Friday, 16 December 2011

MPs lobby for a return to peculation, sleaze and corruption

After trying an utterly novel expenses system based on honesty, integrity and transparency for little over a year, MPs are fed up and eager to return to the old ways of peculation, sleaze and corruption. Many younger MPs in particular are complaining that they only entered the House to get rich at the public expense, and the new systems simply don't offer them the opportunity to do so. Labour MP Barry Sheerman in particuar has stirred them up; pointing at the older and longer serving members of the House who grew wealthy and bloated from the public purse, Sheerman asks "Where are your weekend cottages in the New Forest? Where are your 52" plasma televisions? Why, your families even have to buy their own food from your meagre sixty-five kay salary whilst they should all be dining at public expense."

In particular, MPs want to return to a system of almost unlimited expenses with no public accountability whatsoever. "It's outrageous that we should have to account to the hoi polloi for every new canteen of cutlery or new carpet; expenses are private and should go back to being secret" said one. "We are not like ordinary people" said another "and we deserve not only different standards but all the privileges that reflect how special we are". 

The next election is in 2015.  


Barnacle Bill said...

Let HMRC take over managing MP's expenses using the same rules we have to abide by.
No ifs, no buts ...

Greg Tingey said...

The real problem is that MP's pay is ridiculously low.
IF they were paid, say £110 k pa, and minimal, carefully-controlled expenses (ONLY legit. travel and overnight accomo) and their staff were paid from a separate budget..
Any fiddling beyond that and - OUT!

Is surely the way to go.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"Ridiculously low"


Try telling that to people in the real world who knock their pans in for an average £25-30k, without second homes, First Class travel allowances, subsidised booze, exemption from the anti-smoking laws, or any of the other perks.

And these MP's, remember, are people who have allowed all their real responsibilities to leach away to a foreign organisation which they don't control and can't influence - permanently. They are lucky that we still allow them to be employed at all; most people whose work is outsourced are sent down the road straight afterwards.

otoh it seems that the government (if that's the word) is minded to tell them to get lost; some sense of the public's outrage must have reached at least the higher levels, thank goodness.

Weekend Yachtsman said...

"The next election is in 2015"

I'll be amazed if the coalition lasts that long.

formertory said...

Those pressuring for a return to old ways should be named, as publicly as possible, and shamed.

If being an MP is a provision of service, higher pay is not a primary issue.

Anonymous said...

formertory said...Those pressuring for a return to old ways should be named, as publicly as possible, and shamed.

This happened in the USA a few years back. Chat show radio hosts, just prior to congressional elections, started naming congresspersons who were bent on increasing their expenses and salary.

The upshot was that congresspersons were phoning in to state that they had changed their minds - honest.

strawbrick said...

How about a proper reform programme to bring them into the real world?
1. Reduce the number of MP's to 300 (fewer if Scotland gets independence).
2. Set a pay scale based on HMRC or other reliable records so that an "ordinary" MP is paid the median wage of a middle manager in Industry and so on up to the PM, applied to all parties in the House e.g. the Shadow Cabinet
3. Limit the membership of the Cabinet to 20 (how many company boards have that many?).
4. Similarly restrict the number of Junior Ministers.
5. Contributory average salary pension scheme.
6. House to meet on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday each week, from 09.30 to 13.00 and 14.00 to 17.00, for 45 weeks a year.
7. MP's who do not attend (say) 70% of the time to have pay docked pro-rata (except if absent through illness or public duty).
8. Non-party Constituency Office to be set up and paid for from central funds with permanent staff. Relatives of MP's not eligible for a job in relative's office.
9. Expenses for ALL to be as for industry:
- 45p per mile (or train receipt) on the basis of daily travel or
- 45p per mile (or train receipt) travel down Monday, back Thursday night, with an overnight allowance of £xx.
- Ministers to be accommodated in suitably equipped residential blocks (no grace and favour accommodation except for P.M and Chancellor).
- Any other expenses to be accompanied by receipts.

outsider said...

Your post illustrates the folly of treating MPs as public employees, which really does demean them and therefore us.
The more rules you have, the more aggro and petty scandals are bound to arise. I am with Greg Tingay on this.
MPs should be self-employed service providers paid a flat fee averaging about £150,000 for representing their constituents. It would vary only by distance of the vote-counting centre from Charing X, say £1,000 for every 10 miles up to a £30,000 max. From this they would have to pay all expenses, including pensions provision and paid help, except for free office space at Westminster.
All arguments about, for instance, employing relatives, pension privileges, buying TVs or hiring molecatchers would fall away and they could get on with their jobs with a bit less money and a lot more dignity.

Wildgoose said...

I'm with Greg as well. But what I would suggest is that MPs gross pay is set to a fixed multiple of the average nett (take home) pay.

Let's have a built-in incentive for MPs not to want to raise taxes.

Give them a generous multiple, e.g. at least 5 times, and give them free rail travel between Westminster and their Constituency. But that's it. No other expenses allowed at all. They'll just have to learn to budget like the rest of us, including finding cheap accommodation to stay away in just like others (such as myself) have to do.

In other words, join the Real World.

Budgie said...

Oh how easy it is to be generous with other people's money. £110k indeed.

John M said...

It's a shame you havn't attributed those MP's quotes. A real shame.

Anonymous said...

Greg Tinsley: "The real problem is that MP's pay is ridiculously low."

He is a troll!

Anonymous said...

Barry Sheerman: "MPs had no one to fight their corner against the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority"

The creature Sheerman has forgotten what his role actually *IS*.

Which is to act as the tax payers representative against the executive and crown.

Anonymous said...

DP111: "This happened in the USA a few years back. Chat show radio hosts,"

Hmmmmm. How many 'local radio' channels are independent in the UK and how many are controlled by the ... DA da daaaa ... the BBC?

Strawbrick: 1 .... 9

Much to like there.

outsider: "a bit less money and a lot more dignity."

How much dignity an MP has is entirely under his or her own control.

64K according to wiki puts an MP in the top 5% of UK income distribution.

The only people that seem to do better are business owners and local authority CEOs.

formertory said...

I just remembered that it's Barry Sheerman who wants motorcycles legislated off the road, as well.

Another reason to reach for the rope........

Anonymous said...

Anonymous: How many 'local radio' channels are independent in the UK and how many are controlled by the ... DA da daaaa ... the BB

That is the problem. We have a monopoly broadcaster, the BBC. The BBC believes that impartiality is in their DNA.

Edward Spalton said...

The whole business of expenses and perks began in 1971. Until then MPs had a pretty generous salary (which they voted themselves), first class rail travel to and from their constituencies, franking for their mail and 2,000 sheets of paper a year. No second home allowances, no researchers and assistants, no moat cleaning or duck houses, no pension unless they bought their own etc.

It was at a time of intense preparation for joining the EEC and many MPs had been feted in Brussels and seen how well their continental colleagues did themselves.

They started by bringing in something called the "Top Salaries Review Body" as a sort of substitute remuneration committee which approximated their pay and conditions to mid ranking civil servants.

There was one prescient MP who opposed all this. He said that the present arrangements were adequate. The sole reason for paying MPs was so that unmoneyed men of ability might serve their country in Parliament. The more a parliamentary seat became like a salaried, pensioned career, the greater would be the attraction and the control exercised by the party selectors over the type of candidates they chose. It would also change the relationship between parliament as a whole and the government to the advantage of the government.

He said that people would look back on the proposed changes as a point where Parliament had taken a definite turn for the worse.

That prescient MP was Enoch Powell. I think we can say that this was definitely a case where Enoch was right.