MPs can claim £23,083 to cover the cost of having two homes - one in their constituency and one in Westminster. The Information Commissioner says they must now say how much of that is spent on different items such as cleaners, mortgage payments and burglar alarms. The Commons authorities has said it is considering appealing against the ruling on privacy grounds. They have refused several Freedom of Information requests for the details, on the grounds that they were about MPs' personal residences and there could be a security risk. The commissioner dismissed this argument, saying MPs' home addresses were often inAt the moment the system allows MPs to claim ANY expense related to the running of the second home. It might be mortgage interest, but they can also claim back running costs too. This is where it gets tricky. If you buy a new microwave for your second home, should you really be able to claim that back from the taxpayer? And if you do, why shouldn't the taxpayer know you have done just that? More from BBC Online...
the public domain anyway.
Information Commissioner Richard Thomas ordered that total amounts spent on
mortgages, hotel expenses, food, service charges, utilities, telecoms bills, furnishings, service charges, cleaning, insurance and security should be revealed. But he ruled out a fully itemised list on privacy grounds - there has been reported speculation in the Sunday Times that plasma screen televisions, iPods and a fish tank had been bought on expenses. A spokesman for the commissioner said: "The decision strikes the right balance between transparency and accountability for public expenditure and the private lives of MPs and their families. "The commissioner ruled that, as expenses are claimed directly by MPs in relation to their public duties, the public has a right to know the total amounts claimed under these specific headings."
Of course there is an argument that this allowance should be restricted to claiming back rent, Mortgage Interest and Council Tax. Furnishing and running costs should be met by the MPs themselves. After all, it is they who will make the capital gain if the property is subsequently sold.
Having said that, I can see a real argument for increasing the salary of MPs, which have fallen dramatically behind equivalent professions (if being an MP can be said to be a profession!) in recent times. We get the politicians we deserve and people should not be put off standing because of the salary.
*Now, can I make a plea. In the comments can we stick to the debate around the incidental expenses and salaries, and not fall into the usual media trap of saying that MPs get a package of £180,000. They don't. Their salaries are around £59,000 and the rest is for office expenses (staff salaries, computers etc) and running a second home.