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Friday, October 26, 2007

Checking the expenses

In general I am not one who gets excited about the fact that MPs, AMs and MSPs need appropriate support to do the job they are elected for. Often this will require the provision of allowances to employ staff, run offices, to travel to and from the relevant Parliament and to stay away from home when necessary. However, there are grey areas and there are also differences between Parliaments that are difficult to justify.

The £10,000 allowance available to MPs to promote themselves in their constituency for example, is indefensible in my view. It is a state-subsidised boost for incumbents that is neither transparent in the way it is spent nor fair to their opponents. There are also question marks about the differences in the way that the postage allowance is used by some MPs. It is difficult to be more precise than this because the House of Commons refuses to reveal details even when requested under the Freedom of Information Act.

It was no surprise therefore that the latest publication of MPs allowances revealed that some of the highest claims came from MPs in marginal seats. MPs may give excellent value for money but in some cases that value is tempered by the need to have higher activity levels so as to hold onto their seat. There is nothing wrong with that, but is it right that it is taxpayers who must pick up the bill, especially when we do not actually know what we are paying for?
I think it's a good thing MP's get this allowance and that it is very important for MP's to be able to report back to their constituents in more ways than just press releases.

Generally these allowances are used on Annual Reports (yes, these may be timed conveniently, but then as we've just seen a general election is at the same whim) and similar publications.

Of course this is subject to a lot of creative interpretation and perhaps MP's should be given a stricter timetable / specific requirements?

I doubt though that any of our MP's will be complaining about the allowance.
Well said Peter in every respect. I do think that the extra £10,000 to promote themselves in an absolute disgrace.
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