Opinion: A new way to look at MPs’ second homes

Over the last few weeks there has been an enormous amount in the press with regard to the ‘John Lewis list’ and MPs’ second homes. I have at times been frustrated that every MP is tarred with the same brush, and at others overjoyed at the growing realisation that the whole system needs an overhaul.

We need to start thinking outside the box, especially in terms of MPs’ second homes. My out-of-the-box idea is that the Government purchases two-bedroom flats for MPs scattered around Westminster. They would remain the property of the people, not a way of making a fast buck when they are sold after an MP’s term has finished.

They would be furnished as any rented property would be. They would be redecorated during any general election campaign when they will not be in use. They should not be palatial, just bog standard homes that allow you to live. They would be issued by a lottery or drawing straws. You could put everyone in the same block of flats but then the security costs would be high, as well as opening the door to the possibility of accusations of MPs having affairs or partying with the opposition.

If MPs’ constituencies are close to Westminster, a car or taxi service is offered instead of the accommodation. If they do wish to take up the offer of Government accommodation they do so at their own expense.

If you were working for a company and sent away on business you would be offered living expenses and hotel costs to be paid by the company, so reasonable food expenses should be allowed. Although I do feel the need to say ‘with receipts provided’ as I am sure most tax payers would be unhappy to subsidise palatial-style food.

By doing this it would reduce the need for the ‘John Lewis list’, make all the MPs equal, and remove the possibility for ‘sleaze’ allegations. Or is this too simple and prescriptive?

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14 Comments

  • It would not allow many of them to live in the manner to which they have become accustomed.

    Your suggestion sounds very sensible and obvious though doesn’t it 🙂

  • I agree, it is sensible. And public ownership of a series of properties for divvying up among the intake every 5 years is an attractive alternative to current unrest over the public footing expenses that are sometimes then cashed in for private profit.

    As I understand it, several LibDem MPs currently share with one another their London flats. Why do we hear nothing about this? I think it could deflect from them the criticism currently aimed at all MPs, with a good angle on the more environmentally-friendly impact too.

  • Susan Gaszczak 14th Apr '08 - 9:17pm

    Good, point well made but it would pay for itself in within a couple of Parliaments. The tax payer also would have a huge asset, rather than MPs getting the profits and the benefit of the allowance, which after all increases the resale value ;-).

  • Hywel Morgan 14th Apr '08 - 10:55pm

    A possible alternative is that where a property has been purchased or improved out of allowances then either a proportion or all of the increased value on sale returns to the taxpayer.

  • As a liberal I struggle to see why we should want social housing for members of parliament. Firms that require people to live away from home often provide them with an allowance that they can use for hotels or flats of their choice. Surely that is the liberal answer? I object to MPs being able to claim a penny without a receipt (I can’t, in my job), but I don’t object to them having somewhere to live, and an allowance to cover it, if they live more than is practical to commute from (say, 30 or 50 miles from Westminster, now the Commons rarely sits late).

  • Andrew Duffield 14th Apr '08 - 11:48pm

    Absolutely Hywel!

    All parliamentarians should face a 100% levy on the increased value of the publicly funded proportion of whatever property they have purchased. Simple, fair and transparent.

    Getting enough of them to remove their snouts from the trough to vote that through is another matter of course.

  • My feeling is MPs need to treat parliament as a place of work and not an excuse to live in London.

    A certain oxfordshire MP, shal we call him Dave, lives in an area where many people commute to work in London every day. While he lives in London and claims exps on his oxfordshire home, only kept because it looks good on the ballot paper. (exagerating to prove a point)

    Currently those in Greater London don’t get the second home allowance. I feel that boundary needs to be expanded to include parts of the home counties.

    Other MPs from outside that area will need to live in London for practical reasons. I think giving them a flat would be ideal. Where else will they take their lover to (joke).

  • Give them all tents – cheap and environmentally friendly.

    As almost all votes are whipped – why not let the whips cast votes however they want unless the MP expressly declares otherwise,
    so most MPs need not bother to attend.

    Or let MPs vote from home – we all know they aren’t greatly swayed by the debate.

    or would that just be a bit too much openness and honesty ?

  • Susan Gaszczak 16th Apr '08 - 7:02am

    It seems Sweden have already adopted this practise.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/7341476.stm

  • Brenda McDade 22nd Apr '08 - 5:01pm

    The majority of the population have to commute and there should be no exceptions to this. If MP’s cant commute everyday they need to rent or move nearer. I am fed up with the regime that has become one law for us and one for them. If we didnt have to fork out for this blatant misuse of public funds maybe we could have afforded to keep the 10% tax levy allowing more people to actually still manage to keep one roof over their heads. I thought that there was no greater honour than to serve one’s country whether it be a well paid job with expenses or not. You all get offered company directorships generally afterwards so a few years of hardship is surely worth it.

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