Hardly a day goes by without some fresh scandal from Parliament. The Conway case may have been particularly spectacular, but scores of "honourable" members clearly think tax-funded nepotism is perfectly OK. And as the Wintertons' Death Tax deal has shown, there are no end of other possibilities for extracting money from us.
And it isn't just MPs. The entire Westminster setup seems to operate on a them and us basis that gives absolutely no thought to the wishes (or wallets) of taxpaying voters. Today we hear the admin chief who supposedly oversees expenses - Malcolm Jack, the Clerk of the Commons - has spent £100 grand of our money on a lavish makeover for his grace and favour house. It included a £39,000 kitchen (bespoke furniture, a “butler’s tray”, granite work surfaces), and "two Ionic columns costing £963".
It's time for taxpayers to remind themselves just how much the whole thing costs us.
For obvious reasons, Parliament doesn't headline the figures, so we need to delve into some accounting annexes.
1. House of Commons
First, we have Members' costs. The latest Resource Accounts record total costs of £156m in 2006-07, broken down as follows:
So with 646 MPs, that means each one costs us £85,000 pa in salary, pension contributions and employment taxes. Those troublesome "staffing allowances" cost us an additional £57.9m pa- £90,000 for each MP. Then there's incidental expenses, additional cost allowances, and travel expenses, totalling a further £30.7m (£48,000 each).
Add in the £6.4m pa given to opposition parties (Short Money), and support items like IT, and the overall total for each MP goes up to £242,000 pa.
But that's only part of the bill: we also need to add in the costs of running the Commons itself. According to the HoC Administration Resource Accounts 2006-07, those costs total £210m, which is a further £325,000 per MP.
What does it go on?
Well, £65.4m goes on staff costs. Malcolm Jack, the man with the £100 grand house makeover, earns £165,000 pa, plus an index-linked pension entitlement of £85K pa. He's in the front centre below, and we might take a moment to review his admin colleagues:
From the back left:
- Andrew Walker- £110K
- Peter Grant Peterkin CB OBE- £100K
- Helen Irwin- £120K
- John Pullinger- £105K
- Lorraine Sutherland- £90K
- Joan Miller- £90K
- Malcolm Jack- £165K
- Sue Harrison- £90K
For government admin jobs, that's not bad. Not bad at all. And remember the gold plated pension is on top. No wonder Hon Members reckon they're so underpaid.
Exactly where the rest of the money goes is somewhat murky, but there are a few more details in the latest annual report of the House of Commons Commission. £12m pa goes on printing all those Hansards and assorted reports. And a whacking £5m pa goes on subsidising the "Refreshment" Department- which gets a 40% subsidy:
(Connoisseurs of misleading charts should check out this one's lefthand axis).
Adding it all together we get a total cost for the Commons- members plus administrative costs- of £366m ,which is £567,000 per MP.
2. House of Lords
According to this handy HoL factsheet, the Lords is as cheap as chips. Gold ones anyway.
In 2006-07 it cost us £98.6m, broken down as follows (actually the overall cost in 2006-07 was £106m, but for some unknown reason the Lords pie chart excludes £8m of that):
As we know, members of the Lords are not salaried, but they can claim expenses: the daily maxima from in 2006-07 were £159.50 for overnight accommodation, £79.50 for day subsistence, and £69 for office costs.
The top official there is Sir Paul Hayter (see p35 here), who gets £160,000, plus that pension. There are three other admin officials on over £100,000.
3. Total cost of Parliament
Drawing this together, the total cost of Parliament is now running at around £0.5bn pa.
Some might argue that £20 pa per household is not a great deal of money. But we say £20 is much more than we should be spending on a plush London club. Especially when its members routinely lecture the rest of us on how to live while seemingly helping themselves to the petty cash.
We should no longer take anything on trust.