Lawmakers shouldn’t be lawbreakers

November 25, 2011 3:55 PM

In which area of work could you overclaim from a generous system of allowances, be found guilty of said offence, go to jail for it, not pay the money back, and return to work later as if nothing had happened? The  House of Lords.

Since the expenses scandal, there has rightly been increased public scrutiny of how Parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money. It has also shown how difficult it is to remove our lawmakers. In the Lords, it needs an Act of Parliament. In the Commons, MPs are only certain of expulsion if they are jailed for an offence for a year or more. It is absurd that our legislative chambers are not tougher on criminals who are claiming to work for us.

The problem is that MPs and Lords deliberately misused the system that entitled them to taxpayers’ money – and peers even think they have a right to return. Since the expenses scandal broke, there has been more and more talk of people feeling that their politicians are out of touch. Having expense cheats reclaim their position will only increase the anti-politics sentiment. While Lord Taylor makes an interesting point about how he can provide a different sort of contribution to Lords debates on prison reform following his release from jail, it is naïve to suggest that peers would not explore other ways to gain the views of people with relevant experience anyway. An interesting excuse, but not one that stacks up.

Reforms of “the system” are essential – the current situation where Parliamentarians can commit crimes and return to their respective chambers must end. If Parliament won’t act, it should allow the people to. The TPA has long-supported the right of recall for Members of Parliament. It has been discussed by politicians for yearsWe wrote about it in 2009 and it featured in our manifesto before the last general election. If an MP has abused the system, it shouldn’t be up to some anonymous committee in a smoke-filled room to decide the punishment. The system should be in place for, should enough of their constituents deem it necessary, the right to recall MPs if they are engaging in criminal activity. However, in the House of Lords, this facility couldn’t be an option because the chamber is unelected. While the merits and demerits of an elected second chamber is another issue altogether, it is vital that peers are subject to the same, if not more, scrutiny as their counterparts in the Commons.

As if to add a further insult to taxpayers, the current system permits suspended peers to continue to claim an allowance upon their return to the chamber, even if they are not able to pay back the money they stole from the public purse.  If a shopkeeper saw a robber stealing from the till, would they invite them back to browse after their sentence was served? Taxpayers are fed up of the political class living in a different world. It is time politicians took action to ensure such abuses of power and trust never happen again.In which area of work could you overclaim from a generous system of allowances, be found guilty of said offence, go to jail for it, not pay the money back, and return to work later as if nothing had happened? The  House of Lords.

Since the expenses scandal, there has rightly been increased public scrutiny of how Parliamentarians spend taxpayers’ money. It has also shown how difficult it is to remove our lawmakers. In the Lords, it needs an Act of Parliament. In the Commons, MPs are only certain of expulsion if they are jailed for an offence for a year or more. It is absurd that our legislative chambers are not tougher on criminals who are claiming to work for us.

The problem is that MPs and Lords deliberately misused the system that entitled them to taxpayers’ money – and peers even think they have a right to return. Since the expenses scandal broke, there has been more and more talk of people feeling that their politicians are out of touch. Having expense cheats reclaim their position will only increase the anti-politics sentiment. While Lord Taylor makes an interesting point about how he can provide a different sort of contribution to Lords debates on prison reform following his release from jail, it is naïve to suggest that peers would not explore other ways to gain the views of people with relevant experience anyway. An interesting excuse, but not one that stacks up.

Reforms of “the system” are essential – the current situation where Parliamentarians can commit crimes and return to their respective chambers must end. If Parliament won’t act, it should allow the people to. The TPA has long-supported the right of recall for Members of Parliament. It has been discussed by politicians for yearsWe wrote about it in 2009 and it featured in our manifesto before the last general election. If an MP has abused the system, it shouldn’t be up to some anonymous committee in a smoke-filled room to decide the punishment. The system should be in place for, should enough of their constituents deem it necessary, the right to recall MPs if they are engaging in criminal activity. However, in the House of Lords, this facility couldn’t be an option because the chamber is unelected. While the merits and demerits of an elected second chamber is another issue altogether, it is vital that peers are subject to the same, if not more, scrutiny as their counterparts in the Commons.

As if to add a further insult to taxpayers, the current system permits suspended peers to continue to claim an allowance upon their return to the chamber, even if they are not able to pay back the money they stole from the public purse.  If a shopkeeper saw a robber stealing from the till, would they invite them back to browse after their sentence was served? Taxpayers are fed up of the political class living in a different world. It is time politicians took action to ensure such abuses of power and trust never happen again.

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