AS we near European elections with a general election not that far off, it is interesting to consider the question of MPs’ expenses.
Some of the allegations of more bizarre claiming include former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott’s £312 for fitting mock Tudor beams and two toilet seats in his constituency home and the Marquess of Lothian who repaid £98 he had claimed for servicing his swimming pool’s boiler.
Believe it or not, there was actually a £380 claim made for horse manure, another MP allegedly claimed £1,645 for a duck house while yet another MP felt entitled to a refund for a trouser press he bought!
Those are just some of the more outlandish claims for expenses, but they are certainly not the most serious which often involved huge sums of money linked to claims centred on where an MP might live, rent, property purchase and property renovation. That was where the big bucks were claimed.
Still you must have some sympathy for MPs who have to exist on a paltry £67,000 a year.
The question I’m interested in is not the public vilification for a series of questionable expenses we know about. It is, what expenses don’t we know about?
These are people who get their £67,000 wage to represent us in Parliament, so how does it feel for people in other countries to view MPs’ antics as representative of the rest of us?
Leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, doesn’t it, because I certainly don’t view some of the claims – which can run into tens of thousands of pounds – as representative of myself other than the fact I’m having to pay some of it through my contributions to the Government!
To be honest – no pun intended – I don’t know what the solution is.
MPs are clearly entitled to claim expenses, but that assumes a whole ballot box of things including not just that the MP is honest and the expenses claim is genuine but that the claim isn’t engineered to be honest.
There have been many angry accusations that a number of “expenses” have been tailored so that, while members of the public might be incensed if they knew about what an MP was trying to get a refund for, that refund is not actually outside the guidelines set by Parliament.
Many such claims have been publicly highlighted and the defence has always been that, while people may not like or approve of such expenditure, it doesn’t actually break any rules.
When all is said and done, our MPs’ financial antics pale into insignificance when stacked up against those of MEPs whose £180,000+ average income does not include a £217,000 office allowance available to each of them not to mention free haircuts and 52 gallons of petrol per month!
The trough is clearly open to abuse as a number of MEPs are happy to turn up at Euro HQ for just a few minutes to ensure they get their 300 Euro a day attendance allowance!
All in all, high level politics seems a nice job if you can get it.