James Forsyth

There are good expenses as well as bad expenses

There are good expenses as well as bad expenses
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Reading the coverage of MP’s expenses in the papers today there is a tendency to view those MPs who are the cheapest as the best value. But think this isn’t necessarily true. Take the MP’s staffing allowance: I’d wager that those MPs who spend close to the full amount and don’t employ family members are actually better MPs both in terms of serving their constituents and holding the executive to account than those who don’t claim as much.

Now, there are obviously expense claims which are being made that abuse the public’s trust. For instance, even if MPs should have a second home there is no justification for them being full of top-range furniture and gadgets paid for with the taxpayers’ money. Equally, while it is reasonable for MPs to have Freeview so they can watch the news channels and the Parliament channel there’s no justification for us paying for them to have Sky Sports or watch movies, blue or otherwise.

Reforms of expenses are long overdue and there are a lots of things MPs should be told to stop claiming for. But a sensible set of reforms would actually raise the staffing allowances. If we take Parliament’s role seriously, we should be prepared to pay to support proper scrutiny.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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