Saturday, 30 May 2009

Musings on the expenses fiasco

Surely by now everything that can be said on expenses has been said? I thought it would have been by now and I've been calming down over it before I said anything.

However it seems to me that there is a major point that lots of people have missed. Like many people over the last few weeks I have now read the section of the 'Green Book' that relates to the "Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure" allowance and apart from the name of the allowance being slightly silly there's very little I find objectionable about it (being able to claim for a second home outside of the constituency or London I think is silly but otherwise...). There's also nothing in there about it being acceptable to claim for moat cleaning.

On my accountant's (not lawyer's!) reading it seems that the defence of "it was within the rules" not only is a weasel excuse it also doesn't add up. Actually what it seems to mean is that the fees office let it through. In my previous job I checked over expense claims and while I tried to be diligent it was the responsibility of the employee to only submit bona fide claims. MPs who have claimed for duck houses should be booted out of parliament immeadiately.

As a Labour volunteer I would have expected more from comrades in the Labour party than breaking (or bending) a rule because the policing was lax. I expect there are many decent Tory and Lid Dem activists who would say the same.
Actually I would imagine most MPs who don't seem to have broken the rules are probably at least as outraged.

I am not someone who expects MPs to live on bread and water and sleep under a bridge. But why did one Berkshire MP not read the question "Could the claim in any way damage the reputation of
Parliament or its Members?" and think he might need to rethink his claim when another has spent £0 on a second home allowance and just claims for his commute?

Yes I'm a Labour member and Martin Salter is my local MP. And yes, it's been easier to talk about him on the doorstep recently. But actually it shouldn't be that surprising that an honourable member behaves, well, honorably.

Deselection and possibly by-elections for those that haven't is my view.

(NB - thanks to a reader of my previous post I will start spelling Southcote correctly...)