Rarely have I felt so apprehensive about a public meeting.
Having been in the business for a lifetime, I rarely worry about making the odd speech. Tonight was different. Answering well founded anger would be fine. But the prospect of facing the unreason and venom of recent TV audiences was daunting. I had invited Newport West voters in a newspaper advert to question me on parliamentary expenses. My full expenses details were circulated at the meeting including the unpublished claims for 2008-09. The meeting room was full. But the response was universally warm and support. My political oppenents either failed to turn up or stayed silent. No sign of the sneering local bloggers who were elsewhere hiding behind their obscentities.
I circulated this list of parliamentary reforms. The debate was thoughtful, inspiring and practical. There was none of hysteria or malice that inflame much public opinion. There is great regret at the damage done to our democratic system.No wonder I believe I have the best constituents of any MP.
The old parliamentary ‘Gentlemen’s Club is finished. The replacement of the present Speaker was an essential first step in instituting reforms. Generally party leaders are proposing changes that will assist their own parties.
Expenses: Sir Christopher Kelly’s Committee will report on expenses in the autumn. Sir Christopher is accountable to the Public Administration Committee (PASC) I am a member of PASC I will give evidence and press for immediate implementation of root and branch reforms. There has been outrage because many millionaire MPs, of all parties, have been milking parliamentary allowances for items unconnected with parliamentary duties. Payments in future should match individual MPs’ needs or be incorporated at a reduced rate into salaries.
Lobbying: PASC has demanded full transparency for lobbying organisations. The present arrangements allow influence to be bought. It is potentially corrupting – or worse. We are pressing for mandatory disclosures. Not all parties agree.
Double Jobbing: An MP’s job is a full time one. Those who take outside jobs should have their moonlighting hours declared and parliamentary pay adjusted to reflect outside incomes. Former ministers and top civil servants should be barred from taking jobs in those areas in which they served.
Pensions: MPs pensions are based on final salaries. Many other occupational pensions are declining in value. MPs should not be seen to have a pension system that is more favourable than those outside of parliament.