Tuesday 10 February 2009

Time to simplify MPs' allowances

The latest stories about MPs' allowances - and attempts by some papers to bring down the Home Secretary over her claim - highlight once again the absurdity of the current system of MPs' pay and allowances.

Instead of allowing MPs to tie themselves in knots over their housing allowances and what they spend at John Lewis to equip their flats, there should be a flat rate accommodation allowance which would allow an MP to rent a decent central London flat and equip it. How they choose to spend that money should then be of little concern: it should be treated like a 'London weighting' cost. The same rate should be paid to any MPs from constituencies outside the London Underground boundaries, and those within but in the outer suburbs should be allowed exceptionally to claim up to £160 for a hotel room if the House sits after 10pm.

All other accommodation allowances should be scrapped. The only real losers would be prurient Sunday newspapers who would be bereft of their pseudo-scandals. The rest of us might benefit from some real news instead.

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