The Committee on Standards in Public Life Review of MPs’ Expenses kicks off today with opening evidence from “witnesses”; Harriet Harman MP, Alan Duncan MP and David Heath MP. Surely they are “the accused”?
Sir Christopher Kelly invited evidence from all interested parties and some of the submissions were better than others. Some of the best submissions (out of hundreds) are up on the Committee’s website. Guido suggests you skip reading all the MPs’ self serving demands. In the main they unsurprisingly argue for even more money. Look instead at some of the more realistic submissions:
Donald Hirsch, Head of Income Studies, Loughborough University argues for a £1,600 increase in pay to compensate MPs for loss of their well-padded expense perks. They base this on the same sort calculations applied to welfare claimants. That seems a fair basis to Guido.
The Sunlight Centre for Open Politics makes income comparisons both internationally and against average UK earnings and consequently argues for no increase in MPs’ expense allowances or pay. Transparency International suggests some safeguards against MPs’ corruption. Unlock Democracy puts forward some broad ideas and principles. The Taxpayers’ Alliance suggests among other ideas, accommodating MPs in the Olympic Village. It is fair to say that all these NGOs make the case for transparency down to the last penny.
The Council of Employment Judges suggests MPs should get the same expenses as them, £95 a night. The Chartered Institute of Public Finance Accounting wants full accounting, the National Audit Office wants to do the accounting. The Electoral Commssion wants harmonisation of various reporting requirements.
The NGOs which do not receive taxpayer subsidies on the whole do not want another Quango, the various Quangos all want to protect or increase their turf. All the political parties claim to want to reduce the cost of MPs’ expenses. It will be interesting to see who is called from outside the cosy political establishment to give evidence, Peter Oborne has made a submission…