The Thick of It

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Thursday, May 14, 2009

MPs' expenses: payback

The row over MPs' expenses has caused carnage in Westminster, directly implicating all three main party leaders and a host of others. Politicians are queuing up to apologise for making extravagant claims and to state how "strongly" they feel that the system is wrong. How few have actually acted to show that they understand the public anger is incredibly disappointing. Care Minister Phil Hope showed he gets this, while Ann Widdecomb showed a lack of understanding in criticising David Cameron's crackdown.

Widdecomb's is right to point out that we don't want to end with a parliamentary system that only allows the rich to become MPs. Criticising any clampdown while the public backlash against the current expense system is misguided and will win few plaudits.

It is right that there should be an independent investigation into the MP expense system. Public money should be treated with respect and the simplest way to resolve this row is to simply pay MPs more and expect them to cover their expenses from their salaries, just like the rest of us. MPs' pay should also be assessed independently. The days of MPs voting on their own pay rises has gone. MPs have shown that they can't manage their own expenses so we can't expect them to manage their pay either.

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