Tuesday, 10 February 2009

The Home Secretary Problem

Guido Fawkes has a quite well written post on his blog, as does Iain Dale on the questions surrounding Jacqui Smith's ACA claims.

On a separate item Douglas Carswell posts a query relating to Parliament's loss of power and purpose and the role played by Speaker Martin. He also makes the point that any new Speaker must make reform of Parliament a top priority.

Disregarding the real reason why Parliament has lost power and purpose which is mainly due to our membership of the European Union, the role played by Speaker Martin is but one of the peripheral reasons why Parliament and MPs in general are held in such contempt by the public.

One aspect of allowances for MPs which has always intrigued me is that MPs representing constituencies within 'inner' London receive a London Supplement of £2,916 whilst those representing 'outer' London and beyond receive an Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) of £24,006.

On the basis that members of the public travel distances of 20 /30 miles, even more, from their homes to work in central London, why should an MP representing, for example, Brentford be able to claim £24,006 ACA even though Brentford is only approximately 9 miles, by road, from Westminster?

Another aspect that should be investigated and reformed is the unnecessary obfuscation used in ministerial answers. Witness the two questions recently put by Grant Shapps relating to the number of websites used by the Scottish Office. Was it really necessary for this MP to have to table two questions when a 'full' answer could have been given to the first. It could also be accepted that any normal, thinking person would have realised that the question included, although not specifically stated as such, websites previously operated. 

Maybe a time & motion study of Parliamentary practices and procedures might a good idea?

Update: I have just found the following from Mr. Eugenides, from which I have edited out a few words....

When the definitive history of New Labour is written - preferably soon, and in obituary form - I hope there will be a long chapter devoted to their use of language, which seems constantly to be reinvented and twisted for their own peculiar ends. Thus today, for example we are told that Jacqui is perfectly entitled to claim expenses on her family home as a second home, because she "lodges" with her sister in London during the week. 

Note that word. "lodges". What does that mean? Something a little less definitive than "lives with", I'd say - but then she can't claim that she "lives with" her sister, of course, because she patently does not. Nor can she claim, though, that she merely kips on the couch when she has to stay in the city; because then she would not be entitled to claim public dough for her actual home in the West Midlands. 

And so this rather peculiar little verb "lodges" is brought out of desuetude, dusted off and pressed into service to shore up a minister's job. That's right: Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Home Department, The Right Honourable Jacqueline Smith MP, PC (current salary: £138,724) is a "lodger" in her sister's house. Honestly, have you ever heard such linguistic somersaults? 

And, furthermore, we are assured, today by some faceless Labour spokesdroid that Jacqui pays more than just a "peppercorn" rent. I mean, really, who talks like this? In the real world, Jacq, the rest of us have to pay the rent in, y'know, actual 
money, not in seasonings. No offence to my kith and kin, but if I earned £138,724 I wouldn't live with my brother, I can tell you that... 

...unless, of course, it was worth £116,000 to me - in which case I probably would, siphoning off a healthy tranche of taxpayer's cash to young Master Eugenides for the privilege and trousering the balance myself. Which is exactly what she has done.

The extraordinary contortions these people will go through just to make a buck off the taxpayer. And they wonder why they're held in such contempt.

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