Today’s Independent is reporting that in an attempt to diffuse public criticism of MP’s exorbitant expenses claims, auditors may be given powers to instigate spot checks. As claims have to be audited every year anyway, I fail to see what these additional checks will reveal: all they will do is give MP’s more time to set their stall in order before final returns are rubber stamped!
With Conway highlighting some of the more contentious elements of our representatives pay schemes, newspapers have been very busy probing MP’s claims. It has emerged that Ann and Sir Nicholas Winerton claim £30000 per year for their London flat, even though they paid the mortgage off six years ago. Peter Hain, who had to resign recently due to financial irregularities in his deputy leadership campaign, also employs his 80 year old mother as a part time aid.
Calls have been made for MP’s staff to be either paid directly from a central fund, or directly from MP’s salaries which would be topped up accordingly to compensate. This would see a rise from roughly £60,000 per year to £80,000. The latter idea worries me: how many MP’s would take the opportunity of ditching their secretaries etc and try and do the work themselves, thereby reducing their effectiveness in representing our concerns?
Tinkering with MP’s expenses guidelines will not solve the problem of gross payments which are made under dubious guidelines. Reform needs to be across the board and independently arrived at.