MEMBERS of Parliament are used to seeing newspaper headlines which, shall we say, doesn’t always put them in a favourable light.
However, last week’s reports from some sections of the national media of the vote on MPs’ allowances were misleading and distorted.
It came after MPs from the Labour and Conservative benches, as well as two independents, voted like me to reject the new proposals in favour of the existing allowance arrangements.
The proposals put forward to change the allowances system would have left us with one which would be hugely bureaucratic and costly.
One colleague quite rightly warned that if we were minded to accept the changes, we would have ended up with teams of highly-paid, publicly-funded accountants travelling the length and breadth of the United Kingdom checking how much MPs are spending on paper clips or tea bags. It would have cost millions and yet failed to create the more efficient and fair system which is what everyone, including me, wants.
With over 74,000 electors in West Lancashire, the amount of work generated is considerable. Therefore, the allowances are used to rent an office in the constituency, employ staff and to cover the costs of running the office, including stationery, utility bills etc. It works out that to around £1.90 per elector per year. The latest available allowance information is available here.
With regard to the below inflation pay rise, I believe that MPs should be treated the same as the rest of the public sector, which is why I voted against the full implementation of the Baker report but for a staged increased as was applied to the police.
I welcome the fact that MPs will no longer vote on their pay, but I don’t pretend the current system is perfect or that I have a magic answer to accommodating MPs in London for the four or five days a week they are required to be in Parliament.
MPs must be subject to proper scrutiny, which I welcome. But I would never vote for anything which would leave us with a more bureaucratic and less open and transparent system than we have at present.
I look forward to sensible revisions of the allowances in the future.