The committee should be far bolder, inviting a root-and-branch review of the role of the modern parliamentarian, including an increase in basic salary if appropriate. The present system is fashioned around the days when MPs were male and had wives who stayed at home in their constituencies with the kids throughout the week. Hence the two homes.
That does not reflect reality any more. By insisting that MPs have homes in their constituencies as well as being available until 10pm at Westminster on up to three nights a week, we are forcing them and their families to trek up and down the country twice a week - spending most of the week in London, weekends in the constituency - and that is wrong.
Political life is cruel to families. Imagine the life of a minister working 18-hour days in London (and often abroad), with a constituency in a far-flung corner of the country and a young family caught in the middle. Imagine the extra childcare costs they must pay when foreign summits demand a spouse at their side: the £8-£10 hourly rate for a nanny, plus up to £5 an hour in tax and insurance - and all for the privilege of not seeing your child all weekend.
Call me a sucker (and you will call me worse), but I really don't begrudge senior ministers, even those with grace-and-favour apartments, a bit of rental income from their London flats.
A minister in a grace-and-favour apartment, such as Alistair Darling, who could lose his job at any time, cannot afford to sell his London home. The alternative to renting it out is to do as the Browns have with their Westminster flat - leave it empty to avoid controversy, pay all the costs yourself and therefore make a loss, while paying tax on the use of the grace-and- favour apartment as well (about £5,200 a year, since you wonder).
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