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Monday, May 11, 2009

The wrong reaction

Everywhere you look today all that can be seen are articles on MPs' expenses. The Daily Telegraph has turned its attention to the Tories with revelations that the Shadow Secretary of State for Wales claimed for dog food, Oliver Letwin claimed £2,000 for repairs to his tennis court, whilst David Willetts billed the taxpayer £115 plus VAT for workmen to replace 25 light bulbs at his second home in west London.

With the Tories implicated in this scandal too (and who knows there may be revelations about the Liberal Democrats and assorted Nationalists next), it must be difficult for the Taxpayers' Alliance to know who to support anymore.

The Times though has the most interesting take on this mess with an allegation that Labour MPs are plotting to suppress the future publication of expense claims. If any are doing so then they would be completely bonkers. If there is one lesson that can be drawn from this whole affair then it is that transparency imposes a discipline that is unrivalled by any other system. I very much doubt if the allegation is true.

It seems that the rationale behind this story is that there are plans to bring in a private-sector company to run the expenses department in the Houses of Parliament. Apparently, senior Labour figures have told the paper that the future privatisation of the Fees Office to process claims would exempt receipts from publication under Freedom of Information rules.

This is of course just the sort of misinformation and nonsense thrown up by opponents whenever any service is threatened with privatisation. In this case it is easily put to rest. The Freedom of Information Act applies to the body responsible for the information not the persons administering it. Thus even if the Fees Office were privatised the company carrying out their function would still be obliged to provide information on request.

The fact that anybody is even contemplating such a manoeuvre however shows the sort of siege mentality that is developing amongst some MPs. They really need to get a grip. Any attempt to withdraw back inside their shell of secrecy will just add to the contempt felt for them by the public.

More nonsense still from Lord Naseby, a former Commons Deputy Speaker, who has urged Gordon Brown to hold an urgent general election to save the “foundations of democracy”. Quite how this will help when the prevailing public mood is a plague on all your houses is difficult to see. There are some individual MPs who deserve to be punished for their excesses but the root problem here is the system. In general it is the rules that need to be urgently reformed not those subject to them.
Agree with you Members should account for their misdoings and misleadings, even if technically within the letter of the law. Do you agree it should hold good for all members of all Houses? Including Lords?
Yes, if there has been wrong-doing and irrespective of party.
Solid mate and agree completely, but how sad it is all? Although in some cases not entirely unexpected.
the only thing to do is to get away from all politicans expenses all together...maybe a system where politicians apply once a year for additional costs incurred in there job..no free newspapers, subsidised meals etc
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