Peter Hoskin

Restoring faith in Parliament

Restoring faith in Parliament
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A thought-provoking article by Iain Martin in today's Telegraph, on the subject of MPs and their expenses.  Here are some of his proposals for strengthening Parliament and making the system more transparent:

"So, how to improve the quality of members and their work? Some political analysts argue, with some justification, that MPs should be paid more, with a simpler allowance system and publication of all expenses claims. But, realistically, this is a non-starter: the public would hate the idea, and it would be a foolish government that risked it in a recession. Better would be to increase the size of constituencies, to cut the number of seats to around 400 and bring down the cost. Supply and demand would ensure there were fewer seats for weak MPs. Allowances should then be tightly regulated. A new code is being brought in next month, but it does not go far enough. Every stamp and receipt should be accounted for and listed online, for the public to see. That is the price of rebuilding trust."

I think Iain is right to look for drastic solutions.  As the Politics Home poll in today's Standard reveals, the public's faith in politicians is at a particularly low ebb.  86 percent of respondents think that MPs' pay and expenses are "too generous", and only 2 percent think that "virtually all MPs are honest when claiming expenses".  Given the fiscal climate - and the fact that this is a democracy we live in - the party leaders have a moral obligation to deal with this trust deficit.