It is amazing that some want to try to make the story “leaks” from the Commons fees office when MPs expenses are available for their annual viewing. Whilst leaking information is not a good way to behave for any employee, these are hardly state secrets that need to be held back. All this information is going to be made available to the public under Freedom of Information requests soon anyway. The important issue is not disclosure, but whether each and every claim is both legal under the rules, and defensible in the court of public opinion which will judge these things.
Each party leader moved quickly yesterday to demand reform of the system. They can all see that some of the individual items claimed by MPs are too easy to ridicule or to challenge, alongside the more fundamental questions over some MPs choice of second home and designation of primary residence.
Looking at the overall figures it is the staff and office costs that represent the most serious chunk of public spending, but these only seem to get scrutinised if the MP has chosen to employ a family member.
Is £93 million good value? No it’s not. Could it be less? Yes it could. Is it going to be? Probably not. Public sector reform under this government normally takes a long time and costs more. Are these costs out of line with the rest of the public sector? No they are not. Indeed, the salaries and expenses at the top of quangoland and local government make this all look like small beer. It’s just that people have heard of the perpetrators, and feel they have some chance of making them accountable becuase they have to stand for re-election, unlike the executive public sector bosses.
(In the interests of disclosure my total expenses including travel were £106,000 compared to the average of £146,000 and the highest of £187,334)