From time to time there is media coverage – often billed as an investigation, but actually built on information which we make available for all to see – which criticises MPs or pokes fun at them because of the cost of running their Parliamentary office or travelling in their constituency. At times, I feel some of this goes beyond holding to account and becomes an unfair attack on individuals or MPs as a group. Such articles invariably include the line ‘MPs don’t get it’ before raising eyebrows about the business costs MPs incur in going about their duties of serving constituents or legislating.
Before reaching for such hackneyed lines, it is worth remembering that there has been major reform. The system is unrecognisable from the one in 2009 – and rightly so. We now have clear rules properly enforced. Genuine transparency meaning all claims are online for anyone to see. At times that has meant some try to trivialise the smaller amounts. These claims provide support to help MPs do their Parliamentary work and are published in such detail because the stationery bills are itemised and we ask MPs to account for individual journeys in the constituency. This approach has to be the right one, doesn’t it?
And, in addition to this new approach of openness, the changes we have introduced have saved the taxpayer around £35m since 2010.
The crisis is over. The system is working. And the taxpayer and public are benefitting. And MPs are getting the support they need to do their job
Yesterday, I sent the following letter to the Daily Mail for publication:
In response to the article published on Saturday, claiming ‘Proof expenses loving MPs still don’t get it’, it is worth making three points.
First, in response to the suggestion that MPs are squeezing every last penny out of the taxpayer – that simply isn’t right. IPSA has checks in place to stop that happening. We have actually saved the taxpayer around £35m since 2010.
Second, the list of office costs you cite as evidence of abuse are no such thing. MPs should not have to fund the costs of running an office from their own pockets – doing so would make Parliament the preserve of the rich.
Third, the idea ‘they don’t get it’ ignores the major reform to MPs’ costs and expenses we’ve introduced. There is now real transparency which is why your paper and any member of the public can go online and see in precise detail what their MP has claimed for. Add to that the savings for the taxpayer of £35m and it is clear that things really have changed for the better.
Sir Ian Kennedy