Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Rights and Wrongs of Kelly's Leaks

Many MPs will be very displeased by the contents of the leak of some of Sir Christopher Kelly's proposals. However, the public are in no mood to listen to what they will see as self-interested bleatings. I think, therefore, they probably have little alternative but to go along with them. That doesn't make them 100 per cent right, though.

Let's take the case of MPs employing their wives or huisbands. In most cases they do a very good job. It is all very well to ban new MPs employing relatives (and I said when I was in North Norfolk I wouldn't do it) but it is quite another to force existing MPs to sack their wives. Employment and anti-discrimination legislation ought to see that it can't happen. A five year phasing in period isn't a solution.

The mortgage interest ban was inevitable, and it is right that MPs should not be able to benefit at the taxpayer's expense. However, let no one pretend that the taxpayer will get a better deal from this proposal. If you have a £250,000 mortgage at the moment you're probably paying around £400 a month in interest. Even when rates were 5 per cent it was only around £1,250. Yet try finding a one bedroom flat in central London for less than that. Even in the suburbs you'll be forking out in excess of £1,000.

MPs who live within a "reasonable" commute of London (said to be defined as an hour) won't qualify for a second home allowance at all. I can foresee all sorts of issues about what constitutes an hour's commute. But I totally agree that with the hours the Commons sits now it is right to expect inner and outer London MPs (and possibly more) to return to their main homes at night. I presume there will be an allowance for hotel accommodation on the odd nights where the Commons sits until midnight or 1am.

MPs should think very carefully about how they react to these changes. But I suspect we will now see a number of them standing down in protest.

87 comments:

Ray said...

One thing is for certain, when MP's start hiring non family they will not be paying them the same as they paid their wives. So there should be a saving made there.

Brishank said...

Dale, the proposals should be implemented right away. Mps have 'not got it' all the way through this. They feel aggrieved and that they are being penalised. What they don't get is the public's anger at the sleeziness of the whole affair. We want the excesses stopped now! Not phased in over 5 years.

The whole affair would have been avoided if the 'Honourable Members' had acted honourably from the begining. The Green book quite plainly stated that any expense incurred had to be directly related to the MPs job as an MP. It trusted the MPs to be honourable! They have to accept personal responsibility over this affair.

And who devised and implemented and voted for the system? MPs themselves! They have been caught and should stop squealing and accept they have to stop their fraudulent claims now. Abusing expense claims is not tolerated in any other proffession.

End it all now. Not in 5 years.

Brishank said...

Dale, the proposals should be implemented right away. Mps have 'not got it' all the way through this. They feel aggrieved and that they are being penalised. What they don't get is the public's anger at the sleeziness of the whole affair. We want the excesses stopped now! Not phased in over 5 years.

The whole affair would have been avoided if the 'Honourable Members' had acted honourably from the begining. The Green book quite plainly stated that any expense incurred had to be directly related to the MPs job as an MP. It trusted the MPs to be honourable! They have to accept personal responsibility over this affair.

And who devised and implemented and voted for the system? MPs themselves! They have been caught and should stop squealing and accept they have to stop their fraudulent claims now. Abusing expense claims is not tolerated in any other proffession.

End it all now. Not in 5 years.

CT said...

When we see who stands down then we will know for sure which "honourable" members were more interested in serving themselves than serving the public.

timmo said...

Iain

Isnt it strange how the Kelly report gets leaked a week before its publication date when the report on Armed Forces procurement was held up until 1 hr before the debate in the HofC.
What a corrupt shower this govt is

Unsworth said...

"But I suspect we will now see a number of them standing down in protest."

Excellent. Now's the time to drastically reduce the numbers of MPs on all sides.

"In most cases they do a very good job."

Well, so what? The question is not whether they do a good job, is it? It's about the quite obvious avoidance of any suggestion of nepotism, collusion and corruption. Now, why do you think an MPs spouse is automatically better qualified than any other potential applicant? If there is a good reason let's hear it. You see, all the bleating so far has been on the basis of a spouse having an acquired knowledge of the MP and his/her constituency. That knowledge is no more than any decent PA could pick up within the space of a few months - and a good PA will bring a great deal of external experience and ability to the job. Empolyment of family members is just too cosy.

It used to be the case that Civil Servant couples were banned from working in the same department (although that rule has now been relaxed). It was never thus for MPs.

And now we hear that the cosiness is to continue with MPs 'employing' each other's kith and kin. Why?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm if it keeps going like this, with more and more MP's standing down, even you'll be offered a seat.

Errr I could have phrased that better.

Chris Paul said...

1. What do you think of MPs hiring family members with little or no experience, with no advertising, and at vastly inflated salary points?

And I don't mean 20 years ago after which said rellies learnt the job.

2. What would you say to any MP entering into new arrangements along the lines of the above AFTER the focus moved onto MPs expenses and some MPs corrupt behaviour?

Chris Paul said...

1. What do you think of MPs hiring family members with little or no experience, with no advertising, and at vastly inflated salary points?

And I don't mean 20 years ago after which said rellies learnt the job.

2. What would you say to any MP entering into new arrangements along the lines of the above AFTER the focus moved onto MPs expenses and some MPs corrupt behaviour?

Anonymous said...

The House of Commons needs to go much further to regain public trust. A new Speaker was a good and necessary start.

A clear declaration of a 'new beginning' would be the immediate replacement by the House of the three backbench members of the House of Commons Commission (and the Members Estimate Committee) - Stuart Bell, Nick Harvey & David Maclean - who were all involved, with the previous Speaker, in the expenses saga (and the attempts to remove Parliament from the FoI Act) over the past few years.

How can the public have any confidence in them to be the public face of the Commons in the post-Kelly period? They should accept the same responsibility as did Michael Martin (eventually) in bringing the House of Commons to its present desparate situation.

strapworld said...

I think this has now gone too far.

I have known many members of Parliament. I know those that have their wives, especially, working with them and also those who have dedicated secretaries. In the latter case their wives still do so much work, arranging constituency diaries, meetings etc in conjunction with the local agent. Ensuring that the MP is on top of local issues. She being the eyes and ears within the constituency. WHY should she not be paid? WHY should family members genuinely working for the MP not be paid?

This has turned into a witch hunt. It is not helped by David Cameron who has, so far, sacked only back benchers and failed to rid his shadow cabinet of those who have abused the system (within the rules does not wash with the people, Mr Cameron). Had he acted far more ruthlessly on his close 'pals' then, I think,he would be in a far stronger position to speak up loud and clear against these recommendations.

For that is what David Cameron should do. He has to make a stand for the great many decent MP's of all party's whose wife/partner does such a thankless task and should be paid. If they want MP's to be effective this has been proved over many many years to be the best way.

Failure to make a stand, Mr Cameron, will lose you the support of those you need behind you. You may feel safe without them at present, but you will soon need them and you may turn around, one day, and find the benches empty of support for you!

Civil servants can only think in the civil service mindset. They have no idea of what an MP does locally.
So it was a grave mistake, by Brown- yet another decision made in haste-to appoint a former civil servant and not a highly respected Knight of the Realm or Lord who had had an unblemished career in the House of Commons. Someone who knows the pressures on an MP and his/her family.

I am sorry but Kelly should now be retired.

Cameron has got to go on the offensive and speak loudly for MP's and remind the people that if they want an effective MP then it is far far better to allow wives/family to work with their husbands etc.

I am glad it has been leaked. There is now time for it to be changed!!

Letters From A Tory said...

Well said. I reached very similar conclusions on my blog this morning.

What's more, Kelly's solutions are not just potentially illegal, they spectacularly miss my preferred option of removing the need for any expenses at all - which is surely the best solution?

Anonymous said...

oh well cest la vie
pretty tougth for the spouse (usually female) who started a couple of decades ago when there was little or no pay --

wonder if MPs legally divorce their spouses can they use that as a way for spouse to keep job-- irony Kelly attacks institute of marriage , how very new Labour lol

Anonymous said...

Does this mean that if you become an MP and you have a sexual relationship with your secretary or researcher they will be sacked? Or does it depend on how long the affair goes on and if you live together? Could be construed as constructive dismissal.

Victor, NW Kent said...

That would be a fine purge of Parliament then.

Anonymous said...

Why would it be unfair to stop existing partners working. They did this to IT contractors some years ago through IR35

Brian E. said...

There always will be a problem as far as employing wives is concerned, and I can see both sides of the argument. I help run a small club, and my wife is always having to answer phone calls from members when I'm not there and has an occasional moan about it. How much worse it must be to have to do this as an MP's wife. Similarly, my son-in-law has to attend formal functions as part of his job and the company normally expects his wife to accompany him. He just had to buy a dinner jacket, but as she says, she can't keep wearing the same dress nor do they give her a dress allowance. This probably also applies to MP's wives.
Logically it would be best if they weren't married; an MP could employ a non-related mistress to answer his phone, and my son-in-law most definitely would not be expected to take a mistress to a function!
So wives are a problem whichever way you look at the situation!

Jess said...

For me (and I suspect I'm not alone) the claims are not really about the money in terms of cost. It's about Mp's enriching themselves over and above their salaries.

For the last few years (the ones I can find details on) my MP has been constantly claiming over £1500 a month on mortgage interest. What sort of house does he need?

I suspect that quite a few MP's mortgaged themselves (us) up to the hilt to get the maximum benefit from the increase in house prices and then ripping off HMRC when it comes to capital gains. That is what these proposals are meant to stop.

It won't work though, as MP's will simply start buying houses and renting them to each other to continue this nice little earner.

Anonymous said...

Hard, but not impossible:
http://www.findaproperty.com/searchresults.aspx?edid=00&salerent=1&areaid=0167&bedrooms=01&maxprice=1000

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure why ceasing of employment of spouses is such an emotional issue. Many businesses and industries have to restructure due to cometitve and regulatory pressures, and jobs are lost. What is the difference here?

True Belle said...

Isn't it plain commonsense to pay MPs a decent salary?

It is absurd to think that media wallahs, doctors, lawyers, consultants etc receive a huge wodge of cash for little input, yet the stresses and strains of representing your constituency and country amounts to very little.

Clean up politics, then pay them all a fair salary!

Liam Murray said...

Techy question someone here might know the answer to.

When Parliament is dissolved all MPs are technically unemployed; how does that impact continuity of service etc. for spouses 'employed' by MPs? They can't possibly remain employed because the answer under the current system would be 'by whom'?

Depending on the answer that might be the way round these threats of legal action or resort to employment law.

Westerly21 said...

"Civil servants can only think in the civil service mindset. They have no idea of what an MP does locally."

Sadly, neither have most of their constituents (until election time of course)

Richard Holloway said...

If they want to know what constitutes a reasonable commute why don't they ask their constituents who commute into London every day? Take the average time and there's your figure. I'm sure plenty of constituents would be willing to share their stories of traffic jams and train delays with their "rationed" MP.

Anonymous said...

Great news.Why the lack of tories on the box supporting the new measures.??????

Andy said...

I live 35 minutes by train from Victoria (Sutton, Surrey) where one can rent a perfectly acceptable one bedroom flat for a lot less that £1000/month. As an added bonus, most come already fully equipped with bathplugs, so that will be a saving...

Anonymous said...

Where the hell do you rent in London! You can easily get a nice one bedroom flat for under £1000 a month - especially in the suburbs.

Anonymous said...

"...phased in over five years".

So,sitting MPs in some marginal constituencies may be turfed out at the election because the voters would, on balance, rather have a new incumbent under the new rules rather than a sitting MP still claiming under the old rules, and political party be damned!

Anonymous said...

MPs shouldn't have been allowed to employ their immediate family, just in the same way they shouldn't have been allowed to flip their second homes. If a company was found to have employed illegal immigrants, it would have to sack them now, even if they are doing a good job.

It's morally wrong for an MP to increase their family income using public money - that's why the public are so angry about the expenses scandal. Employing an immediate relative is morally equivalent to abusing the second homes allowance.

If the MP's relatives want to sue anyone, it should be the MP for employing them in the first place.

Unsworth said...

@ Anon 10:26 AM

I have a nice pied-a-terre on the southwest corner of Battersea Park, famous and wealthy neighbours to sponge off, nice surroundings, own secluded garden, beautifully refurbished and finished just this week. You could probably fit three or four MPs in. We could come to some arrangement...

canvas said...

" Change doesn't come from Westminster. Change comes to Westminster."

Adapt or die.

no longer anonymous said...

"I'm not sure why ceasing of employment of spouses is such an emotional issue. Many businesses and industries have to restructure due to cometitve and regulatory pressures, and jobs are lost. What is the difference here?"

Those businesses should never have been forced to restructure by government regulations in the first place.

Frankly I don't care if an MP chooses to employ a family member over some random on the street. I'm of the view that people should be allowed to employ who they want on whatever grounds they want. BUT as it is taxpayers' money the person employed should be capable of doing a decent job and not overpaid.

davidc said...

i think the answer lies here
http://www.thedailymash.co.uk/politics/politics-headlines/mps-%27should-be-banned-from-thieving%27-200910282174/

Anonymous said...

The problem with the argument that good representatives must be well paid is that it is very difficult for MPs to do a worthwhile job. The powers that have not been stolen by the Fourth Reich have been appropriated by the Executive in the form of the bloated Civil (sic) Service. There is little MPs can do against these dreadful monoliths. If you don't believe this, try to get your MP to argue your case against an unjust decision of the Civil (sic) Service!

Anonymous said...

So John Mann supports the recommendations "lock, stock and barrel" OK, John, fire your wife right now, today, and put your wife's money where your mouth is.

Anonymous said...

The 'second' homes should be owned by the state.

A three bedroom home can be used by 3 MPs. They dont need a multiple room home if their families live elsewhere.

When the MP loses their seat or decides to stand down the state should retain control of these homes to either - house a new MP or house a local homeless family - or sell and the fund go into a central pool of cash for MPs second homes.

Simple soultion really.

That way no MP can profiteer from the second homes allowance.

Or is this too simple a solution?

The Man on the bus behind the Clapham Omnibus said...

MPs no longer have any right to decide regarding their allowances - they have lost that right and are now in the "last chance saloon".The electorate will not accept them obstructing Kelly.

They have to realise that this matter is not going away and even if it takes another 5 years the electorate WILL hold them to account and continue to do so until they accept the recommendations IN FULL

Anonymous said...

There is always the Jowell-Mills solution - 'split up' and keep troughing!

Lady Finchley said...

Some of you are missing the point! Many MPs already live in London and buy a place in their constituencies. Are you saying we should force them to give up their London homes and buy in the constituency and then rent in London? It makes no sense. What about just putting in a rule that they are not allowed to profit from the sale of the home or share the profits according to what they pay?

As for wives and relations I know many who do an exlempary job and others who collect a nice pay packet for doing sweet FA while the rest of the staff have meagre rations. I think the ban on families should apply to new Members only.

While I realise that the person who headed this should be independent it is very apparent that Sir Christopher Kelly has no idea about how this place runs and the staff union reps were quite concerned about this.

All this will serve to make Parliament unaffordable for anyone but the wealthy. Nice work, guys.

Mike Law said...

"Let's take the case of MPs employing their wives or huisbands. In most cases they do a very good job." How do we know this? Has any definitive research been done on this?

I agree with the view that anyone employed by a MP should go through a transparent and fair recruitment process.

On second homes, if a MP needs a second home (in London or the constituency) so be it, and it should be paid for out of public funds. However, the home should remain public property. When that MP stands down, is deselected, or is beaten in an election, the property should be either passed on to the new MP for the constituency (should they require it) or should be sold thereby allowing the profit (if any) to be added to public funds.

How difficult is that?

It doesn't add up... said...

What constitutes and hour's commute is easy to define: use the TfL journeyplanner website. However, an hour is too short - 90 minutes would be more reasonable and in line with commutes that many London workers actually do.

MPs should be paid on the basis that they all work in London. They should get an additional allowance if they meet the excessive commute test that reflects the cost of renting in their consituency, fixed for a Parliament.

All MP's employees should be audited to ensure that they are fulfilling a genuine role and not a sinecure. Sinecures after all can be awarded to people with influence who aren't related, while a spouse often provides excellent taxpayer value for money. I don't think there are power issues with being an MP's secretary or researcher.

Mike Law said...

Just caught the tail end of a radio news broadcast. An MP (didn't catch his name) was saying that "there will be individual hardships and individual injustices" but MPs should accept the Kelly recommendations.

"Hardships and injustices"????

They should try to get by on unemployment benefit or live in overcrowded conditions in a deprived area.

I have nothing but contempt for the lot of them.

tris said...

I agree that we can't sack existing staff, but we can institute a proper regulation of staff including annual performance reviews, looking at time keeping attendence, target achievement, etc, and have them paid according to agreed scales. This nonsense of people being paid £40,000 to be a diary secretary is just farcical. Other public employees have much stricter control. MPs' staff should not be different.

Anonymous said...

"Frankly I don't care if an MP chooses to employ a family member over some random on the street. I'm of the view that people should be allowed to employ who they want on whatever grounds they want. BUT as it is taxpayers' money the person employed should be capable of doing a decent job and not overpaid."

But the job should be open to fair competition.

Anonymous said...

1 Pay peanuts - get monkeys

2 Pay nothing - get independently wealthy MPs / those bought and paid for by unions.

norfolkandchance said...

I think any MP who can demonstrate that a family member was employed after proving themselves the best candidates in an open and independent recruitment ought to be allowed to retain them. All future staff should be civil servants and subject to impartial recruitment methods.

Of course MPs will have to be banned from renting to each other.

David Lindsay said...

Why shouldn't MPs employ their relatives? This is an assault on the family firm and on the family farm. The latter, at least, also rightly maintained at public expense.

Anonymous said...

'....MPs employing..'

Sorry, Iain, that's exactly where you go wrong. MP's employ NO ONE. We do, the taxpayer.

I've heard several pathetic attempts by Labour sympathisers to equate MP's with the self-employed and now you're at it, too. Nothing could be further from the truth. MP's are employed BY US, they owe their salary TO US.

It's about time they remembered who pays their bloody bills.

Chris Paul said...

Illustrating my own earlier questions:

http://bit.ly/141m8H

UKViewer said...

I think that if MP's are paid a decent salary, with an overnight allowance for hotel accommodation, only paid against receipts, this will work out well.

As for employing family members, if the jobs are advertised in free and open competition under Civil Service Rules, and family members apply and are successful, than that is right and proper.

However, the situation where MP's can employ who they want, paying with Public Money is unjustifiable and is out of sync with normal public sector employment policy.

I understand that a number of MPs have said that they will vote against these amendments in the commons, and if a free vote is given, they are unlikely to get through.

So perhaps it is all a storm in a teacup.

Head of Legal said...

I don't think MPs should put their hopes in employment law. Liam, I think you're right that there can be no permanent contracts of employment. They can surely only be properly understood as in effect fixed-term contracts - and certainly not as giving enforceable contractual rights for ever in the future, regardless of the internal rules of Parliament. If anyone else claimed to have contractual rights overriding Parliament's own rules, MPs would howl about that.

As far as unfair dismissal is concerned, dismissal would certainly be fair as being either required by statute or for "some other substantial reason". As far as indirect sex discrimination is concerned, any discrimination would be clearly justified in law.

I think this is another empty threat of "legal challenge".

Tom said...

Changing it to rent claims only won't make matters any better. Certain MPs will just buy houses and then rent them out to each other, raking in even more than they would have previously. (As, I believe, some already do.)

JMT said...

MPs do not need second homes, full stop.

They should live in their constituency, if they do not, their sponsoring party funds it - they selected him/her as a candidate.

As for London sleep-overs - Portcullis House already provides each MP with a one-bed flat to doss in. If they need to accomodate a wife/mistress/rent boy/fluffer, then they do it at their own PERSONAL expense.

ALL expenses should be ACTUALS as per the rest of the civil service, military etc - ie they claim £2.90 for the sandwich that they ate, not a flat rate no-questions-asked sum.

Horrified of Horsham said...

Anonymous said...
"The House of Commons needs to go much further to regain public trust. A new Speaker was a good and necessary start. "

A new Speaker should have been a new start, but the more I see of him the less I like him.

Malcolm Tucker said...

Reading the comments of some commuter-belt MPs today I'm absolutely staggered at how many of them still don't get it. How many of their constituents have an each-way journey of an hour or more every day and work late every day and would never dream of buying a second home next door to their office?

Roger Gale has attacked the "idiotic idea that if you live an hour from London by train you cannot have a home in London". Nobody's saying you can't have a home in London, Roger, just that you pay for it yourself out of your £64,000 annual salary, just like any of the people you supposedly represent would have to do.

When the Telegraph first started running expenses stories I found the tales of duck houses and moats more amusing than anything. But recently - as we start seeing more and more MPs behaving like spoiled toddlers, convinced that they have a right to a free a house, a right to a free TV, a right to employ their nearest and dearest at the taxpayers' expense - I'm becoming abosolutely apoplectic with the lot of them.

I'm seriously considering standing for election to get rid of these parasites.

Rick Brearley said...

Try finding a 1-bed flat in Central London for less than £1250/month?

http://www.starflats.co.uk/one-room-flats-in-London-Central-London.56257.html

The first page I came to from Google. It's not big, no, but it's pretty central and only £400 a month. If that's what I can find in 40 seconds, I bet MPs could find better deals.

Anyway, why not just house them all in the Olympic village when it's no longer needed?

Keep up the good work.

Bunton-Greatcoat said...

The obvious way round this employing spouses thing is to begin a new term of office with an enormous wife-swapping session.

That way, the right sort of chap will continue to join.

Otherwise there'll be so many decent chaps refusing to serve the people on the grounds that some-one towed away the perks.

Just because one or two soiled the trough doesn't mean the trough is rotten - just needs a spring clean.

Bryan Dunleavy said...

I'm not sure why you are setting yourself up as an apologist for MPs but let's eave that aside.
The line we appear to be getting now is that the majority of MPs are decent, hard-working etc and they are being penalised because of a few rotten apples in the barrel. This is patent nonsense. The majority of MPs and members of the House of Lords have been taking advantage of a system which was designed to milk the unwitting taxpayer. No participant in this disgraceful scheme is free from fault however much special pleading is made on their behalf.
I presume the leak is an attempt to soften up public opinion before yet another whitewash. Paying back pennies after they have filched pounds will not do!
My opinions are hardening on this issue as time goes on. The longer they take to resolve these issues the less forgiving I will become and I suspect there are many others of like mind. I don't htink the public will stand for a five year phasing out.
What needs to happen immediately is:
1. All wrongly claimed expenses must be repaid now.
2. Expenses for a second home should cease now.
3. Second home flippers should repay their ill-gotten gains.
4. Abusers of the system (even under the lax rukes of Parliament) should resign.
5. Fraudsters should be prosecuted.
6. All jobs in MPs offices should be publicly advertised NOW with salary ranges, benefits and terms of service. Incumbents should certainly apply if they wish and it won't be unreasonable if they are successful in the competition, but the privileged status quo should not hold.
An that's my REASONABLE position!

iain said...

What Bryan Dunleavy said and with spades.

I'm afraid it was a far better post than yours, Iain.

I know you hope to become an MP yourself, but it does taint your blog somewhat as you do too much apologising.

And can I pick you up on your dreadful MP speak (and not for the first time)

'...let no one pretend that the taxpayer...' is gruesome.

Works ok in the bible but not 2009 AD.

Hey said...

"They can't be sacked" no, why not? Sacking them is simply belated enforcement of basic anti-corruption methods and is almost assuredly supported by the current law and policies. This is as pathetic as the bleating that they "were within the guidelines" - NO YOU WEREN'T, YOU CHEATING TROUGHING FILTH.

I do believe that this is the appropriate method to deal with MPs (though leave out the bankers, they contribute to the economy, unlike MPs) http://conservativehome.blogs.com/centreright/2009/10/and-in-tomorrows-news.html

The ultimate solution is to eliminate all salary and expenses for MPs. If they have no money to spend, they can't spend it corruptly. So no allowances, no office budgets, no salaries. All of the money for the job of an MP must be provided from private resources. Further, MPs should have to publish their tax returns and account for their incomings and their spending on politics.

It should be extraordinarily painful to be an MP. It should be actual service and not the start of one's career. Maybe a Logan's Run feature where they are topped after 2 terms should also be added.

Anonymous said...

"WHY should family members genuinely working for the MP not be paid?"...

Because it's neoptism at its worst. It's been used as a method of funneling more of OUR money into their pockets. What qualifications do they have for these £40k per annum positions? what recruitment procedure did they go through? I am certain there are well qualfied people out there happy to do the job for less - MPs force depts to competetivley tender contracts, and recruit properly why should they be above the law yet again?
The simple solution is to advertise the position and have the recruitment handled independantly. That way they get the best candidate for the job and the best price - if it happens to be their spouse/offsrping etc then good luck to them, but at least they get it on merit not their bloodline.

Anonymous said...

They will stand down at the election.

No one is going to resign and miss out on all the goodies that hanging on until the bitter end will bring.

When will the police actually act?
Still nothing on hairperson and her hit and run.
Still nothing on all the fraudulent claims.

Where are the police and why don't they enforce the law when mps break it?

Anonymous said...

"MPs do not need second homes, full stop.

They should live in their constituency, if they do not, their sponsoring party funds it - they selected him/her as a candidate."

No. Their job is in London. They should live in London.

MPs only need to spend at most a day a week in the constituency - that's how long most of them spend having surgeries. All the rest is pointless functions that please the party activists but have nothing whatsoever to do with their proper job - scrutinising legislation and holding the Government to account.

Plus hotels are cheaper outside London, so we save money.

Donut Hinge Party said...

"No. Their job is in London. They should live in London."

Is it? We don't generally hire MPs for their legal acumen and perspicacity in dissecting complex documents - Ministers, maybe, which lends itself to another question - we hire backbench MPs because they know our community, because they are involved in local issues, not because they're a party nodding dog.

At least, I don't, and it REALLY annoys me at election time when 90% of the leaflet is about national arguments.

The US separates it nicely with Senate, Representative and Congress - although I always get confused about which one is which.

John Moss said...

An MP's main job is in London. They have a secondary job in thier constituencies.

They should be paid a salary commensurate with living in London and expenses to maintain a suitable, second home in their constituency, but this should only be rented.

Ideally, they should have a "package" worth on average about £200k - 10-15% less than what they get now - which they get paid as a fee and with which they pay all their accommodation, staff and office costs, pay themselves and contribute to their pensions.

The inland revenue can then decide what are reasonable expenses, just like they do with any small business.

Lady Finchley said...

My God, there are some ignorant comments on this thread. Hey and JMT's comments are particularly idiotic. Why don't YOU work for nothing?

Donut Hinge Party said...

@ John Moss. Sorry to bang this drum again, but if you're going to just parachute in the best legislator, what on earth is the point of having constituencies in the first place? Why not just appoint political animals and have the parties draw them randomly out of a hat; - give them a couple of months to learn the ropes and Mr, you've got yourself PR without the bother of a second house. Plus, it'd be like watching the Premiership draw. We might end up with Sinn Fein representing Rutland.

Not sure what you'd do with Bye-elections, though, maybe an arm wrestle between the parties, or maybe it'd just stay in the hands of the incumbent party in the case of death or illness. If it was due to misbehaviour on the part of the MP, of course, all the other parties should get a chance to grab it based on their national share.

Incidentally, in your instance what would you do on the rare occasions that the MP prior to being elected actually lives in their constituency or at least nearer to their constituency than London?

Anonymous said...

What happens to the staff of an MP when he or she has lost at a General Election?

Family or friends should not be employed as 'staff'; it's too open to abuse.
Phasing in should not be an issue as there must be a provision in place now for the staff when the seat is lost.

Anonymous said...

On the grapevine i hear Cameron is getting it in the neck from some of his back-benchers,he needs to be strong on this. The public are watching..

Joe Public said...

Buy the bastards a Barracks.

Lady Finchley said...

Anon 7:24 - there is very little provision for staff if the election is lost - it's tough titty.

You cannot force somebody out of their job just because the rules changed. It's immoral and probably illegal. As I said before I think the rules about hiring relations should apply to new MPs only or if it can be proved as in that the person is not doing the job as in the Henry Conway case.

Donut Hinge Party said...

Have a look here:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmregmem/091014/p2memi02.htm

It tells you which MPs employ members of staff.

As there's parity between the titles used, you'd think there'd be set job descriptions and duties.

If this is the case, then staff management can be farmed out to Parliament easily enough - after all, you wouldn't let the head of an NHS trust employ their wife as a PA without going through the proper channels.

Titles include:

Office Manager
Secretary
Parliamentary Assistant
Research Assistant
Financial Controller/Book keeper (Paul Burstow, who pays his wife on a fees basis for managing his own accounts - nice!)
Diary secretary
Admin Assistant
Constituency Assistant
Intern (Glenda Jackson - aren't interns supposed to be unpaid?)
Computer Support (Geraldine Smith)
Caseworker

They have set pay grades, so they should be scrutinised externally to ensure that they meet the performance expected of these grades.

Lady Finchley said...

John Moss - do you live in the real world? Get a salary, pay for accommodation and pay staff as well as office costs on £200,000? Are you smoking crack? Do you pay your staff and buy office supplies with your salary?

Unsworth said...

@ Lady Finchley

"it is very apparent that Sir Christopher Kelly has no idea about how this place runs and the staff union reps were quite concerned about this."

Two points:

Kelly may know exactly how 'this place runs' - but may not agree that it should run that way.

That the staff union reps were 'quite concerned' is hardly surprising and may, indeed, be a good thing.

Neil A said...

I think some people are missing the point about "second homes". It simply isn't good enough to supply an MP with a hotel room or a doss down in a shared flat (unless that's their choice). You are expecting them to spend half of their time in this place. How many of you would want to spend 150 nights a year in a hotel room? I am a policeman, and I can tell you that if I was sent to London to work for 6 months it would cost the taxpayer more than an MP's second home allowance.

JMB said...

A muppet interviewed on the Today programme this morning said that it wasn't a leak, it was an "authorised disclosure" whatever that is.

JMB said...

I agree with Neil A's comment about staying away overnight.

I used to be away most weeks with my work. People tied to a desk always thought it was a great life being away especially when our allowances used to be fairly generous. But I always looked on it as completely wasted time away from home that I was not being paid for.

The allowances were not increased to keep up with increased prices so we ended up always claiming back "actuality" but on principle I would always get a decent hotel and if I had problems I would go up market rather than down market.

So I can see some of the MP's problem but they have been stupid and greedy so cannot be trusted for some time.

I can see also that a MP's wife could be an ideal person to be his secretary and will probably work longer hours than if it was a unrelated person. Like much of the rest of the expenses scandal it just needs a system to monitor that they are actually working and it is not just a scam.

I can imagine some MP's wives who lose their jobs then refusing to do any of the functions of a paid secretary. How long before a senior party official cannot get a reply from a MP because his wife will not answer the official
telephone line.

Lady Finchley said...

Unsworth, Sir Christopher doesn't have a clue about how this place works and he didn't do his homework. Responsibilities in the constituency are beyond his ken.It is not just about a weekly surgery. Constituents want to know that their MP is a local, who experiences what they do. You simply cannot have a feel for a place that you visit once a week for a surgery. As for the unions reps, they are hamstrung as the House of Commons consistently refuses to recognise the union. Employees have no human resources dept, many don't even have contracts. MPs can dictate the terms and if you don't like it,tough. There is no mechanism for regular salary reviews or grievances, there is no overtime (and I can assure you it is not a 9 to 5 job) and there is no access to occupational therapy although the MPs have it as do the employees of the House. MPs can arbitrarily decide what to pay and many do not use the provided 'guidelines'. The budget for staff is woeful. Sir Christopher Kelly was surprised by this but honestly, it doesn't seem he will do a thing about the workers but instead will go for the headline grabbing initiatives.

Victor, NW Kent said...

Lady Finchley said "Constituents want to know that their MP is a local, who experiences what they do".

Was that irony your Ladyship?

What proportion of MPs are "local". How much constituency work is done by MPs such as Shaun Woodward & Margaret Moran? I am not picking on Labour by the way, those were the first two names that came to mind.

"Experiences what they do" - average family income £26,000 a year my Lady.

Not many people who live in my town get £400 a month meal allowance.

Lastly, Sir Christopher Kelly "doesn't have a clue how this place works". I suspect he knows all too well how it works the expenses racket. That is his brief.

Unsworth said...

@ Lady Finchley

And your point is?

You see, there seems to be this view that somehow those who work in Westminster are entirely different from the rest of mankind. Why?

If you seriously believe that working conditions are so bad why bother being there at all? And, as a matter of fact, many people outside of Parliament live and work in far worse conditions and for far longer hours.

How many weeks holiday do MPs have? OK so maybe their staff don't have these extended periods of leave, but so what? The boss is away, so things can relax a little, eh? Would you say - for example - that a spouse 'employed' by an MP (actually, employed by the Taxpayer) normally stays in Westiminster while the MP holidays abroad? My local MP makes the mistake of issuing a regular newsletter to all and sundry. It is his diary. It makes very interesting reading. I have to say that there are many who would give their right arms for such an enjoyable and interesting lifestyle.

What was that about heat and kitchens? Nobody forces people to become MPs or to work in Parliament. No, what we're now hearing is the bellowing outside the abattoir.

Anonymous said...

I won't be happy until Darling and Maude face a firing squad

Lady Finchley said...

Unsworth

We work here out of a genuine wish to be of service - that does not mean however that we should be paid a substandard amount and have substandard conditions. And I don't know about your MP but the one I work for is around for nearly all over the so called recess and the constituents do not stop having problems because it is recess. I am not carrying the banner for MPs' wives and I think the practice should end for new MPs. However MPs' staff work damn hard and it is a scandal that we cannot have our union recognised and that there is nowhere we can turn to if we are being badly treated because we don't even have a human resources dept. In addition to this we are very qualified so cool it with the enfy.

Lady Finchley said...

No, Victor, he doesn't. My union reps will vouch for that.

I can't answer for other MPs - I only know what the ones I have worked for have done.

All I can say is if you think it is all so easy come and have a go -if you think you're tough enough. You'd be crying after a 60 hour week and very little free time.

Anonymous said...

The thing that is fundamentally wrong with MPs seeking mortgage payments on expenses is that it reflects a degree of arrogance in assuming continued tenure of their seats. The average interval between General Elections since 1945 is less than 4 years (45 months). An MP occupies a seat sunject to the considered short-term whim of his/her constituents - to embark on the 'permenance' of property purchase implies a disregard for the voters' likelihood to eject him/her. True, renting may cost the public purse marginally more sometimes, but it is clean, auditable, responsible and removes any suggestion of personal gain from property value inflation. But it also prevents that breathtaking arrogance from showing itself, which must be a good thing. Well done, Kelly.

Neil A said...

Surely the way to go is a fixed "Housing Allowance" paid to all MPs whose constituency is more than a 1 hr commute from Westminster. Give them £12,000 pa towards whatever arrangements they wish. If they want to rent a nice flat with the money, so be it. If they'd rather buy a second home, so be it. If they want to stay in hotels, or stay with family or friends, or sleep on a park bench, or endure a 2 hr commute, or never sleep at all (Michael Howard, perhaps?) then so be it. Simple, fair, incapable of being abused.

MPs with a constituency less than 1 hr commute (but more than, say, 20 minutes - ie Westminster and neighbouring constituencies) could claim an amount for travelling.

The commuting time would be calculated from the most distant part of their constituency, regardless of where they reside, but would only be payable if they are registered for Community Charge in their own constituency.

Hang 'em all said...

Standing down in protest? I doubt it.

Standing down claiming the "stress" of the various revelations about their expenses, more likely.

The difference? Stand down on health grounds and you get a full pension, as if you had carried on serving until 65. And you get it paid straight away, for life, whatever age you are.

See here, page 4:
http://www.parliament.uk/commons/lib/research/briefings/snbt-01844.pdf

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