Sunday, 22 March 2009

Time to simplify and cut MPs' allowances

The Mail on Sunday's campaign against politicians continues today in its attack on jobs minister Tony McNulty. Like Jacqui Smith, he has been pilloried for how he has allegedly used his second home allowance. Next week, doubtless someone else will be picked off by the paper. Neither McNulty nor Smith were breaking any rules - but they are victims of a ridiculous system of allowances which should be scrapped forthwith.

Instead, there should be a very simple flat rate payment to MPs who live outside London - McNulty suggests himself a 40 mile radius would make sense - for accommodation, utilities and transport which should be enough to run a decent flat and cover rail or air fares (perhaps banded for those living furthest away). It should be significantly less than what is currently paid, but sufficient, with no John Lewis lists.

But it should then be entirely up to MPs whether they use it to pay rent, stay in hotels, pay a mortgage or stop in a youth hostel. In other words, rather than encouraging creative interpretations of the rules, it would be seen as a part of their salaries. And how they spent it would be nobody's business but their own. For those living closer to London, there might be a free rail season ticket and the occasional overnight hotel room where business demanded it.

The whole thing would be a lot cheaper - a target of halving the total cost should be set - as the size of the allowance would be cut, and as there would be far fewer administrative overheads, with no need for ever-expanding audits. And we would not have the absurd weekly attempts to portray politicians who are decent, hard-working and honourable people - as both Tony and Jacqui are - as corrupt chancers. The only losers would be certain Sunday papers. But I think we could live with that.

1 comment:

Richard T said...

I think you miss a point. In the real world business expenses are payable for expenditure actually and necessarily incurred in the course of work. These second home allowances whilst no doubt designed for MPs who actualy do live a long way off have been applied to a lodger chez her sister (who I hope got paid all Jacquie Smith claimed dand is now being taxed on it) and a man who stays in Hammersmith what about 10 miles from his constituency.

Neither Jacquie Smith nor Tom McNulty had to claim the allowances. They could perfectly well have said I'm not really entitled since I'm not really spending anything much extra and I'm on a pretty good salary. It is public money after all and not designed to enrich already well off folk.

There is a sweet heart deal with the Inland Revenue which screws ordinary workers into the ground - like a ceiling of £8,000 on tax free resettlement payments even where these are clearly reimbursement for actual expenditure; equally any payment for maintaining a second home is taxed in full so why should these parasites get away with it? No doubt the press is busily combing through for more abuses because this is what both these cases are.

My real point is that this screwing of the public purse decreases the respect which we should normally have for folk who are doing a difficult and very complex job. Instead their GREED plays into the hands of the BNP and other denigrators of public service like the Mail.