• Thomas

    Almost all of the money listed as “MPs expenses” is spent on the following:

    - Renting a constituency office / and utility bills of that office etc
    - Stationary / equipping the office with phones / PC’s etc
    - Staff
    - Travel to and from the constituency
    - A hotel for the 3-4 nights whilst in Parliament, 2nd homes aren’t the norm
    In effect, the majority is spent on the business costs of running the office of an MP. I accept that some abuse exists, and that should be routed out and put to a stop, with stringent punishment for those who do, but of the 650 (minus Sinn Fein) they are a small, if loud minority.
    If you remove the ability to claim back the expenses of running an MPs office, you exclude those without independent wealth from our Parliament, and that would be a tremendous step backwards for this country.

  • CommonsStaffer

    Dear Lizzie, the politics student with a lot to learn about politics,

    I have no doubt that you have done your research into the 2008 expenses scandal and in the process have found that some of the claims made were, quite frankly, inexcusable. They were. When the full extent was releaved there were peole who had a lot of explaining to do. Many resigned. My guess is you’d barely done your GCSEs when it was all going on, and I would imagine that viewing it from an ‘historical’ perspective makes it quite fascinating reading. As someone who was there at the time, it was all quite interesting then, too (although not quite as black and white as your short piece would suggest).
    There was a lot in your article that I could comment on, but I’ll limit myself to what I see as the major issues / falacies that need addressing.

    First: “Do MPs really need the swanky London pad for a couple of weekly meetings?” Seriously – what is it you think we do here? Have you ever seen an Order Paper? Or an MP’s inbox or mailbag? A committee inquiry perhaps or even just talked to someone who works in an MP’s office? If you haven’t and you’re serious about commentating on British politics then I suggest you seek out someone who can tell you what actually happens from Monday -Thursday (and often Fridays) in Parliament.
    Second: If you did find that person, I’m pretty sure they would tell you that being an MP isn’t like many other jobs. Often that’s a good thing – it allows people with an intellectual curiosity and desire to make the world a better place work in an environment with other like-minded individuals and really feel like they’re making a difference. Maybe they have one specific cause they’re interested in – but often they have several and there are few other jobs that allow someone the chance to campaign about both premature infant mortality and increasing the UK’s manufacturing base in the same day. So yes, it can be very rewarding (and I don’t mean financially). But it’s also very difficult being separated from family for half the week (and that doesn’t take into account the late nights – being home for dinner is almost impossible). They are rarely thanked when they get something right and always berated when they don’t – usually in a social media setting, often abusive, misogynstic and vicious. Violent threats are becoming increasinly common.
    And unlike many other jobs, paying for the rent of the office and the people who work for you is considered an ‘expense’. Seriously! Amazing, isn’t it? The people who answer the phones, speak to constituents, open the post, take much of the abuse and provide all the support services that are needed when you have an electorate of 75,000 plus are actually bundled into the same category as that duck house you mentioned. And the roof over their heads so that they can answer the phone and host advice surgeries? An expense too, and part of the figure you quote.
    Finally, a couple of minor points: the people of Chingford? They chose Mr Duncan-Smith democratically and will have the chance to do so again, or not, in May 2015, so let’s assume that they know better than we do about who they want to represent them
    And on train fares – a boring admin point, but IPSA won’t allow a claim for a first class ticket that costs more than a standard class booked in advance. But that probably wouldn’t have shown up in your research as it doesn’t make for a very good article.
    Best wishes,
    A Commons Staffer
    p.s. There’s no excuse for Gordon Brown. But then no system’s perfect.

  • AnotherCommonsStaffer

    Lizzie, have you ever worked for an MP or spent any time in the Commons? I think you would change your mind.

    You are right to point out that some expense claims are indefensible. The tale of the duck house always stands out.

    But expenses pay for the running costs of an office, and staff. We get paid to assist the MP – to make sure that constituents issues are heard by him or her and we’re the ones who would be for the chop if expenses were slimmed down.

    There is often a reason that MPs travel first class – it’s sometimes the only option left in a hurry. Working for an MP, you see how regularly the diary can completely change and sometimes there simply aren’t any standard class fares. A simple receipt can’t tell that story.

    MPs work hard and so do we. This week I have been in the office before 7am every day and I expect to finish sometime after 7 or 8. And that’s not rare. The MP I work for does more than that.

  • Gregor Murray

    “Apparently, expense receipts are not required for items worth less than £25 for English MPs.”

    Apparently, expense receipts are different for MPs representing Scottish, Northern Irish or Welsh constituencies?