back to article UK watchdog barks at MPs' expenses

The UK's political sleaze watchdog said yesterday that Britain's electoral system is in dire need of fixing and questioned whether MPs were really the best people to carry out an independent review of their own expenses. The Committee on Standards in Public Life's annual report said it was impressed that MPs had decided to …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Go

    Ah! At last!

    Step 1 - to make all elected members accountable to the public. Published expenses, salaries, staffing levels and costs per MP hopefully as part of a .gov website but maybe on a more independent footing.

    Step 2 - similar levels of accountability by

    (a) all state employees (direct employment by the state)

    and

    (b) by all organisations depending heavily upon state sponsorship (eg an ALMO or other such organisation in which the sole client/customer/shareholder is a state funded body or organisations which have income of 60% or greater from public funds or indirectly funded with public money.

    Concept:

    Accepting public money also means accepting public accountability (CIPFA please take notes) Oh, for CIPFA NOT to have any involvement in the accountability processes (they seem far too -erm- wise?)

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Even easier ...

    Sort out the real politicians from those who only use politics to jump on the gravy train.

    1) Fixed wages (taxable)

    2) No family employed

    3) No being employed on the boards of companies for extra money or leverage

    4) No "perks of the job" or fact-finding trips

    5) No using public funds to furnish your office or home

  3. MarkMac
    Flame

    But hang on...

    Its all very well to decry various apparent wheezes MPs use to get extra cash. Then again compared to private-sector jobs with similar responsibility they're underpaid so perhaps we ought to pay them sensibly. You know the saying about peanuts.

    Talking of idiots - would you prefer ignorant MPs or ones who bothered to find out the facts about stuff they're being asked to vote on? Would you prefer MPs with no experience of 'real life' or ones who were actively involved in community, industry, commerce etc? Yes - some of them take the p... but don't tar everyone with the same brush.

    The 'family members' thing is more complicated than it seems and often it is /cheaper/ than employing a 'real' secretary or researcher. On the other hand all such ought to be vetted and approved by a non-political expenses board and available for full public scrutiny. /Thats/ the only real message in this story.

    As for paying from your own pocket to furnish your office - thats just unreasonable. Bear in mind that, doctors, physios, and indeed anyone else working from home is legally entitled to tax breaks, expenses claims etc for necessary workplace equipment. Which includes furnishing a room to meet clients/constituents, telecoms costs etc etc. How do I know? I work from home.

  4. Dave
    Black Helicopters

    Better still

    We need joined up thinking in this country when it comes to politics.

    I'm thinking of joining one end of a rope to a lamp post, and the other end ?

    Any suggestions for demonstrating the action of a pendulum with a suitable dead weight

    Icon, well the state needs scapegoats

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Prudish UK

    What does it matter if a secretary gets taken to lunch from time to time, or the official car gets used to pick up the shopping?

    Put a cap on it, by all means --- but let there be perks.

    UK is just too damned prudish these days.

  6. Pete James

    I blame the parents you know

    I'm inclined to agree with Markmac and Thad's sentiments; a lot of this is down to media sensationalism and much is twisted rollocks. Remember that an MP can be in a position for just one term of office, and that is a maximum of five years before the P45 beckons, so pay should reflect this. And seeing as private firms pay for employees' home office equipment then it's a bit rich to deny this to people appointed by the public.

    What is disturbing is the lack of common sense applied to a lot of the discrete allowances. For example, why on earth can a London MP still be entitled to the second home allowance when they live locally? Or the recent suggestion of receiving an attendance payment? That's absurd and they really should recognise that. That they look after their own interests only increases public cynicism. As long as this goes on then they cannot preach to others about self-regulation.

  7. Red Bren
    Pirate

    Simple answers to corrupt politicians

    Pay them the minimum wage.

    Make them clock in and out of parliament or their constituency office.

    Give them a maximum of 20 days holiday + bank holidays per year.

    Receipts must be provided for all expenses and authorised by their constituents at election time.

    Any staff they need, i.e. researchers, secretaries, etc must be openly recruited through and employed by the Civil Service.

    Ban them from holding any other job while elected

    Ban them from any board level post or a post related to their work as an MP for 5 years after holding office.

    Ban them for life from the House of Lords or other appointed parliamentary body.

    Insist that they pass an IT/Science/Engineering literacy test

    Ban all accountants and lawyers from holding office

    Sod it, just put me in charge.

  8. LUke Ireland

    All very simple

    Buy or build a block of 350 furnished flats in London. They can all live there. Takes away the 'living away allowance'

    Have secretarial support available when needed. Removes the need for family members.

    Increase salary marginally (say £80K) then no more non-receipt backed expenses, directorships or other jobs. Takes away any accusations of conflicts of interest.

    Not rocket science is it?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @ MarkMac

    "compared to private-sector jobs with similar responsibility they're underpaid" NO THEY ARE NOT.

    Almost everybody thinks they are underpaid for what they do and can point to someone else with less responsibility and more money. Members of Parliament are supposed to represent us, so they should be paid a representative salary, i.e. the MEDIAN (not mean) annual income. There is always an oversupply of people wanting the job, so the supply of incompetent, short-sighted, self-serving, unaccountable liars to sit at the centre of our police state will never dry up.

    Douglas Adams was right; no-one capable of getting themselves elected to a position of power should ever be allowed to do the job.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Stop

    Fraud

    I say examine all the expenses claims that haven't been shredded to hide evidence, then prosecute them all for Fraud...

    As for them not needing a receipt for anything under £250, it is time they came into the real world where you can't claim for the cost of a postage stamp unless you prove it.

    Enough of the freeloaders and spongers. It's not the ones on disability or benefits that need watching, its the watchers.

  11. Geoff Mackenzie

    @Thad

    You've got to be kidding me. Some arse takes my money under duress and spends it on himself, and it's 'prudish' to object?

    I agree with the fixed salary suggestion. It could be quite a high fixed salary, but absolutely no perks and absolutely no other employment. And a revision of the electoral system would be welcome too.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Yeah but....

    ...the problem I have is that the furnishings they choose are well beyond what a normally paid person could afford themselves, and that they don't try to save money by shopping for items at say Ikea.....

    Everyone else has to scrape by while these tossers squander cash that should go back into the kitty to bring the tax on fuel down for example. It's ok for them as they can claim they are on official business when they meet son/daughter and take them out to the Ivy for lunch and say it's a meeting with their secretary. They get the fuel reimbursed as well as the food.

    Come on now.... If you want to screw around at least do it with a little bit of modesty. Take the underground. Go eat at Nando's or something. And furnish the office at Ikea. Then I'll be a happy voter.

  13. Mark

    Re: Prudish UK

    Because I was refused costs for the eyetest I'm supposed to take. Why? Although the forms were signed, there was no till receipt. They could just freaking well check the cost ig they want to. And filling in a form fraudulently for me is a sackable offense.

    So why not sack these sons of britches?

  14. Frank Bough

    Decent Salary,

    ordinary pension, minimal allowances. Frankly, MP's salary looks a little light compared to other comparable professions (Doctor, Lawyer, TV Presenter), so I'd be all for a marked improvement in their basic pay and the virtual elimination of their claimable expenses - mortgage interest (or rent) on London residencies WHERE NEEDED ONLY - I'd put a 2hour commute as the maximum an MP should be expected to travel to parliament. Up to £100K pa seems reasonable, considering both the demands and potential volatility of the job.

  15. Frank Bough
    Alert

    Oh, and another thing

    Parliament should start to keep PROPER business hours - there's no reason at all why they should start in the afternoon and go on all night. While I'm at it, why are MPs not REQUIRED to attend debates? Or vote? Why are they allowed to be drinking in the Ivy's club while they're being paid to represent us?

    Don't even get me started on an elected second chamber, republic or written constitution...

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Flame

    Are some of you mad? Underpaid?

    No qualifications required, no apparent sign of intellect, no need for any experience and no understanding of issues in real society.

    A doctor or a lawyer have to train for years and keep training. To compare the professions is an insult to very qualified people.

    They do very little work so to speak. Get massive holidays. Can hold down second and third jobs at the same time and have secretary's doing the vast majority of their work for them.

    Even though they get as many days off as teachers has anyone ever seen the House of Commons full?

    They are fairly paid and should have to receipt all expenses incurred as part of their job like every other private employee or be taxed on the perks.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Frank Bough

    Who, apart from the MPs themselves, seriously think that they are comparable to doctors and lawyers? You have to go through serious education, exams & training to get those jobs. Both lawyers and doctors are accountable to professional bodies, although the effectiveness of those bodies can be questioned. When has anybody been held accountable for:

    The raid on pension scheme incomes that has made final salary schemes non-viable except for goverment employees?

    The lies on the WMDs in Iraq?

    The declaration of an illegal war in Iraq?

    The failure to resource our troops properly in Afganistan & Iraq?

    The over-complicated EU farm subsidy system in the UK resulting in fines from the EU and non-payment to farmers?

    The millions of pounds appropriated from taxpayers and wasted on IT cock-ups (CSA, NHS...)?

    Failure to maintain diversity and security of energy supply in the UK?

    No new main-line railway electrification scheme for over 10 years?

    Scotish MPs votes were critical to introduce tuition fees in England, yet they do not apply to Scottich universities. Is this fair?

    The creation of a de-facto police state where the police regard the law as inapplicable to them in all matters from traffic offences all the way to cold-blooded murder?

  18. Graham Bartlett

    @ACs and underpayment

    No real qualifications needed in most places to be a manager either. And that's what MPs effectively are - managers. A quick search on the web found that Richmond-on-Thames had well over £100m going through its hands each year. So, would your typical business with a turnover of £100m be paying its CEO more or less than £60k? I think it's a safe bet it'd be more, don't you?

    I don't say they necessarily do a good job, but that's why we have the option of getting rid of the buggers if it turns out they've screwed it up. It's also why there's a minimum term, so that what looks like a short-term screw-up might actually be better long-term.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Graham Bartlett

    A CEO is responsible to the shareholders and the goverment, and will have firm targets to meet. The CEO can go to prison if their employees commit a broad range of misdeeds such as fraud, tax evasion, discrimination, health & safety violations. A CEO must finely balance the requirements of shareholders, customers, employess and regulators. In comparison an MP can do absolutley nothing and still be paid.

    The comparison with a local council is apt: the councillors generally get attendance allowance and expences because there will be a professional management team doing the hard work of actually running things.

    In contrast many MPs have spent their entire life climbing the greasy pole, and have never run anything in their life, and do not do so at Westminster. They are supposed to be our representatives, they cannot do this if their salary is not representative of what most people receive.

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