Monday, 30 March 2009

The easiest job in the world

I can understand how a combined broadband/TV package can be included in an expenses claim. I can even understand how that might mistakenly have included a claim for adult entertainment.

What I can't understand is how the pay TV element can have been paid as a legitimate expense by the parliamentary authorities. They must have the easiest job in the world. Do they actually do any checking of MPs' expenses?

Apparently not, as they don't even bother to check whether somebody claiming that a caravan on Mersea Island is their main residence is maybe exaggerating somewhat. Presumably the parliamentary authorities are operating on the Good Chaps principle - that as all MPs are Good Chaps (even the Chapesses), a Good Chap wouldn't inquire whether a fellow Good Chap is acting in a way that a Good Chap wouldn't.

A full list of Jacqui Smith's expenses does show some interesting items - the £1,000 antique style fireplace or the £550 Habitat stone kitchen sink, for instance. Under no circumstances can these be considered as necessary to fulfil the role of an MP. But they are entirely within the current rules, which bizarrely allow not just the cost of buying a second home, but also the furnishings to go with them.

I don't have a problem with the idea of MPs being allowed funds to buy a second home - let's face it, no Scottish MP would be able to do their job properly if that were banned. But MPs should recognise that they are pretty well paid overall and I don't think it should be seen as too onerous on them to pay for most or all of the furnishings themselves.

I retain the view I expressed a few days ago: that most MPs are hard working and dedicated to doing what they believe is best for their constituents. They are also, on the whole, not venal or corrupt. But for the sake of their own reputations, and for the reputation of Parliament and politics as a whole, they need to get a grip on this and as quickly as possible.

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