Alex Massie

MPs Expenses vs Congressional Claims

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Tim Montgomerie suggests David Cameron needs to do a little more to produce a proper, comprehensive policy on MPs expenses. That's probably true. As we all know, any talk of reform at Westminster unnerves parliamentarians from all parties since, as we all know, no-one has clean hands in this affair. They've all been fiddling the system - legally! - for years, unaware that as far as the public's concerned the legality of the system is pretty much irrelevant.

MPs at Westminster might often envy their cousins across the pond - members of the House of Representatives enjoy a "Representational Allowance" of up to $1.6m for staff, office and franking costs - but in the matter of housing at least, it's the Britons who have the last laugh. Members of Congress receive no second-home housing allowance, and must pay for their Washington accomodation from their $174,000 annual salary. (More on Congressional pay and perquisites here.)

That hardly makes them neighbours of the poorhouse, of course and some members save money by sharing townhouses on Capitol Hill. The most famous of these is George Miller's D St house which he shares with Dick Durbin, Chuck Schumer and a rolling cast of Democratic legislators. Since it's a two-bedroom house, two members sleep on couches in the living room. No article on the Congressional Frat House may be published unless it contains the standard, funny-for-DC suggestion that this should be a sit-com...

As it happens, I think it reasonable for MPs from far-flung constituencies to receive an accomodation allowance - with the proviso that it a) be limited to London property and b) that said property may only be rented, not bought with taxpayers' coin.

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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