James Forsyth

Don’t be fooled by Kelly’s 60 minute rule

Don't be fooled by Kelly's 60 minute rule
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Next week is going to be dominated by Sir Christopher Kelly’s scheme for reforming MPs’ expenses and allowances. The party leaders are trying to force these reforms through, believing that it would be disastrous for the reputation of politics if MPs don’t accept these reforms in full. But the leaks about what Kelly will propose suggest that some of his ideas are ill thought-out and should not be accepted in full.

Take the proposal that all MPs whose constituency station is within 60 minutes of a London train station will not be allowed to claim support for a second home. But this ignores the time it takes an MP both to get to his constituency station and to get from a London station to the Commons. For instance, an MP whose train comes into Charing Cross or Waterloo can be confident that they can be at Parliament within ten minutes of arriving at the station. By contrast, someone who gets into Paddington or Liverpool Street needs to budget close to half an hour to get to the Commons. In reality, the Kelly plan will mean that some MPs have to commute for two hours each way — some will be spending a sixth of their day on the move.

If we want MPs to do the amount of constituency case work that they currently do and to scrutinise the executive properly, then they need to live in two places. Surely, the sensible thing to do would be for Parliament to buy hundreds of flats within easy reach of Westminster and assign them to MPs like they assign them office space.