Saturday, 5 July 2008

Money money money

OK, MPs pay and expenses... Can I start by saying, as I've said so many times before, that I think it's absolutely ridiculous that MPs get to vote on their own pay, and I hope that we've now found a formula so that it doesn't happen in future. I voted against the above inflation pay rise, and 'catch up' proposals (designed to compensate for previous non-rises). I think the PM is right in saying we need to set an example at a time of inflationary pressures and public sector pay restraint.

I also voted to keep the addresses of MPs' second homes private. Having been burgled twice last year, and also been accosted on the doorstep of my London flat late at night by someone wearing a hood pulled tightly round his face and very dark sunglasses (he didn't say anything, just stood waiting for me to open my door), I'd rather not flag up to anyone that here's a property where a woman lives by herself, arrives home very late at night, and isn't there half the week. And most MPs feel the same.

The expenses vote was much trickier. I felt we were somewhat being rushed into reaching a decision on changes. I don't think the various alternative options were debated enough, and the motion that was put on the table was deeply flawed (e.g. the £30 per day attendance allowance, no proposals to remove staff wages from the MPs' allowances system, abuse of second homes allowance, employing of relatives, etc, etc). I didn't think the new package would do anything to address the serious concerns of voters about MPs 'fleecing the system', or having their 'snouts in the trough'. And believe me, even if we'd voted for the new package, the headlines would have been exactly the same the next day. (As Anne Widdecombe put it most eloquently - there were cries of disappointment when she was cut off in full flow at the end of the debate).

As for external audit, which was included as an element of the new package - I wasn't necessarily opposed to the idea, but very little detail was given as to how it would work and I think MPs should be given the chance to put their own house in order. Internal audit systems haven't been very robust, and if they are tightened substantially, that would do the same job but at a much lower cost and less disruption to the everyday running of MPs offices. There is no suggestion of collusion between MPs and internal audit; it's inconsistency and a lack of robustness that's the problem. That can be sorted. For example, we ought to be made to sit down with them at least once each parliamentary session and explain exactly why we've claimed what we've claimed, why we're paying each member of staff what we're paying them, etc, etc.

So I voted to stick with the status quo, in the hope that better plans can be brought back at a later date. With hindsight, an abstention might have sent a better signal - but people would probably have just assumed I'd decided to clear off early for the night. All in all, an opportunity missed, I'd say.

P.S. Of course this has been portrayed in the press as MPs' voting for the 'John Lewis list'. I'm not going to be claiming anything from that. But again, it shows up the unsatisfactory nature of the current system - someone like me, once they've got a sofa and a bed and some storage, simply wouldn't have room, even if they did want to buy more. Yet another MP could have a family-sized house in both the constituency and London, and kit one of them out in full at the taxpayer's expense. Also, someone like David Cameron can choose to have a top-of-the-market second home, and blow his entire allowance on paying interest on the mortgage - and then be given credit for not claiming for his TV licence or electric bills. It doesn't mean he's claiming any less than the rest of us; he isn't. It just means he's got lots of his own money to add to the pot too.

14 comments:

Terry said...

You are very reluctant to answer questions aren't you.

Let's try this


Do you accept Labour are despised, hated, and will be the wilderness for years once they loose the next election?

PS Please heve the manners to address over 150 comments from PREVIOUS Labour supporters.

Kerry said...

As I've said, I will reply on smoking when I've had the chance to sit down and read all the comments. Or would you rather I posted a glib reply telling you I think you're all wrong on every single point without having considered what you have to say? I'm not going to allow this blog to be hijacked by a particular interest group, who have never responded to previous posts on smoking, so if I choose to prioritise posting about other issues first, that's my prerogative.

P.S. I'm off out now so there won't be any more posts.

Basil Brown said...

At least the modem seems to be working again now. ;-)

pagar said...

You despicable bunch of freeloaders.

Many of us can't afford to go 'out'

Sleep well..........

Dick Puddlecote said...

"I'm not going to allow this blog to be hijacked by a particular interest group"

Sorry Kerry but this just sat up to be hit.

You HAVE of course, allowed Government to be hijacked by a particular interest group

ASH say ...

http://www.ashscotland.org.uk/ash/5303.11.848.html

Labour do ...

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/7310884.stm

I don't remember seeing ASH on any ballot paper and I always vote.

Dick Puddlecote said...

You're going to post a glib "everything is wonderful, everyone loves the ban, nothing to see here, look at the statistics on this smokefree site, you should all give up, won't somebody think of the children" anyway, so why not just do it now?

No point in reading posts if you believe Sir (haha) Liam "I only challenge studies that disagree with me" Donaldson's type of logic.

Fidothedog said...

So you vote to keep the same corrupt system that costs us taxpayers an arm and a leg.

Well done,

And yes we have been well done by you lot.

Vlad the Impala said...

Those MPs who voted to keep their snouts in the trough (remembering all the other allowances and gold plated pensions MPs enjoy) have earned the drubbing they will receive when they stand for re-election. Those of us who work hard, pay our taxes and have to account for every PENCE of our expenses will not forget, not forgive this.

Vlad the Impala said...

Those MPs who voted to keep their snouts in the trough (remembering all the other allowances and gold plated pensions MPs enjoy) have earned the drubbing they will receive when they stand for re-election. Those of us who work hard, pay our taxes and have to account for every PENCE of our expenses will not forget, not forgive this.

Whitby Bridge said...

So your principled and reasoned vote has given succour and comfort to people like the Wintertons and the Ballses who are making a fortune ripping off taxpayers currently living through a credit crunch, failing banks, ever-rising taxes, true inflation at 8% and falling pension forecasts.

My address is public for all to see. It's cross-referenced between any number of government databases. The council can check my mobile phone bills, my emails, anytime they want. You think only MPs get burgled, accosted or anything else. Some taxpayers even get knifed. It's just another way to make sure taxpayers don't see the size of your house, the Aga in the kitchen, the 52" in your living room that they paid for.

Any accountability would have been better than what we have now. Tough if you as an MP think it's wrong in the detail. You should have voted in favour.

But then, like 29 other PPSs, you didn't.

They're calling it the payroll vote.

Kerry said...

But you're in Turkey, aren't you? According to your blogspot profile.

Whitby Bridge said...

I also voted to keep the addresses of MPs' second homes private. Having been burgled twice last year, and also been accosted on the doorstep of my London flat late at night by someone wearing a hood pulled tightly round his face and very dark sunglasses (he didn't say anything, just stood waiting for me to open my door), I'd rather not flag up to anyone that here's a property where a woman lives by herself, arrives home very late at night, and isn't there half the week.

That really is just 'a poor me, I'm a single woman. Have pity on me' thing isn't it.

Whitby Bridge said...

Some of us save and scrimp all year to get a holiday.

And I can't change my profile to reflect that?

Whitby Bridge said...

And since you're checking. I'm now uploading today's pics to Flickr for my friends to look at. I took my kids out of school to come with me. I threw the headteacher's letters in the bin, the one about asking for permission first, then the one about how he refused it, in the bin. I'll send them back to school with a sick note.

Ok?

You just got more accountability out of me than I'm ever going to see from you as an MP.