LibLink … Norman Baker: Devil in detail of MP expenses rules

Over at The Guardian, the Lib Dems’ rottweiler-without-portfolio Norman Baker – the MP who was campaigning to clean up Parliamentary expenses long before it was fashionable – argues that Christopher Kelly’s report may help to restore parliament’s reputation, but the solutions it contains must be workable. Here’s an excerpt:

Kelly’s report is an important document and perhaps the most significant staging post in the long and painful journey towards restoring the reputation of parliament. Given the terrible exposures of their abuse of the expenses system, MPs have forfeited the right to decide their own pay and conditions. It was never a good idea and it is now totally discredited. This means that MPs will have to swallow hard and accept sight unseen Kelly’s proposals in their entirety, warts and all. And I fear there are warts, if initial reports are correct. …

We have to hope that Kelly’s report next week has … come up with workable and equitable solutions. What is certain is that for MPs to pick out the bits they leave while discarding the rest is a non-starter.

You can read Norman’s article in full here.

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One Comment

  • Matthew Huntbach 30th Oct '09 - 9:17am

    Anyone who moans and moans about MPs being too highly paid should consider why it is that they bother so much with high pay in this niche profession, when there are thousands of much more highly paid people in other professions. The finance industry is telling us it must pay its top people hundreds of thousands if not millions a year because that is necessary to keep the top people working for them. So why do we not apply the same argument to MPs? Or if we do not, why do we not also dismiss it for the finance industry? The smart reply will be that we are forced to pay MPs through taxation, but we are not forced to pay anyone in the finance industry. This is nonsense because the finance industry has things so tied up that we have no choice but to use them and pay for the sky-high wages of their top people, well not unless we wish to live as self-sufficient hermits. I can see why we might want to reward someone who has done a superb job with an income which would enable them to buy a mansion at some point young enough in their lives that they may enjoy it for a long time. But when I see there are people paid enough to buy a mansion every year of their lives, well, where is the reward in that? It has surely become just very expensive point scoring. If I can earn enough in a year to buy a mansion and then enough to invest and get an income to keep me and my mansion for the rest of my life, then that is a disincentive since why should I bother working hard ever again?

    My understanding of the job of an MP is that much of it is voluntary. You can sit back and do what the whips tell you and just enough constituency work so the people there don’t deselect you there for being useless. Or you can work hard investigating legislation, asking questions, getting more information, finding out how everything works and people live, etc etc so you can do a better job. You don’t get paid any more if you do the latter.

    So, it would seem to me we need to have as MPs, if we want a good job done, people who have a really good community feeling, who want to work hard for the sake of a good job done not material reward, whose community feeling is such that even if they could from their positions gain some extra income from the taxpayers for little effort would not dream of doing so. That is, someone who when shown a rule which means they can claim extra money by denoting some other house as their “second home” or whatever would not do it and say “I have done nothing wrong – it is within the rules” but would instead be aghast at the very idea.

    I have tried to write off the MPs’ expenses scandal as a little thing because the amounts involved are so tiny when compared to what the big City people are taking from us. I do think it was raised at that time by the big money people who are our true lords and masters precisely to take attention off them and put it onto democracy which they hate and to make us think badly about democracy so that we shall happily accede to more power being taken away from democracy and given to those lords and masters. Nevertheless, when I find MPs – Labour as well as Conservative, and there is part of me which thinks the Conservative ones are doing no worse than I would expect but is shocked by the Labour ones doing it – saying of these things “I did nothing wrong, it was all according to the rules” I am disgusted and wonder what really motivates these people. I cannot suppose, if this is their attitude, that what motivates them is what I would desire in someone doing the job of an MP.

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