Friday, February 22, 2008

Is a Liberal Democrat MP the front man for profligacy at the House of Commons ?

It seems that the only time a Liberal Democrat answers questions about spending decisions is when Nick Harvey MP acts as spokesman for the Commons Commission. I realise that this body is cross-party in composition and is chaired by the Speaker. But my unease is increasing at having a Liberal Democrat giving answers which reveal what might easily be perceived to be a less than a stringent approach to spending public money by the commission.

In its "Called to ordure" column, the latest Private Eye lists a whole catalogue of answers which Nick Harvey has given over the last year. I realise that these Private Eye "cut and paste" jobs are a bit of stitch-up. But the list of seemingly less than stingy expenditure at least demands some defence to be given to prevent the House of Commons getting an even worse name than it already has.

Here are some of the highlights from Private Eye's list:

-£234 million was spent on Portcullis House but £5.4 million a year is still going on extra offices for MPs.
-Repairs etc came to £24.7 million last year.
-£422,000 spent on a short glass walkway to stop MPs getting wet after parking their cars
-£327,000 to install "motion-sensitive" to a small escalator serving Portcullis House
-The commission employs 85 people on salaties of more than £60,000
-£188,124 spent largely on buying artwork from the estate of the late Tony Banks.
-£1.25 million spent on legal fees since 2003
-£10 million spent last year on "library services" for MPs - five times what was spent in 1987.
-£11.2 million to be spent on the new Visitor Reception building
-£1 million will be spent on "reviewing the lessons learnt" (Nick Harvey's words) from the "cock-up" (Private Eye's words).
-9 press officers are now employed, compared to just one part-timer in 2001.

£1 million to be spent on "reviwing lessons learnt" from a "cock-up" on controlling costs in a building project - that takes the biscuit! The project started off with an estimated price tag of £8.7 million and then this rocketed to £11.2 million because of "technical difficulties" and they are spending £1 million to 'review the lessons learnt' ! If it wasn't Lent, I'd have a stiff Single Malt to recover from that.

It would be nice to hear some defence of this seemingly profliate spending picture.

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