MPs and expenses: return to an unwelcome past

Oh dear:

MPs are trying to block publication of material which could show they are renting their taxpayer-funded homes to each other, it is claimed.

Expenses watchdog The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) is considering an Freedom of Information request to release the details.

But Commons Speaker John Bercow said publication would be a “security risk”.

One Labour MP said it risked a “return to the bad old days” of secrecy.

Saying that home addresses must be kept secret for security reasons was of course one of the reasons given previously for keeping secret the sort of expenses details which when they were published revealed all sorts of questionable behaviour and worse.

Security and safety for MPs is important – and after the last fuss there was a change in the law to let MPs and candidates keep their home addresses secret on public election paperwork. It’s been a pretty low profile legal change since, however, which suggests that the desire for secrecy for legitimate safety reasons does not extend very far.

* Mark Pack is a member of the Federal Board and editor of Liberal Democrat Newswire.

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22 Comments

  • OK
    Let’s see LibD MPs leading the charge to overturn this decision.

  • Leekliberal 18th Oct '12 - 7:05pm

    ProBook says ‘ OK Let’s see Lib Dem MPs leading the charge to overturn this decision.’ I say ‘Hear Hear’.

  • Keith Browning 18th Oct '12 - 8:37pm

    I don’t wake up every morning trying to find ways to shaft the system and take money not due to me. Those that do have this attitude to life ought to be behind bars – instead we elect them to Parliament.

    It is about time the good guys stood up and be counted and the Lib Dems should have an open goal on this one, unless of course a few of their own curly tails are wiggling a little.

  • If security is an issue, hire an independant body to investigate and report findings without disclosing addresses. Simples. Unless you have something to hide that is.

  • Helen Dudden 18th Oct '12 - 11:11pm

    One MP I know, is taking money for cold weather payments, he admits he does not need it, and they chase everyone else.

    Nice one.

  • We already know that the Prime Minister is earning around £70,000 in rent from his Notting Hill pad while living in his taxpayer-subsidised accommodation in Downing Street. Christ Bryant has spent the day diligently ignoring questions about the specific allegations about his conduct on Twitter.

  • The latest on this also suggests our very own Nick Harvey is letting out a London home whilst simultaneously claiming expenses for rent in London. Explanation please Nick.

  • Even if this is the case, it is nowhere near as bad as what Laws did and he has been given his ‘second chance’ rather rapidly, in fact with indecent haste.

    I think for the LD to try to claim any high ground when they are represented in Government by this person is misguided

  • The lack of any condemnation from an MP suggests that MPs from all sides have been involved in another benefits fiddle.

  • Here richly, with ridiculous display,
    The politician’s corpse was laid away.
    While all of his acquaintance sneered and slanged,
    I wept, for I had wished to see him hanged.

    Hilaire Belloc.

  • paul barker 19th Oct '12 - 2:59pm

    Can we please have some quick action on this, before the 5 o clock news ? In particular we need either a denial or an apology from Nick Harvey. The damage done will be done in hours not days.

  • I hope all those outraged will be turning over the use of their own assets for the full and uncompensated use of their employers. Don’t be hypocrites now!

  • Explain, please, John, for those not as clever as you?

  • David Laws should never have allowed himself to be bullied out of his job in the first place. There were 4 or 5 real abuses uncovered during the expenses scandal and none of those people are MPs any longer. But this constant hypocritical, self-righteous hounding of MPs has got to stop. We need to expand participation in democracy and you wont do that by making the MP’s job ever more a role that only those with independent wealth and an overriding thirst for power would be willing to take.

  • Tim the implication is that if an MP owns a house in London he should use it for his job at no cost to his employer. As has been pointed out, in David Cameron’s case that means spending 70k out of his own pocket to do a job that pays only 65k!

  • OK John, thanks. The case of MPs has always been an unusual one in employment terms (they are quasi-self employed also) because the work is done in two separate and identifiable places. It is NOT a travelling job with one base. So, of course, there should be accommodation costs recognised at one or other of the bases – which brings in some of the difficulties, how far from London should your constituency be to pay accommodation etc? And, yes, your point about hypocrisy on this is apposite. Frankly, many have been the first in line to criticise MPs (mainly because they don’t like politicos) but have not mentioned their own generous expense regimes. Journalists are one case which slips randomly into my head.

  • Can’t quote chapter and verse at this stage John, but as I was reading the cases of various MPs and former MPs, my view was that many more should have been prosecuted. It was noticeable, for instance, that only Lord Hanningfield was done for the Tories – several should have been in line. Your comment about David Laws IMO, is way out of line. He seemed extraordinarily lucky to have got away without prosecution. I fear that some may have shied away from the stench of homophobia, had he actually been punished more severely.

  • I know David Laws technically broke the rules but you have to be fairly hard-headed about it to reject the reasons why in full mitigation. The sudden change forced him into an extraordinarily difficult position. On conference accreditation the party is rightly up in arms because the process might, possibly lead to unwanted revelations about a person’s private life. In Laws’s case there was no might or possibly about it – it was happening. He could either carry on or be outed before he was ready. A choice he never should have had to face. The fact his deception resulted in significantly lower expenses claims than he was otherwise entitled to just tops it off.

  • Helen Dudden 20th Oct '12 - 11:00am

    Today yet another one, sitting in standard class yet expecting first, we all know who he is, all I can say is not in the real world.

  • Whether these MP’s are just exploiting a loophole really is irrelevant.

    The fact remains that this is morally wrong and shows there is one rule for them and one rule for us.

    If I were to rent council house, but then sub-let it to another tenant, And the I rented another property in the private sector, which was then subsidised by the rent I was charging my tenant, that would not only be morally wrong, but I am sure would be breaking some rules somewhere.

    So why is this any different for MP’s?

    IF an MP already owns a home in his constituency and another in London, then obviously they are financially well off enough not to need financial support from the public purse.
    If the MP, owns 1 home and rents another, then yes, there is an argument that they should be able to claim assistance for the added costs.
    But for an MP to own a home in London, then rent that home out to another MP or Anyone else for that matter, whilst then renting somewhere else and claim this as expenses is totally and utterly disgusting.

    It seems to me as though these MP’s like tax dodgers, are always going to look for loopholes and ways to milk the system.

    Therefore it is my belief that these MP expenses should now be “means tested” just like the rest of us “plebs” who rely on funds from the public purse.

    If an MP has a property portfolio, as some clearly do, and they are of financial wealth, meaning they do not require financial assistance from the public purse to carry out these duties as an MP, then quite frankly, they shouldn’t be allowed too and this needs to stop.

    We have public sector pay freezes, rises in pension contributions, extortionate fare increases. All of which the average Jo has no control over, they can not run to their employer asking for “rent subsidies” or travel “subsidies” or even “food subsidies” unlike our MP’s

    is it really any wonder when we see these large demonstrations in London, and it will be of no great suprise to see these turning into similarities to the ones in Greece, if this government continues to treat the public like “plebs”

  • Helen Dudden 21st Oct '12 - 5:57pm

    My MP has had to answer to the above subject, it is such a waste of time, we have so many problems, both here, and in the EU. In some EU countries the suicide rates have shot up, as with mental health issues. Lack of a good diet and unemployment.

    We should have the subject of MP’s homes looked into, a suggestion that there was a solution in housing all those who wished to be housed in a large development. End of subject on housing. Some MPs do not stay in the job too long, others do. Perhaps we should consider the times, that you are allowed to run for the post.

    We have to help those who voted for these MPs, who have no home or live in unfit homes, and homes that are taking every penny they earn. We need to support insulation and cost cutting bills, with good ways of producing energy.

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