Today the latest list of MPs' expenses was published, much to the horror of taxpayers everywhere. The total this year came to £92.9 million overall, a 6% increase on last year and an average of just over £144,000 per Honourable Member.
This list, combined with the Jacqui Smith scandal earlier in the week, shows that the culture of claiming for everything from a bath plug and a light bulb to a plasma screen TV and antique fireplace is still alive and kicking in Westminster.
Too many MPs are still living high on the hog, despite growing concern amongst ordinary people about how and where their money is being spent. The fact that the bill has jumped yet again shows that plenty of MPs still think taxpayers’ money is there to be slashed, rather than safeguarded. Further, the cost of parliament is only going one way: up. And this is both unsustainable and unacceptable.
There are further rumours that a complete lists of MPs expenses are being touted to national newspapers for £300,000 (or two 'Jacqui's, in parliamentary parlance). Everyone is terribly outraged that somehow this information will get into the public domain before the autumn, when it will be officially published. You can't really blame the media (or anyone else) for getting impatient for the details - it's been a long time coming. Parliament has even been ordered to disclose this information by the High Court and it had no effect.
The simplest way to stop this information being sold would be to take away the market by publishing completely and openly all expenses claimed, with receipts. A total failure to do so is a large part of what has caused this rumpus. Only when taxpayers can see how their money is being spent can they decide for themselves if they are getting value for money.
To continue to deny them this right could be a very expensive mistake, in every sense of the word.