Friday, 29 May 2009

Cutting the crap with MPs expenses and allowances

Rather jolly post over at Mark's Any Musings, which neatly cuts through the crap on the MP's expenses scandal. How its not so much about duck houses and claiming for third or fourth homes as its about MPs claiming expenses instead of getting a higher salary.
The first scandal is that they lied about what they are paid. Used "expenses" as a cover to make it look like they are paid less than they actually are.

The second scandal is the Blears & Hoon method of avoiding CGT. If you buy a property with an allowance called ADDITIONAL costs allowance, that seems like a definition of a second home to me. That is fraud, pure and simple whatever rules say (Parliament or HMRC ones) As the Gorgon said "Unnacceptable". This second scandal should be fixed by plod.

The third scandal is the targetting of some as guilty because of the flavour of their claims, while others esacpe scott free because they or their claim is less interesting, or they have friends in the right places.
If they get expenses instead of salary, then its under the radar, it's tax status as income is murky, its uneven.

The one's who played by the spirit of the rules and used the own moral judgement about how much to claim they go home with less than the dishonest who hide behind the letter of the rules and claim as much as they can as their entitlement.
So what to do?
1) Publish all claims, to take power away from the Telegraph.
2) Bin the whole expenses system.
3) Make employees salaried on HoC payroll.
4) Pay a fixed up-front allowance for housing & travel based on distance from constituency to Parliament.
5) Pay a fixed up-front allowance to run an office.
6) Call a general election and throw the bums out, but allow some time for a deselection process to run first.
I'd add the caveat to point 4), pay no allowance for housing and instead allocate MPs a room at the taxpayer-owner Olympic Village. If MP's find that inadequate, they're welcome to make alternative arrangements out of their own pocket.

And also, on point 5) I had this theory that it would cost more money to run an office for a really large constituency than for a really small constituency, having more people to attend to and more work to be done. So I ran it through my spreadsheet, ranking MPs by constituency size, and ranking all the various expense categories. Then doing Mark Reckons's quartile graph thing to see if there was any signs of correlation.

Nope, no sign of correlation at all. Running an office for 30,000 constituents looks like it costs about the same as running an office for 90,000 constituents. Flat rate office running allowances for all MPs then.

1 comment:

  1. I wrote to my MP suggesting a similar system of dormitory-style accommodation with the added bonus that MPs could eat for free within the Palace of Westminster, thus avoiding the need to claim for food.

    Surprisingly he didn't like it.