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April 05, 2009


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Paul Flynn

Thanks Richard T. You recall the John Major days. The sex scandals were appearing at weekly intervals. Major sent out an edict that at the first hint of a scandal resignations should be sent in. This was to avoid protracted publicity. This became ridiculous when Hartley-Booth resigned for 'coitus non-startus'.

We seen to have lost that plot. Jacqui Smith is probably doomed as a Home Secretary. Why linger? Why endure another week of embarrassing revelations? It's hard to convince anyone, but most MPs are as surprised and outraged by some of the claims as the general public is.

Richard T

It genuinely grieves me that Labour ministers are using the 'I was only claiming what was within the rules' as their justification. I'm in my early 60's and I know well what what is right and wrong and claiming for money that either you've not spent or, equally bad, that you would have spent anyway had you not been an MP - I have barbeques in mind as a de minimus point - is just wrong. Worse, to my standards, it is not honest.

What on earth are Labour members and ministers doing screwing public money just becaause they can. I'd like just one to say 'I've got this wrong; I didn't need the money and it's coming back'.

This is an area where the Prime Minister as the party leader really should lay down the law or the election will slip away like Major's did with sleaze being pinned on Labour. The Tories know they're vulnerable here as well; their Greater London MPs have milked the system as well look at Eric Pickles and Andrew Rosindell.

Matt Wardman

It looks to me that the Mail will now work through senior government figures covering each in liquid slurry. They won't get my total sympathy as that was what they helped do to Major & Co - though he did walk into it as well, and bloggers need to move it beyond "cynical nihilism" :-) to get into creating a new future.

A lot of us have been plugging away on this for ages, and - of course - we all believe in the political process.

On the running costs, I'll be posting all the details of the Norwegian model later today.

There are also some strategic issues such as how to avoid opening up a trapdoor for the BNP because of inchoate outrage - especially perhaps in trad Lab areas and if UKIP collapse in June in Tory areas.

I thought Nick Harvey's "10 billion for Chelsea Barracks" was hilarious.

Paul Flynn

Thanks you Matt. That's very illuminating and I'm grateful to be added to your roll of honour.

The calculation on the cost of flats are a beginning. At first glance it seems to understate the running costs (council tax , utilities etc) of the dwellings and concentrates on the purchase price. David Cameron spends all his housing allowance on interest payments. That is against the spirit of the allowance but, no doubt, within the letter.

Commons owned flats would be an attractive preferable proposition to the new MPs who will be elected in 2010. They would have been to those of us elected for the first time in 1987. The decision to rent, buy or use hotels in now a personal choice for MPs. All have their problems, risks and advantages.

Matt Wardman

Can I answer your previous question about a special block of flats for MPs not being affordable here?

I think that it would work but no one has done the numbers rigorously. I don't think that this will be a hard argument to win, except that it will damage the amount of money some MPs can make (we actually need it to be a moral imperative for everyone to put a "clean hands" policy in their manifesto).

The Norwegian Parliament has 140 flats for 169 members. We would need up to 646-74 (exclude the Greater London MPs) = 572 or fewer if we remember that places like Watford are perfectly commutable. Call it 550 or a bit less if the Tories reduce the number of MPs.

A 2 bed flat in Pimlico or Westminster costs say £400k (that is Churchill Gardens + 10-15%).

The total outright purchase budget would be £200-£220m or so. MPs are currently perfectly happy living in their own flats in Pimlico by the dozen (e.g., Cambridge Street) so I don't see why we need this "specially built flats for MPs" nonsense.

The budgeted second homes allowance is 23,000 (?) x 646 which comes to £15m a year on its own. At current rates £15m would pay for a £300m 25 year fixed rate repayment mortgage at RETAIL rates, never mind bulk wholesale backed by the UK Government.

Even if we only use 70% of the additional costs allowance (the Mail's estimate) for the Mortgage Part, the numbers still work.

Job done. Or at least job doable.

And that is without any of the other things that need to be done. My argument since I started writing about this in December 2007 has been that MPs should be treated just the same as the Inland Revenue treat the rest of us (which would work wonders for Inland Revenue efficiency too since MPs would be faced with it!). We need to do things such as:

* recovering Mr Hoon's "creatively accounted for" 100k (or whatever it was) plus interest and profits made off the back of it, and ditto for e.g., the Wintertons (to be non-partisan).
* look seriously at backdating a rigorous system for 6-7 years as the Inland Revenue are entitled to do when the rest of us "misinterpret" our finances.

I'd also argue for Member's Resettlement Grant to be replaced completely by a scheme identical to the Civil Service Redundancy Scheme - after all, that is what an Electorate does when a sitting representative is defeated.

And there's a lot more, but we need to move on from the Daily Mail screaming to serious proposals.

This is only going to be nailed by universal public opinion at the next Election.



I would like to thank you for your honesty and integrity in publicly addressing the issue of MPs' expenses as per your interview on Channel 4 news this evening. Until recently, I have always supported Conservative (until the ineffectual Mr Cameron decided to rewrite the history books), so it was always 'easy' to 'blame' Labour for any largesse. Except you are a Labour MP so that is humble pie for me. It is greatly encouraging that SOMEONE has the courage to speak out on this issue that is causing so much irritation for so many people and Mr Brown is quite wrong to state that he has better things to focus on. I honestly do not believe the average soul cares one iota about his 'new world order' (with its Nazi rhetoric undertones ????), what they/we care about is having enough money to pay our bills whilst the likes of Jacqui Smith and Geoff Hoon stick two fingers up at the system that allows them to behave so amorally. Do they really believe that the majority of the electorate is unable to differentiate between what is legal and what is right?

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