MPs expenses: the details that you’ve probably missed

The headline recommendations from Sir Christopher Kelley’s review of MPs’ expenses have been widely covered. Despite this coverage, there is a series of detailed proposals which have been largely overlooked – including one which may yet put the leaders of political parties on the spot over cases involving their own MPs which they thought they had dealt with.

You can read the full report here, but these are the details I have in mind:

Travel: “MPs should expect to be treated in the same way as their constituents in this regard, unless there are compelling reasons to the contrary. That implies, for example, that MPs should not be reimbursed for the costs of ordinary commuting journeys – that is, journeys directly comparable with those made by other people between home and their place of work.” and MPs should not be allowed to claim for the cost of travel to or from a home which is neither in nor close to their constituency..

This will put an end to situations such as Malcolm Rifkind who, despite representing a London constituency – and with Parliament itself obviously being in London, was able to claim for travel between London and Scotland on the basis that he had a home in Scotland. Likewise, Jacqui Lait, MP for Beckenham, was able to claim for travel to and from Rye, East Sussex.

Parliamentary candidates will have to declare financial interests: All candidates at parliamentary elections should publish, at nomination, a register of interests including the existence of other paid jobs and whether they intend to continue to hold them, if elected. The Ministry of Justice should issue guidance on this in time for the next general election. Following the election, consideration should be given as to whether the process should become a statutory part of the nominations process.

Will party leaders be put on the spot? There is a twist in the tail of the proposals to reform MPs’ “redundancy” pay to make it less generous. For Sir Christopher Kelly says, “We also recommend that the sanction of withdrawal of the grant should be considered for serious breaches of the expenses rules or of other aspects of the code of conduct, in this or future parliaments. It is not too late for the sanction to be applied in respect of current MPs found to have committed a serious breach of the rules. Most employees in other organisations who leave their jobs because of misconduct could not expect to receive redundancy pay.”

This is particularly pertinent given that the other recommendations to cut the amount of money received by MPs who voluntarily stand down (rather than being defeated in an election) are scheduled to come in to force only after the next general election – and so MPs currently planning to resign in disgrace would get the full, generous, pay-off unless these sanctions are introduced before the election.

Cue a round of demands for these payments to be curbed for MPs caught in the expenses spotlight, along with party leaders put on the spot over whether or not they support that for named individual MPs?

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This entry was posted in Election law and Parliament.
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6 Comments

  • Martin Land 7th Nov '09 - 4:23pm

    I must confess that I was completely confused by the Travel section, in that it doesn’t seem at all clear to me , where an MPs place of work is. MPs are supposed to pay for their journey to work like other constituents. I assume that the place of work is the constituency office and that MPs will continue to be reimbursed for journeys to Parliament. If not, certain Scottish MPs would actually owe the taxpayer money, rather than be paid a salary!

    This whole exercise has gone from an attempt to prevent serious abuses by a minority to a vindictive exercise which will mean that MPs will increasingly come from either of two groups, political hacks and the very rich.

  • £70k is not a bad salary. It does put you in the top 10%. If you choose to live in Rye, ** and that is not your constituency ** you should pay the cost of commuting.

  • Well, Martin, unless I am very much mistaken, the parts of the report that Mark quotes make it fairly clear that travel between the London base and the constituency would be paid. It is, I think, where there are other commutes, during the working week, eg MP for Northampton, flat in Morden, daily commute from Morden to Westminster – this not paid for publicly. But travel to Northampton paid.

  • Martin Land 7th Nov '09 - 7:16pm

    Mark: Thanks for the clarification. I found that bit especially difficult to follow.

  • Tony Greaves 8th Nov '09 - 4:16pm

    As I understand it MPs are allowed to claim for mileage done as part of their constituency duties – ie driving to their constituency and driving around it.

    I agree with Martin’s basic point – the whole thing has now become an exercise in spite and envy in the face of the Mob, led by the media. It’s a concerted attempt to bring down the so-called “political class” which risks dealing a fatal blow to the whole democratic system.

    Meanwhile we will end up with a House of Commons that consists of rich people and/or people who have no idea what they are supposed to be doing and are just putty in the hands of the whips. I don’t imagine any of this will concern the Barclay Brothers.

    Tony Greaves

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