Friday, May 15, 2009

Time for government flats for MPs

This week I have seen at first hand the anger of the public, normally taciturn on matters politique, on the expenses scandal.

The Additional Costs Allowance is at the heart of the problem.

Nick Clegg suggests a givey-backey scheme whereby the MP claims mortgage payments and then sells the property when they stop being an MP and gives the profit on the equity back to the state. There are several reasons why this is impractical and unlikely to lead to a completely straight system, which is what is needed to respond to the extreme public anger on this issue.

Firstly, there is the issue of title. Who owns the house (or the rights to it once the mortgage is paid off)? If it is the MP then once they stop being an MP why could they not keep the property and used it as a pad in London? And what happens if the price of the property goes down while the MP is in it?

This scheme would also allow MPs to buy very expensive houses and claim very high mortgage payments which the public may and probably will regard as exorbitant.

In essence, the givey-backey scheme is too messy and too redolent of the current stinky scheme.

So I am now convinced that the the best way of dealing with this problem is for the government to invest in flats in central London for MPs to use while they are on Westminster business. The flats should be reasonably standard and comfortable. They should be furnished so there is no nonsense about purchasing furniture etc.

MPs should also be subject to normal HMRC rules on expenses. I suspect that these preclude food hand-outs, but I am not sure.

At the very least, rented or hotel accommodation only should be used.

There should be no half-way houses (excuse the pun) in the reformed system. It is time to put a stop to all this nonsense and have a completely transparent and fair system. Government-owned flats is the only solution which meets that objective.

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