Expenses – the new system

There is a new system for MPs’ expenses. Like many of us, I took some interest in the expenses scandal when it first broke and suggested some of my own ideas for how the new rules should look. I also recognised how I might have fallen foul of the rules at the time.

The changes are sensible and worthwhile. See here how the new rules stack up against the old ones.

It’s good to see the maximum accomodation allowance cut from £2,000 per month to £1,450. I suggested £1,200 would be enough for a decent one bedroom flat in central London, but the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is more generous.

MPs won’t be able to use their allowance to pay for mortgage interest, so it excludes property investment from taxpayer-funded expenses. It wasn’t among my suggestions, but it’s an appropriate response to the public outrage.

In November, Sir Christopher Kelly’s recommendations included a ban on MPs employing relatives. Derek Conway was the primary abuser of this tradition, but I didn’t agree with a ban. An MP’s work is so demanding, in terms of both time and geography, it seems reasonable that spouses (spice?) should be allowed to work alongside them. Eve Burt is one MP’s wife who felt this very strongly, campaigning vigorously to keep her job! IPSA has wisely conceded that MPs may continue to employ one family member.

It is good to see that MPs must now submit receipts for all claims. As I argued last year, MPs should only be reimbursed for expenses actually incurred. if they consider it too onerous to supply a receipt for any claim, then it’s probably too small to bother reclaiming.

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3 thoughts on “Expenses – the new system

  1. Is there any reason why the government can’t just buy some flats around London rather than pay rent? That way they’d own the property and thus it’d be cheaper in the long run. However MPs might be more sympathetic to us tenants having none-contactable landlords 🙂

    One thing that they missed was trying to reduce the amount of work they have to do in their own constituency – in my opinion MPs should be in London while Parliament is sitting, and then go back to the constituency during the (rather long!) periods inbetween. With the rise of modern communications there’s no reason for an MP to actually be present in their constituency all the time.

    • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to allow the MPs some freedom in where they live, although I know MPs in some other countries do live in ‘halls’ style accommodation.

      Also I think it’s important for constituents to be able to meet their MPs face-to-face in surgeries. Although communications methods have improved, the demand for MPs’ time has increased exponentially over the years. In some cases the number of queries MPs receive has gone up from hundreds a month in the post-war period to hundreds a day now. Much of that can be dealt with by them in London or by their colleagues in the constituency, but I believe that regular return to the constituency must be valuable.

      • Sure, but I’d try and reduce the work they have to do for their constituents (why do they have several hundred queries per day?!?). Plus their constituents could still see them face-to-face in out-of-term times (which is most of the time).

        Anyway, I guess we can disagree, nothing wrong with that 🙂

        Did you see the debate between the chancellor and the 2 shadow chancellors yesterday on C4?

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