MPs expenses furore

Wednesday, 13 May 2009 10:00 pm
taimatsu: (papercut)
[personal profile] taimatsu
I'm terribly confused about why MPs are falling over themselves to repay chunks of their expenses claims to save their reputations. Surely the damage is already done, in that they are shown to be the kind of people who would work the system to its fullest extent and claim for things they ought to have known most ordinary people would think unreasonable? It's not the amounts that bother me so much as the sense that these people felt it was ok to claim for swimming pool this and garden pergola that, and are still saying "it was within the rules" rather than "I shouldn't have claimed for that as it was not honestly essential to my accommodation as an MP."

Anyone got any insights?

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] spencerpine.livejournal.com
I think it's good they're paying it back. It's the least they could do. I am not sure it will save their reputations.

The difficulty I have is that some claims verge on fraudulent, whereas others, such as Gordon Brown's cleaning expenses, seem simply portrayed in a bad light. It's hard to tell the valid investigation from the muck-raking.

Graham

Date: Wednesday, 13 May 2009 11:53 pm (UTC)
ext_20269: (cats - playing with Sally)
From: [identity profile] annwfyn.livejournal.com
I have to say, if the policy was that MPs could submit expenses arising from having a second home, then I think it's not unreasonable that a lot of small things (which are now being portrayed as terrible abuses of money) were submitted. I don't know what people expected - that MPs travel like medieval monarchs with a moving van full of stuff so they would have everything in the home they were living in? Or alternatively, treat their London homes like student accomodation, with a bed, desk, bookcase and two large suitcases?

I feel quite bad for a lot of the MPs, really.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 07:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beingjdc.livejournal.com
The attitude largely arose because (most) MPs think they're massively underpaid and (a lot) took to treating the expenses as a salary top-up rather than an expenses system. Now, I increasingly incline towards the view that £60k plus genuine expenses is perfectly acceptable - if you want to be an MP primarily for the money I think you should look for a career. It's not a lot for what should be a very senior job in central London, but it's certainly enough that nobody should be able to feel they can't afford to do it if they're called that way.

To be honest the only ones that really annoy me are the ones who are prodigiously rich anyway, and the ones who were using allowances to be Sarah Beeny. Buy a 'second home', do it up on expenses, register it as your first home again to avoid capital gainst tax, sell it, buy another second home, re-do from start. There was an interesting article in City AM yesterday reporting gossip that a lot of how this happened (on the Tory side especially) was the MPs' wives getting together and one of them bragging about the cool stuff they'd managed to buy on expenses, and the others going home and saying "hey, why don't we have that?". May be nonsense, who knows.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 10:11 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] beingjdc.livejournal.com
Ministers often do, other MPs, not really - if you're lucky and especially if your party is still in Government then you might get retained for a reasonable salary by a lobbying company who are essentially paying for your phone book. Otherwise - well, there's even a House of Commons charity for former MPs who have fallen on hard times, it does happen.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 07:53 am (UTC)
ext_20269: (Default)
From: [identity profile] annwfyn.livejournal.com
I suspect there's also a gap in understanding between the kind of stuff that people who live on a £20k income and people who normally live on a £60k income think is 'reasonable' and people think is 'luxury'. One thing which I think the MPs got stuffed on is that I believe they were told to use John Lewis as a baseline in terms of acceptable price - so if they wanted a blender, a John Lewis one would be the norm.

*peers at the list of expenses*

I think it's kinda crappy (pardon the pun) to snip at John Prescott for putting a toilet seat on expenses. I mean, if the government is meant to be paying for the costs of running a second home, then I think a toilet seat is a fairly reasonable thing to buy if you need one. And there are light bulbs, and toilet roll holders on there as well. And OK, those are tiny petty things, but I think they are probably legimitate. Having said that, moat cleaning?

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 08:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] octalbunny.livejournal.com
If I understand correctly, there were civil servants that MPs could go to and ask "is this ok?". But those civil servants were worried about their jobs if they said no...

("Andrew Walker" is the name to search for for news stories about this part of the finger-pointing.)

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 07:55 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] undyingking.livejournal.com
they are shown to be the kind of people

Mm, that puzzles me a bit too. For each of them, there must have been a moment near the beginning when they first became aware that you could claim for all this kind of stuff and get away with it. If at that point a voice of conscience didn't speak1, why should anyone believe that it's suddenly started speaking now that they've been exposed?


1 It should be noted that there are quite a few MPs who have never claimed excessively. I've only seen odd names -- Alan Johnson is one, and I guess Gordon Brown also fits if the cleaning was the only thing people have picked up on -- but it would be good to see the full list.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 10:06 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] undyingking.livejournal.com
Ah, great. Hmm, good to see that my local MP (whom I campaign for) is in the more frugal half both for second home and in total -- that's something.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 08:23 am (UTC)
ext_8103: (Default)
From: [identity profile] ewx.livejournal.com
It's about the most they can do without resigning, something they'll generally consider unacceptable (of course their constituents may not necessarily agree). I suppose they could repay with interest.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 08:23 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] danfossydan.livejournal.com
its a rubbish system.

And all the MPs have alot to loose, in terms of reputation and futures. I suspect that if you look too closely at many of the MPs lives, you can find things that will cost them alot of votes. (Most people have things that would make other people not like them if portayed in some ways) so its important to try to maintain the reputation.

They are paying the money back, because then they can say - we made a mistake and we put it right.

They are having a hard time reforming the system because basically it boils down to MPs need more money to do the job they need to do than their basis sallery, but its would be viewed as awful to give them a pay rise at nearly any time, when other public sector workers (and even more so in private sector) are not getting big increases.

As people, they have a set of rules and an office existed to approve or deny their expenses. If they were unsure of the rules, or wanted to chance it - then they could put a claim in. If the claim gets approveed it sets s precident, and then it spirals out of control.

I really feel the fault is the system, and not the people following the rules (including asking for guidence from the body that adminsters the rules).

Its outrageous that the MPs claim such different ammounts for different reasons.

If I have to do a job, I am required to pay for myself to live. If I am required to work outside of the expected terms of my employment in such a way that I have expenses, then it is reasonable for my employer to reimburse me.

Having a second home for MPs though, is very much part of their employment, and I beleive that it should be reflected in their allowance, not though a set of rules that the MPs (or another body are expected to interpret)

I think the ammount of money wasted discussing this and arguing about it, is greater than the ammount of claims that are improper, which is also annoying.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 09:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] mooism.livejournal.com
I suspect repaying the money is the only way they can think of for demonstrating contrition and preserving their careers. That it is inadequate is beside the point.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 12:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-robhu.livejournal.com
It was the moat cleaning that made me laugh.

Date: Thursday, 14 May 2009 02:36 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] damerell.livejournal.com
Not much else you can do if you're caught with your hand in the till - and if you do it loudly enough, you might distract _some_ attention from the fact that you shouldn't have had your hand there to begin with.

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