Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Brown's Expenses Proposals

Leaving aside the propaganda video put out on the Downing Street website - a statement which surely should have been made in Parliament and which no doubt was 'rushed out' to possibly deflect attention from the Budget Speech and other current 'problems' besetting the Labour Party - let us concentrate instead on the written statement from the Leader of the House of Commons, Harriet Harman.

A. Why should an MP, or any MP come to that, be paid an additional allowance, on top of their salary, for attending their place of work? Do those members of the public, commuting in many instances for more than an hour, receive an additional payment for attending their place of work?

The proposal that "There will now be no second home allowance or claims for food, furniture and fittings, fuel, mortgage interest, rent or council tax." is an acceptable proposal, however it does not address the question of MPs who have - and are - making substantial financial gains having already purchased 'London homes'. It can be argued that any gain made at the point of sale is therefore public money and should be returned to the public. Conversely, any loss incurred should be borne by the MP.

B. Parliamentary Sittings rarely continue past 9pm and therefore no MP living within an accepted commutable distance should receive any overnight accommodation allowance. Why, if Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) is to be discontinued, should an MP within the 'accepted' commuting distance receive any additional payment such as the present Inner London Allowance. It would seem, in any case, that this was a 'sop' to those Inner London MPs who were unable to claim ACA and thus build up a profitable property portfolio. If any MP, outside the 'commutable distance' does require to remain in London then the minimum standard of accommodation should be used, ie a cheap hotel or even bed & breakfast.

C. Accepted.

D. Why do MPs require staff, other than a secretary? One can but repeat an earlier assertion that if one of their number (Hollobone) can manage without staff or employing family members, then so can the rest. MPs have access to what is probably one of the world's best equipped and generously staffed reference sources, namely the House of Commons Library. They also have access to all government departments from which information can be requested.

E. Of course MPs should have to furnish receipts for anything, regardless of cost. The Communications Allowance should be abolished - it has so obviously been abused - any travel should be second class and if an MP wished to avail him/herself of first class facilities, then the difference should be funded by them.

F. Second Incomes: An MP's position, has by nature, to be a full-time occupation if he/she is to fulfill his/her obligations to his/her constituents; therefore secondary occupations, of whatever nature, should be prohibited.

Additional matters arising have not been entered into as the primary objective of this post is to rebut the statement and the points contained therein by Harriet Harman.

It is obvious that this 'intervention' by Gordon Brown and the accompanying statement by Harriet Harman is (a) nothing but a diversionary tactic, as mentioned above and (b) is, in effect, just a 're-arrangement of the deckchairs on the Titanic'.

When will Parliamentarians realize one simple fact - He who pays the piper calls the tune. In plain, simple English that translates into the requirement that the only people who should decide an MP's remuneration and conditions of work is their employers, ie the electorate!

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