I was in the environs of Westminster last evening. I had to leave the event I was at early: if I’d stayed after 9.45 I could not have caught the last train home. And as I did not wish to stay in London overnight that was the end of the matter: leave I did.
Why mention it? Because it shows that if we want MP’s to work late (and we do, it seems — and they do so, as a matter of fact, then second homes are necessary even for those who live 90 miles from London. Indeed, that will be true for those who live somewhat closer too.
So what’s to be done? I’ve discussed the issue with a number of quite well informed people. It seems to me that the solution is simple:
1) Rather as the Church of England provides its ministers with suitable housing so should parliament provide those MPs who need it with suitable housing. It’s not flashy housing. This is work related accommodation. It should not discriminate but is something bigger than a sensible modern 4 bedroom house with a study ever going to be necessary? These are beyond most people’s reach, but within reasonable expectation. If the MP wants something else then they are offered the rent that should a property would cost to secure in their constituency. The property is provided with basic furniture, council tax and equipment servicing paid. After that it’s the MP’s cost.
2) Travel is covered by a free rail and bus pass. Car mileage is strictly on the basis of proven need for the journey and on a mileage basis at HMRC approved rates.
3) Staff are centrally employed with proper recruitment procedures, although the MP must clearly pay a part. these staff are allowed a political role despite being civil servants.
4) An office is provided at Westminster. A constituency office is paid for. All costs must be receipted for payment. A limit ion spending must be set. Research spending is allowed, but evidence as to the issues to which it relates must be supplied.
5) Meals are allowed only when HMRC would do so for employed staff, and at their approved rates.
6) All other expenses must be â€šÃ„Ã²wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ incurred, be receipted and be subject to proper checking before payment.
I really cannot see what the problem is.
MPs who can’t agree should get out of politics. It’s not meant to be a sinecure. It’s a vocation. We need more who have that vocation in Westminster.