TPA submits evidence to the MPs' expenses inquiry

Today, we submitted our evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life's investigation into MPs' expenses. The inquiry is pretty wide-ranging, with a number of questions to be answered on a wide variety of topics, so it's enabled us to set out a pretty comprehensive manifesto for how best to reform the system.


Here is the summary section of the submission:

    •  Reform of the House of Commons expenses system must be comprehensive. Public anger
      demands reforms which will not only lower the overall cost, but which will also remove any
      potential for frivolous, sometimes even fraudulent claims. Crucially, as well as financial
      considerations all reforms must consider the paramount need to restore the public’s faith in


    • The system must be based on expenses – i.e. the reimbursement only of actual outgoings
      essential to Parliamentary work – rather than allowances. The term allowance suggests the
      handing over of a sum of money regardless of the actual cost incurred, which is unacceptable.
      All expenses must be demonstrably necessary to the carrying out of Parliamentary duties; they
      must not in any way be able to finance ‘lifestyle’ choices.


    • There must be no opportunity for financial gain through expenses. For instance MPs should not
      be able to make capital gain on properties they obtain with assistance from the taxpayer; in the
      future accommodation expenses must be restricted to rent or the upkeep of taxpayer owned
      homes. From our own research we have identified the Olympic Village as an ideal place for
      housing MPs.


    • All claims must be backed up with proper receipts; no expenses should be reimbursed unless a
      valid receipt or invoice can be produced, regardless of how small the sum might be. All legal
      statutes governing the use of expenses must be fully applicable to MPs. Similarly, MPs must be
      subject to the same taxes as everyone else; MPs must be subject to the rules which they


    • Transparency must be at the heart of any future system, not just to ensure that MPs abide by
      the rules in future, but also to allay the concerns of the public. A high degree of openness may
      feel intrusive to MPs, but it is essential if Parliament is ever to regain the trust of the people.


    • Transparency must apply to all claims – whether approved or not – and will show complete
      detail. Only specific bank account details should be withheld from the public.


    • Nor should such information have to be hunted out through freedom of information requests; all
      expenses information should be accessible at all times to the public, via the internet and
      through constituency offices.


    • Reform of the expenses system must not entail a rise in MPs’ pay. On all counts – except the
      bogus comparisons of the SSRB – MPs are very well paid, and certainly paid appropriately to the
      demanding job they carry out. Moreover, the public will not tolerate a rise in basic pay to
      compensate MPs for a loss of expenses; not only would this reward MPs for abusing the
      expense system up till now, but MPs are already paid significantly more than their average

The full document is here. We have also applied to give oral evidence to the inquiry, so expect more sparks to fly!

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