The last century has seen a well-intentioned, but largely self-defeating, attempt to improve the honesty, responsiveness, and accountability of our political system by spending more on it. Instead, we have seen the rise of an increasingly well insulated professional political class, the hollowing out of voluntary parties, and the creation of an institutional ratchet which is dragging political thought to the statist establishment left.
1911 saw the first Parliamentary pay structure introduced in an attempt to curb what were perceived to be unaccountable outside influences on MPs’ political priorities and decision-making. It was also an attempt to widen access to political careers. The second of these reasons, however, does not really stand up as a justification. This reform happened at a time when such access was already widening considerably, largely as a result of the “outside influences” – or independent interests, such as trade unions, cooperative societies and philanthropists. The widening access we have seen over the past century would be likely to have occurred anyway. So, we are left with a system which depends for its legitimacy on the somewhat contentious proposition that the last century has seen a profound and remarkable rise in the honesty and fairmindedness of our Parliament.
The payroll for our MPs, in turn, led to allowances for Peers, MPs’ expenses, and the proliferation of MPs’ staff, and most perniciously of all, Short Money.
Clearly Parliamentarians and their staff must be paid but each extension of the taxpayer’s largesse has helped to establish a career path for the so-called “career politicians” of tabloid ire and a largely unaccountable ecosystem of policy advisors, researchers and party staff insulated from outside influences, contributing to the increasing disconnect between political decision-makers and the wider community. As with any institution, these party machines have developed their own independent interests and agendas.
Ex-high court judge rules risk of ‘embarrassing’ MPs no reason to withhold information
They were revealed by a Freedom of Information request which the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority tried to block.
The Telegraph reported last night the watchdog feared the “chilling effect” it could have on its relationship with politicians and claimed it could reduce public confidence in the regulatory system.
But it was over-ruled by a former High Court judge who said the risk of “embarrassing” MPs was no reason to keep the information secret.
It mirrors the initial reluctance of parliamentary authorities to release information on MPs’ expenses 10 years ago, when the scandal was uncovered only when it was leaked to the same newspaper.
The release of the credit card data showed MPs are regularly having their credit cards suspended for failing to provide receipts in a timely fashion or claiming for disallowed items, with 377 MPs sanctioned since 2015.
CLAIRE PERRY, THE ENERGY AND CLIMATE CHANGE MINISTER WHO ATTENDS CABINET, ADMITTED WRONGLY USING HER PARLIAMENTARY CREDIT CARD TO PAY FOR HER AMAZON PRIME SUBSCRIPTION.
Since the 2015 election, 377 MPs have all had their credit cards suspended, documents released under the Freedom of Information Act
Analysis of figures since the 2009 scandal show expenses continue to rise
Some increases have been driven by rising staff wages and fewer internships
Richest MP who owns estate where Pippa Middleton married made loo claims
Over 10 years 500 MPs have exploited a loophole to get free first-class travel
It comes as a Tory MP faces a possible jail sentence for fiddling his expenses
MPs are claiming one fifth more on their taxpayer-funded expenses than they did at the height of the 2009 expenses scandal which rocked faith in politicians for a generation, it has emerged.
The latest claims signed off by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) include £180 spent by Jeremy Corbyn last March on artwork for a ‘Jeremy Corbyn MP calendar’, and the cost of two replacement toilet seats for the office of Britain’s wealthiest MP, Tory Richard Benyon.
The 2009 furore – which unearthed lurid details of MPs ‘flipping’ their designated second home, and claiming for duck houses and moat cleaning – forced six ministers from office and sent five members of Parliament to jail.
At the nadir of the scandal in February 2010, 389 MPs – more than half the House – were ordered to repay a total of £1.1 million to the Treasury over inappropriate expense claims.
It is one rule for those that make the laws and another for those that do not, where is that in the question of Equality for it should be the other way round. Those with less should gain more than those with more to equate to equality.
If the MPs are to receive a further pay rise then they should forego all their expenses and also their subsidised bar, for what group of employees are entitled to drink at work and with their substantial pay rises they could more afford to pay the full price for their enjoyment.
He added: “I do give a lot of money to charity. But frankly, put your heart on your sleeve and say ‘I’m giving the entire lot to charity’ – at that point it actually ceases to become charity doesn’t it?”
The £81,000 Mr Jones paid back after the expenses scandal was the highest single repayment made by any MP.
The pay rise was announced by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) on Thursday, just a week after public sector workers had their wage increases limited to 1% for four years in Chancellor George Osborne’s budget.
It also comes hot on the heels of a 18.5% increase to Assembly Members basic salaries – seeing them earn £64,000 if re-elected next year.
‘MPs can’t win’
Mr Jones added: “It seems to me that MPs can’t actually win, when they are in charge of their own expenses they get pilloried, they are handed over to an independent body and they are still pilloried – and I just don’t understand why.”
The former Welsh Secretary came out with the response when called for a response to the increase, saying he didn’t understand why the press were reacting in such a way.
He said: “The press spent several months at our expense making our lives hell in 2009.
“The issue of MPs pay was quite properly taken out of MPs hands, the independent body has made the award… that is the end of the matter as far as I’m concerned.”
Nine living Welsh Secretaries
He said: “I don’t know what you would like [MPs] to do… Would you like us to take control of our own expenses again?”
Other North Wales MPs have said they will donate the rise to charity, in line with a decision by Assembly Members who were recommended to take a rise after a similar independent review.
Susan Elan Jones, Labour MP for Clwyd South, said she had always opposed the rise and had urged her constituents to write in against it.
She added she would be donating any rise to local charities.
‘There are real issues about the proposed rise’
Ms Jones said: “When so many people in the public and private sectors have only low or sometimes no annual rises and our local councils in Wrexham and Denbighshire don’t even pay everyone the living wage, I think there are real issues about the proposed rise.”
But Wrexham Labour MP Ian Lucas said the suggested pay rise was “the right the decision has been taken out of MPs’ hands. It makes no sense to reject its recommendation.”
Delyn MP David Hanson is also at odds with his own party. Welsh Labour told the Daily Post “now is not the right time to increase MPs’ take-home pay”, but Mr Hanson said:
“MPs’ pay is set independently of MPs and Ipsa have had a full consultation on their proposal, the outcome of which I accept.
“The changes are cost neutral and are paid for by reductions elsewhere in MPs’ budgets and allowances.”