Alex Massie

In which, whisper it, I confess to feeling sorry for MPs

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So, the expenses scandal may finally be coming towards a close. We can only hope so. The leaks emanating from the Kelly report suggest that MPs will only be able to claim for rent, not mortgages, on their second homes. This seems reasonable. Less sensible, however, is the proposal that MPs be banned from employing members of their family.

Apart from the obvious potential for legal challenges to this proposal, it's manifestly unfair and ridiculous in equal measure. In the first place, it's not clear that MPs should be singled out in this fashion. Secondly, it creates the absurd situation in which it would, presumably, be OK for an MP to employ his mistress but decidedly not OK for him to employ his wife. Then, if he decided, as has been known to happen, to divorce Mrs MP and marry his mistress he would, presumably, need to sack her as soon as the happy couple return from their honeymoon.

For that matter, the question of who MPs may or may not employ is not really any of Sir Christopher Kelly's business. That's something for voters to bear in mind. It is the voters who should decide an MPs' fate, not some technocrat at Westminster.

Fundamentally, however, what we'll probably discover here is that increased regulation simply replaces old absurdities and loopholes with new ones.

A simple system mandating the publication of an MPs' expenses and use of reasonably-defined allowances is actually probably all the transparency that's needed. The voters can do the rest. And if they decide that they're quite happy being represented by spivs or thieves or charlatans then so be it. That's one of the prices of democracy. 

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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