The expenses scandal rumbles on. The revelations of the past 10 days or so have lifted the lid on a culture of recklessness and greed in Westminster. Receipt after receipt for items such as bathplugs and light bulbs have exasperated the people paying for it all – the taxpayers.
One of the ideas mooted has been to increase MPs’ salaries, thereby negating the need for expense claims. This is not an acceptable solution. In fact, the word solution implies that there is a problem to start with, and a salary of well over £60,000 doesn’t seem like such a big problem. It puts MPs in the top 3 per cent of earners in the country and is a more than fair wage.
Besides, many of the well publicised expense claims had nothing to do with carrying out duties related to their job. A bump in wages would merely mean the taxpayer continues to foot the bill for scatter cushions and massage chairs. MPs are paid handsomely and many have extra-parliamentary salaries in addition to their main pay cheque, for work as Ministers or Committee Chairman for example. The actions of some MPs are indefensible, and the array of excuses set out has been simultaneously laughable and infuriating. Also inadequate are the obligatory cheque-waving and the offers to pay back money. The initial immoral act means that this doesn’t wash as an excuse, and these acts of contrition do not change the fact that some MPs have betrayed the trust of taxpayers.
The Speaker Michael Martin has shown no desire to reform the crooked system that he oversees. Quite the opposite – he has fought against the publication of MPs’ expenses and helped to perpetuate the abuse of the system. While MPs that have made excessive and unnecessary claims should bear the responsibility of their actions, the Speaker must also be held accountable for his failure to transform the system. He should go, and make way for someone intent on implementing genuine change.
MPs that are innocent of any wrongdoing are also implicated in the scandal by association, and this is wholly unfair. Drastic steps need to be taken to find out who is in the wrong, but it is just as important to clear the names of the good guys. The only way this can happen is to publish all of the receipts in full now, today, not in July. We have started a petition with Freedom of Information campaigner Heather Brooke for full transparency, and at present we have over 5,200 signatures. It can be signed here.
We have also joined up with the Daily Mail to start a ‘Bring them to Justice’ campaign, and if a public prosecution is not launched, the TaxPayers’ Alliance will launch a private prosecution. It is vital that MPs are not above the law, and as such if any law has been broken then the appropriate action should be taken.
Nothing short of drastic reform will sate the enraged public and half-hearted fudge will simply not do.