaper test!

    WRT to travel expenses – i think it depends on the reason for the travel, but generally 2nd class unless its long distance commuting.

    Why cant MP’s be given annual travel passes for regular Constituency to London and maybe London central zones, save on claims etc ?

    On the whole IPSA should make a decision. If the MP wishes to challenge the decision then it should be referred back to his constituency with full disclosure of all facts, the constituency may then wish to remove their MP by recall powers or allow the appeal to proceed back to IPSA.

    How about linking MP’s pay to average earnings or GDP per capita?

    I would like to ensure our MP’s are more independent from central control of the executive and party whips but that means control needs to be exerted via IPSA and the MP’s electorate. Let the local electorate deal with it based on full disclosure.

    It does make you wonder , but i am sure Europe is even worse.

  77. Jon
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    Mr Redwood here is a possible solution to many of the dilemmas on this subject. It would need the use of existing HMRC discretion and possibly a minor AoP.

    A small self administered pension scheme the pooled fund of which can purchase properties for the business need of MPs. They would be leased out to the MPs who would pay rent paid for by their expenses. The expenses would normally attract corporate tax relief but would be the income return for the pension fund. The servicing and upkeep would also be a business expense paid to the pension fund.

    By amalgamating the benefit structure instead of being two separate costed benefits it ends up being a dual purpose of providing accommodation and an asset and income for the pension need in one.

    In this way there would be no issue over renting out at weekends and at recess as the ownership is that of the Trust. The Trust working for the benefit of its members pension fund would be required to maximise its return so that would be a desirable outcome.

    The arms length separation of ownership would rid what is clearly an on going issue of compliance.

    I would expect this in the medium to long term to represent a very significant saving in the collective running of MPs pensions and accommodation. In the short term of course it would be a while before the existing expensive pay as you go scheme reduced significantly. Even so I think it would still generate a saving that could be seen to be taking place.

    The MPs personal contribution I believe is 13.75% which is high reducing the relative benefit of the current scheme though still very good. If you could imagine that contribution, plus a mandatory reasonable employer contribution plus the option of property purchase and MP living expenses (rent and servicing) it would be cheaper for the taxpayer and still a good pension scheme.

    The scheme allows for loans to purchase assets such as the properties so your younger MPs with a bit of ingenuity could still purchase accommodation in London and have it earning money for their pension as well as being an asset contained within.

    This could also accommodate the more wealthy property owning MPs subject to the overall limits.

    This is already a comprehensively regulated area and having been in operation for decades. In otherwords, a headache removed from the authorities in handling MPs accommodation costs. All the rules and compliance are already embedded.

    There are some technical hurdles regarding the standard guidance but nothing major that could not be overcome. Ofcourse the Managing trustees would want a diversity in the portfolio for risk and growth reasons.

    As an addition to above reasons the private sector no longer have final salary schemes bar the shouting. In principle I believe its better that Government also have a money purchase arrangement so are in the same world with their pensions when it comes to economic changes. The pay as you go system draws a clear divide and could foster a lack of understanding in the area (aka Mr Milliband).

    ___________

    On the train ticket thing as a train commuter this is a relatively common thing for people to buy tickets on the train or to purchase an upgrade as heir priority was to catch the train first.

    For Ministers with Government papers as a country I would feel embarrassed to see them fumbling over these papers with someone else’s coffee being spilt, having to move and rest the papers on a pram. I think we can afford that much and I think this Government spend less in this area than Labour did. It is still good to see the governors on a tube train now and again though. That’s all just mischief making by the media, I’ve not heard it being discussed by anyone.

    Apart from that, in standard you might get a dodgy Granada reporter who listens to other people’s conversations.

  78. Jon
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:32 pm | Permalink

    Further to my earlier post, how come the Granada reporter was in First, no doubt on some BBC contract.

  79. uanime5
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

    While I support letting MPs rent houses so that those who aren’t independently wealthy can live in London I feel it should have the following limits.

    1) As the unemployed are expected to travel 90 minutes to get to work any MP whose house in their constituency is 90 minutes from Parliament shouldn’t be able to reclaim any money spent on renting property. As employees cannot reclaim the cost of travelling into work MPs also cannot reclaim this cost.

    2) Any MP who owns any property within 90 minutes of Parliament shouldn’t be able to reclaim any money spent on renting property. If they have suitable property they should be using it rather than expecting the taxpayer to pay for their accommodations.

    3) MPs should not be allowed to rent property that they or their family own to other MPs. Aside from being a questionable use of taxpayers money it makes one MP dependent upon another MP which isn’t good for democracy.

    Regarding travel minister should travel on trains, buses, and planes using the cheapest fare when charging the taxpayer for this trip. This saves the taxpayer money and encourages ministers to ensure that even the lowest levels available are tolerable.

  80. Jon Burgess
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Ordinary folk commute daily into London from way outside the M25 – Brighton, Birmingham, Norwich…. I’ve even heard of commuters making the trip from York. Why is it so much harder for MPs?

    I think mingling more with the plebs might do you all some good. You might see the state of the country’s infrastructure and the state of the behaviour of some of the plebs too!

    I accept that MPs from further afield have a problem, but in these days of working from home, fast broadband, laptops etc, why is there no mechanism for MPs to access the House of Commons remotely? Stay in your constituencies and still take part in the business of the house – it’ll be far cheaper for us.

    Let’s be honest, though, you have recess time to do constituency work, have most Friday’s off and start late on Mondays (but finish late, I grant you), have a subsidised bar and restaurant, probably the most generous pension provision in the country, expense allowances that would bankrupt most private and public companies, way above average salaries, the opportunity to take on additional paid employment at the same time as being an MP – and after all this and more we still end up with Cleggy, Cameron and the Millipede brothers. Is this the best there is? Offering better perks just seems to attract more vacuous non entities.

  81. jonathan stanley
    Posted October 22, 2012 at 9:58 pm | Permalink

    Should all Ministers travel second class on trains and economy on planes?

    Second class on trains during offpeak is reasonable if NOT working. If they are to use their laptop for constituency/ministerial business then the ENTIRE public enjoys the premium of knowing this is done confidentially. For crowded trains this is unreasonable as peak travel in second class could cost MORE in security costs than travelling in first class.

    Plane travel is by its nature less frequent; certainly with long haul flights. It is fair to use economy class except when: jetlag or general conditons make a minister representing his country at same day/next day meetings tired and underperform. This serves no purpose for the country. It is ultimately, and this is controversial, down to the minister’s own integrity to make this distinction.

    Should MPs be allowed to buy an advance lower price first class ticket instead of a full fare second class ticket?

    This is probably a false argument. Advance 2nd class tickets are usually cheaper than advance 1st class tickets. If 1st class were cheaper then of course buy 1st class.

    Should MPs always travel second class?

    As stated above. For off peak travel and when returning from business it’s acceptable. For important meetings and for Peak time travel it makes for very false economy.

    Aside from this I think you get more value for money from ministers not by salami slicing on these costs but having ministers that perform well and are of the highest standard. Aides should be trained in risk management and in general be of a higher calibre; as is the case with judicial assistants. The minister’s aide should have some formal professional background beyond a generic PPE degree, or a previous think tank/MP assistant/lobbyist role.

    This could have avoided by having high calibre people. Even if the aide were simply bag carrying, it’s a minister’s bag that’s being carried! . With all due respect to everyone reading, travelling 1st class is hardly hiring the Royal Train. There are thousands of middle grade and senior civil servants routinely travelling 1st class on a weekly basis. Once we take this minsterial splinter out of our eyes we should be prepared to see trees!

    Well done for asking these questions. I will leave out general comments on how it is in Europe, my views on IPSA, and anything else unless you get back to me and ask.

  82. Robert K
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 4:35 am | Permalink

    1) Yes, if it can be shown that doing so is cheaper than staying in a standard four-star business hotel. Ideally, there should be a portfolio of state-owned properties that can be used for this purpose.
    2) No – means testing is a nasty business
    3) Renting from other MPs risks looking dodgy.
    Train travel – no first class and no getting round it by buying cheaply in advance. You buy cheaply in advance to get the cheapest deal, so there is no doing that and then paying more for an upgrade. My employer recently banned first class train travel and business class flights. These days, I get to the airport by bus. If I want to upgrade to first or business, I have to pay.

  83. Agincourt
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    Senior Ministers, & their bodyguards, should be allowed to travel in a secure environment, & that means First or Business class by air, & First by rail. However, if their trip is to their constituency home during parliamentary holidays, & is not the first or last trip between their home & Westminster during these holidays, they should have the standard fare deducted from their claimed-for First class fare (air or rail) when their expense claims are calculated & re-imbursed.

    They should also be allowed any special discounts they are able to secure as a personal benefit – just like anyone else – but not required to seek them out, as the timetables involved may not always be convenient.

  84. Jane
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

    Travel is a difficult issue. I do think that MPs should travel second class. I do not accept the notion that MPs need to work on their journey. They are no different to the rest of the population many of whom undertake work in second class.

    As to accommodation. I am aware that IPSA changed the rules and mortgage payments can no longer be met. I am also aware that many MPs who own central London property achieved the property by billing the taxpayer for fees, mortgage payments etc etc. I also know that they improved their property by the same means -( I still have the Telegraph Magazine giving all the details) with rather luxurious furnishings, and structural improvements claimed) and also “flipped” properties to increase their investment.

    I fail to see why MPs need to own London property given the number of days Parliament sits in a calendar year. If mortgage payments had not been made then many would not have purchased flats.

    MPs should be able to have claims met for a one bedroom flat (even though occupancy is only for half of the year) or the cost of a hotel room. Indeed the latter would probably be cheaper. I think the IPSA rules on total amount that can be claimed are too generous.

    I do not think it should be permitted for MPs to rent their own property out in London. All properties in that area are within commutable distance from the Commons. Wealth does not come into it as wealthy MPs have used the parliamentary expenses system to further their portfolios and to claim taxpayers money. (Trust funds etc) Less wealthy MPs have used the parliamentary expenses system in a similar way. Wealth of an individual MP is irrelevant.

    It is no good for MPs saying that they have to retain their flats because they have lost value. I am not sure I believe this as London properties have held their prices much more than those in the rest of the country. They are holding the property as an investment. In addition, many are claiming rent (I have researched this) which is far beyond their mortgage costs. They are therefore gaining profit from renting properties which we the taxpayer had previously funded as well as claiming rent. I know of one MP whose mortgage is reported as £1000 a month and they are receiving rent of £1900. In additon they are claiming rent and indeed living with their partner .

    I think I should also know the total rent of a property by an MP and if an MP is sharing the property with a partner. Do we taxpayers pay half the cost of renting the property or are we paying for the MPs partner as well?

    If IPSA are unwilling to stop MPs renting out their London properties (seems unlikely) then simple changes could be made to the rules.

    1. If an MP owns a property in London which they are renting out, then IPSA should have the monthly mortgage costs available and deduct any gain from rent claims.
    2. Any MP whose constituency is outside London will only be permitted to claim rent for themselves. If they share a property this will mean that they cannot claim for the full rental charges.

    I am sorry but I do not trust many MPs. I never will after reading the abuse of the system. The current issue still indicates that my mistrust is founded. I believe that we need to ensure that MPs are able to carry out the task required of them. I want them to have a good salary too. I do not think they should be accumulating wealth by letting out properties to not only cover mortgages but for financial gain, for investment purposes and then claim rent. Further, rent should be for a one bedroomed flat and if shared with a partner only 50% paid.

  85. Robbo
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

    Answer 1: Yes of course.
    Answer 2: No, but see next answer.
    Answer 3: If an MP rents a flat from a colleague, or a friend, or a family member, for which the rent comes from the taxpayer, it is bound to attract criticism that the two are getting together to milk the taxpayer, even if this is not the case. The core issue, is do they appear to be using the office of MP for profit over and above the salary ? I am coming towards the view that all MPs should have ‘blind trust’ arrangements to prevent real or imagined impropriety. Certainly MPs in the lettings business should operate at arms length from their tenants, and better refuse MPs and others connected to politics as tenants. The people cannot trust MPs to be disinterested in profiting from office, and in the Internet Age it such behaviour will not remain concealed.

  86. Dennis
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    According to Earl Birkenhead’s ‘Last Essays’ (1930) MPs’ salaries were £5000/year.

    Average wage then was £200/yr (from Google search) so ratio is 25:1. If average wage today is £25,000 then MP wage now would be £625,000! This just shows that MPs’ salaries then were grossly high or average wages were too low – different times of course.
    However I have read that the current wage of an MP in Nigeria (I think) is £800,000(no typo) or $ per year. They do things differently there.

  87. Paddy Sheehan
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 4:12 pm | Permalink

    It is one of today’s absurdities that anyone could question the normal travel arrangements of a minister. Business travel means able to do business while travelling, and how anyone could want senior members of Government not to make full use of their time illustrates the low quality of the media not to present a balanced or rational view. Cheap shots, with the emotive words first class, show the true agenda of the many vested interests living in the shadow World around decision makers, layering unproductive cost on the system. I guess it comes in the vacuum of politics where the opposition has no policies on anything.
    I think there is one simple issue that would be welcomed by the taxpayer in relation to MPs, and indeed others. Not higher taxes, we have the highest property taxes in Europe already, but appropriate taxes. Why not require every homeowner to declare to HMRC at purchase, or elect on their next tax return, their principal residence. That then sticks, until sold, and with minimum period of ownership of the principal residence to qualify for relief from CGT. That way, switching to avoid tax by MPs goes away, developers trading homes are thwarted. In respect of the rent to rent scheme, it simply fails the smell test. I understand it in some cases, but pocketing a large profit between a mortgage and the rent (do the mortgage lenders all know….? I am guessing not, I am guessing there are some breaches in contract here..), when a member has been in the house many years, and taxpayers have funded the equity leverage, clearly fails the smell test. Why not allow IPSA freedom to pay a mortgage where it saves money (limited to a small property as a second home), and document it so all can see it in the public interest.

  88. Robert Graham
    Posted October 23, 2012 at 10:29 pm | Permalink

    MP’s should be paid no expenses whatsoever, nor should they receive any subsidies of any description.

    They should also be responsible for their own pensions. But, they should be properly paid. My guesstimate is that the minimum salary of an MP should be increased to a minimum of 250,000 or 300,000 in order to do away with the whole expense shemozzle.

    Once we pay MP’s properly and remove the encouragements to corruption (expenses) we will attract better candidates and be in a position to reduce numbers, 400 to 450 would be more than enough.

    I am certain my approach would also be much cheaper overall.

  89. Iain Gill
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    1. Should MPs be able to charge rent for a small flat in central London, on the grounds that many cannot return to their main home in their constituencies on working nights at the Commons?

    They should get what most workers away from home on expenses would get, roughly the price of an advanced booked travelodge room per night they are actually in London, but sure let them spend that on a flat if they want.

    2. Should wealthier MPs who happen to own property investments be barred from claiming rent for a central London place, where MPs without savings can do so?

    No

    2.5 Should there be some kind of wealth test over any rent claim, to avoid a richer MP selling property investments and putting the money into something else to still claim rent if the rules change?

    No

    3. Does it make any difference if renting is allowed for all MPs if some MPs happen to rent out property investments to other MPs, assuming it is done at market price?

    Yes because there is too much chance of it being a sophisticated rule avoidance measure.

    3.5 Is renting from another MP much worse than renting from a third party?

    Yes again makes it look like rule avoidance whether than is the intent or not.

    3.75 Is an MP holding a rental property as an investment wrong, but an MP holding a bond or share as an investment OK?

    They are both ok.

    4. Should all Ministers travel second class on trains and economy on planes?

    They should spend money like it was their own. First class train is fair enough if

    A – travel late on Friday or Sunday when train is likely to be packed, or bank holiday especially Christmas Eve or similar
    B – it’s a sleeper train and its necessary to avoid having to share a cabin with a stranger
    C – its Eurostar when often the price of the meal makes the price difference marginal
    D – sometimes if its late at night and youre alone and vulnerable on a train full of drunk football supporters or similar

    Otherwise mostly standard class is good enough for the rest of us I don’t see the problem MP’s travelling standard class. I have seen the Bishop of York told to move to first by the train staff, they clearly DO upgrade people for no cost when they feel like it, although I think if youre in first you should pay for it. Sat next to a few MP’s and ex Thatcher era ministers in first always seemed a nice bunch.

    On planes it depends. Pretty much if the flight is longer than 4 hours then yes business class can make sense especially if you are tall. Flying to New Zealand in economy and getting off the plane being expected to work straight away is a nightmare trust me I’ve done it. Or if economy is full on the flight you need.

    5. Should MPs be allowed to buy an advance lower price first class ticket instead of a full fare second class ticket?

    They should get a standard rate for travel based on how far away from London they live and choose how to spend it themselves. Personally I can only buy advanced tickets when I am on holiday and can guarantee where I will be, when I am working there is far too much flux in my diary and I would be surprised if it was any different for a hard working MP.

    6. Should MPs always travel second class?

    No as above.

  90. P Bower
    Posted October 24, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    if an MP owns a property in London which they have purchased with taxpayers money, which appears to be the case in all the cases i have read, then they must live in it and not seek to rent it out and charge further rent to the taxpayer. They took a punt on the proeprty market to enrich themselves on the taxpayer, they need to stop. John, grow up, you’re in the wrong on this one. i lived in flatshares and bedsits in London for years – why do MPs, who are mostly significantly less talented and employable than you are, live like troughing eurocrats? We might as well stop calling them Parliament and start calling them ‘the Property Developers who weren’t hit by the slump’. They are greedy scum. John, really, think what their profiteering looks like. They do a part time non job in which they achieve nothing and devolve all their responibilities to Europe and refuse to represent the public that are forced by law to pay for their sorry behinds. Like the police, they think that lecturing us and not serving us means they deserve to get rich in spite of their singular lack of talent or ability. Cut their number in half, abolish expenses, double their salaries, shrink their pensions, which are a symbol of public sector corruption and insulation from reality, and admit they are part timers.

    Reply I do not see how I can be in the wrong when I did not express a view!

  • 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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