Where Angles Fear to Tread

October 14, 2009


Filed under: Politics, UK Politics — Right Angle @ 11:27 am

So the expenses scandal is long behind us, and a newly revamped houses of parliment engage on the final year of this particular government…

… except of course that it hasn’t quite happened that way. Sir Thomas Legg has written to all MPs either asking for the return of  money, or for clarification on the calculation of their expenses. However, the leaders of the three main parties are now desperate to ‘fire’ anyone who refuses to pay (including Gordon Brown who has been ‘asked’ to pay back £12,500) and Nick Clegg wants Sir Legg to do more.

However, there does seem to be a problem with the way that this investigation has been conducted and the information requested in some of the letters. Whilst I don’t agree that MPs should have their houses furbished at tax payer’s expenses, and clearly a duck house was an interesting interpretation of the rules, to change rules and retrospectively apply them is not a good method for achieving co-operation. The reason for these changes appears to be that the Sir Thomas is applying the ‘spirit’ of the rules and not the letter of the rules. There is only one possible outcome to this choice of direction, and that is legal battles from MPs who will win, and look bad doing it.

The investigation was supposed to put an end to the issue and correctly identify those MPs who have been dishonest with their claims. However, it now looks as if it will prolong the expenses row even longer and create more bad headlines for MPs who were – genuinely – just following the rules.

Is there a solution? Fewer MPs and more generous pay with no expenses system seems to be the obvious solution, although that doesn’t look like it will popular amongst the electorate.



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