MPs’ expenses scandal lives on

Claire Perry © Getty images
Energy Minister Claire Perry claimed for her three children aged 17, 19 and 22

“Nearly a decade ago, in the wake of the expenses scandal, parliament declared itself thoroughly cleaned up,” says The Daily Telegraph. It has now been revealed that, following a “series of creeping rule changes”, some MPs are able to claim nearly double the amount to which they were previously entitled.

Before 2009, MPs were able to claim up to £24,000 for buying and furnishing a London property. Some were claiming for mortgage interest and, when the properties were sold, avoiding capital gains tax and pocketing the gains. In 2010 it was decided that MPs could claim up to £1,450 a month to rent a second home in London.

Over the years, additional payments for dependent children have become more generous. Today, MPs can claim £5,435 a year for each “dependent” child under 21. As a result, they are “increasingly claiming” that children over 18 who do not live with them are dependents.

The fact that the total amount claimed is edging up to pre-2009 levels should come as “no surprise”, says Tom Harris on CapX. Rental costs are frequently higher than an interest-only mortgage. The previous system was “cynically exploited”, but we do need a system that doesn’t leave MPs “out of pocket” when they’re in London. The case for an annual flat rate payment needs to be made. Spending more than necessary on repayments to MPs and on an “expensive and cumbersome” quango (Ipsa) to oversee them is unsustainable.

When dreaming up a new system, we should also consider the effect that the 2009 “public shaming” has had on British politics, says Douglas Murray on UnHerd. It has discouraged the bright, talented people with a variety of “lucrative side careers” from entering politics. The House of Commons today is increasingly full of people who are “timid, limited” career politicians “for whom politics is absolutely everything and who, therefore, have very little to bring to it”.