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August 19, 2012 / politicsbitesize

MPs’ expenses

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and his wife, Samantha, are currently soaking up the sun in Mallorca, while our Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is visiting his wife’s family in Olmeda, Spain. Sounds lovely, and as Mr Cameron quite rightly pointed out earlier this week, ‘Politicians are human beings and they need to have holidays’.

Hear, hear! Most fair-minded people would think that it is reasonable that all working individuals get a chance to spend time enjoying a relaxing break away from the office. Those same fair-minded folk would expect all of these tranquil holidays to be funded by the salaries of those working individuals, without exception. And, for once, it seems that all of the MPs currently vacationing have coughed up for their own hotels, sangria and tapas from the salaries they receive from the taxpayer.

In this age of austerity it would be surprising if the general public took too kindly to MPs claiming for a week in the sun on expenses. Yet, even after the expenses scandal of 2009, MPs are still receiving perks that the very same right-minded people mentioned above would find appalling. So, what do our elected representatives in government receive thanks to our hard earned taxes?

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) was created in 2009 to independently monitor and control MPs’ expenses, pay and pensions. They regularly publish details of expenses claimed by MPs across the UK. In 2010, IPSA announced that MPs’ salaries would be frozen at £65,738 per annum. According to the Annualised Expense Data spreadsheet, which is freely available to download from IPSA, most MPs on average claim £15,000 on accommodation and around £9,000 on travel expenses per year.

The accommodation expense, or ‘second homes allowance’, was targeted by Freedom of Information campaigners in 2009 because they felt that it was open to abuse. A BBC news report identified that the second homes allowance ‘covers things like mortgage interest payments on second homes and utility bills’. The allowance is given to MPs who have homes in their constituencies but who also need a place to stay in London when on parliamentary duty. However, in some cases MPs were claiming second homes allowance on constituency properties that were only a few miles from Central London.

On his return from Mallorca perhaps David Cameron and IPSA could get together to discuss a reduction in certain expenses as a way to reduce the nation’s deficit. An MP’s salary of £65,738 per year should cover the cost of his or her mortgage payments and utility bills. After all, the fair-minded working people out there seem to manage to pay their monthly mortgage payments (inclusive of interest) from their salaries.

Then, after the Prime Minister has attended the opening ceremony of the Paralympics, he and Lord Coe could find a quiet spot in the taxpayer-subsidised bar at Westminster to discuss what to do with the Olympic Village. Might the right-minded among us suggest that it could house MPs on parliamentary business, thus reducing the accommodation expenses of over 652 MPs to zero and saving the taxpayer (and therefore the Treasury) some £9.8m per year?

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