Norman Baker: Our task as Members of Parliament is to regain the trust of the electorate

How can it be right to charge the taxpayer for oil paintings, goldfish bowls and pot plants?

Share
Related Topics

Another day, another terrible set of headlines for MPs and for Parliament. How long can this corrosive saga continue?

The basic problem is this: claims for expenses should reflect expenditure legitimately and necessarily incurred by a Member of Parliament as part of his or her duties – no more, no less. Instead, they have been used by too many MPs as an alternative income stream, as a way of bumping up salary without having to vote through an embarrassing increase.

It is quite wrong that MPs should be taking out mortgages with money provided by the taxpayer, then pocketing the capital gain when the property is sold. It is even worse when they regularly change the designation of their second home in order to maximise the income they can generate through the allowance system.

Does the Home Secretary not realise how wrong it looks to the average person when she calls her sister's spare room her main home, while running up bills at taxpayers' expense for her real home, where her family lives?

And how can it be right to charge the taxpayer for oil paintings, goldfish bowls, pot plants, and mock Tudor beams?

The standard defence trotted out is that everything done has been within the rules. But that does not make it ethically correct, not least because those rules have been written by MPs themselves.

And so we have the unedifying spectacle of Peter Mandelson, who after all knows a thing about houses, claiming £3,000 to improve his house less than a week after he announced his intention to stand down as an MP. Within the rules? Yes. Defensible? No.

The next two or three months are going to be truly awful for MPs. There will be more revelations, more outrage. That cannot now be avoided.

But MPs must ensure that when the outrage has subsided, they repair the damage with new rules that limit claims to rent and other running expenses, with every claim subject to complete transparency and external audit. The test will be this: can we walk into our local pub or supermarket and feel comfortable defending what we claim. Until the public think the answer is yes, this corrosive matter will not go away, and nor should it.

Norman Baker is the Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Games Developer - HTML5

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With extensive experience and a...

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£26000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Product Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to on-going expansion, this leading provid...

Recruitment Genius: Shift Leaders - Front of House Staff - Full Time and Part Time

£6 - £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join a family ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Racism in Britain: Labour's leadership candidates explain how they’d tackle racial inequality

Independent Voices
 

We are facing the greatest refugee crisis since WWII

Mary Creagh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action
Donovan interview: The singer is releasing a greatest hits album to mark his 50th year in folk

Donovan marks his 50th year in folk

The singer tells Nick Duerden about receiving death threats, why the world is 'mentally ill', and how he can write a song about anything, from ecology to crumpets
Let's Race simulator: Ultra-realistic technology recreates thrill of the Formula One circuit

Simulator recreates thrill of F1 circuit

Rory Buckeridge gets behind the wheel and explains how it works
Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation' over plans to overhaul reverse-chronological timeline

Twitter accused of 'Facebookisation'

Facebook exasperates its users by deciding which posts they can and can’t see. So why has Twitter announced plans to do the same?
Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag - but what else could the fashion house call it?

Jane Birkin asks Hermès to rename bag

The star was shocked by a Peta investigation into the exotic skins trade
10 best waterproof mascaras

Whatever the weather: 10 best waterproof mascaras

We found lash-enhancing beauties that won’t budge no matter what you throw at them
Diego Costa biography: Chelsea striker's route to the top - from those who shared his journey

Diego Costa: I go to war. You come with me...

Chelsea's rampaging striker had to fight his way from a poor city in Brazil to life at the top of the Premier League. A new book speaks to those who shared his journey
Ashes 2015: England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

England show the mettle to strike back hard in third Test

The biggest problem facing them in Birmingham was the recovery of the zeitgeist that drained so quickly under the weight of Australian runs at Lord's, says Kevin Garside
Women's Open 2015: Charley Hull - 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

Charley Hull: 'I know I'm a good golfer but I'm also just a person'

British teen keeps her feet on ground ahead of Women's Open
Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'