I didn’t comment on the Labour party expenses story when it first came out because I knew that there was likely to be bad new for some Conservatives too. Unfortunately I was proven right.
I’m not sure that many MPs have really grasped the scale of damage that this episode has caused, the House of Commons has been brought into disrepute. This story will not go away until serious changes are made in the way allowances and expenses are paid, this will mean that some MPs will get significantly less than they’re used to.
What would I do differently? My proposals are simple and reflect common practice in other areas of life.
1. Parliament buys up a stock of properties within a sensible distance of Westminster, these are then allocated to MPs whose constituency is too far from London to commute. They are furnished and decorated by parliament with any extra “luxuries” paid for by the MP. There should be enough 3-4 bedroom flats to accommodate MPs who want to locate their families to London.
2. All staff are employed by parliament, rather than the MP. The MP can draw up a job spec and person spec (agreed by the commons authorities) and conducts the interviews. They can employ friends, relatives etc. but their work will be performance managed centrally by parliament to prevent payment for no/little work.
3. All expenses to be paid on submission of receipts.
4. MPs to recieve a significant increase in their salaries. This may seem controversial but MPs salaries are out of kilter with other people doing jobs of similar responsibility or standing. Most MPs work long hours and have a challenging job. There are some MPs who are lazy, stupid or just ineffective, they should just be voted out.