It is astonishing that nearly 400 MPs have had to pay money back. Not only astonishing, but shaming. Yes, the Fees Office were clearly at fault for paying many of the claims, but there are plenty, from MPs of all parties, which should never have been made in the first place.
Legg's point about the 'culture of deference' which exist/existed in the Fees Office is well made. It is not just in the Fees Office where it occurs though. I'm not saying MPs shouldn't be granted respect, but they are not some kind of superior being whose divine wisdom has to be followed on every occasion. A reader has sent me an example of this culture of deference, which belongs to a bygone era.
Whenever I've gone to the Commons, particularly when I've gone without my pass, I've always been struck by the near-celestial levels of deference shown to members and the attitude shown to lesser mortals ie taxpayers. I went to meet Derek Conway once, with a cameraman, and we sat on the semi-circular seat round the table just beyond Central Lobby while I waited for Colette to come and get us. After a few seconds, an MP came to sit on the other side of the table, maybe 8 feet away, and uniformed HoC worker ran up and took great pleasure in telling me that, as a Member was sitting at the table (paying me not attention, and vice versa), I had to stand up - I couldn't sit at the same table as a Member if they wanted to sit there. A small example, but symptomatic of the kind of attitude which I've seen often in the last fifteen years over there.
Me too. MPs are in theory allowed to jump queues in the cafteria and on the taxi rank. Few do, but it happens.
I've said it before, and I will say it again. The new intake of MPs in the new parliament have the chance to change things. To end this culture of deference. To act with honour. To ensure that they end up being respected rather than reviled. Let's hope they realise the level of the responsibility they must aspire to.