Leading article: An unhealthy sense of entitlement

Share
Related Topics

Our MPs feel aggrieved because their £61,820-a-year salaries make them less well paid than head teachers or senior managers in the private sector. The House of Commons Commission seems likely to suggest that their pay should be bumped up to about £75,000 after the next general election.

Our political representatives also want to spare themselves the sort of embarrassment that the former Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett suffered at the weekend, when it was revealed that the Commons authorities had knocked back her claim for £600 towards house plants for her Derbyshire home. The Commission has therefore proposed that every MP with a second home should be entitled to an automatic £23,000 expense allowance, with no need to put in detailed claims.

Being an MP is an unusual profession. There are no formal entry qualifications, except the self-belief that enables a person to perform in front of a constituency party. Although MPs in marginal seats can be harshly punished at election times for their leader's poor performance, between elections there is no formal supervision of their work, no assessment of how well they are serving their constituents, no penalties for incompetence. And they get to set their own pay – to say nothing about their extremely generous pensions.

Despite all this, what shines through the House of Commons Commission's proposals is a self-regarding sense of entitlement, which assumes without question that they should be as well rewarded as head teachers. The harsh truth is that while many MPs work diligently, there are also more than a few who would struggle to land a job as a teaching assistant.

While it is obviously right that MPs representing seats a long way from London, who have no choice but to maintain two homes, should be reimbursed, the Commission does not question whether this perk should be available to those with constituencies in commuting distance. Nor does it explain why married couples who are both MPs should be entitled to claim double. Perhaps, in this time of falling house prices, Parliament should make a once-and-for-all investment in properties to be used rent free by MPs. It might be cheaper over time than subsidising their mortgages, and would stop any profiteering at public expense.

The case of Derek Conway, who paid his sons out of his office allowance while they were at university, demonstrates how little internal pressure there is on MPs to keep costs down. Yet transparency and publicity work. That is why, for all the embarrassment endured by Mrs Beckett, the proposed automatic housing grant for MPs – like the idea of a £13,000 salary hike – is to be resisted.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior .Net Programmer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Bridgend based software de...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Printer

£21000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A specialist retail and brand c...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Class 2 HGV Driver - with CPC

£26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Haulage company based on the Thorpe Indu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Election catch-up: Just what the election needs – another superficially popular but foolish policy

John Rentoul
A Gold Ferrari sits outside Chanel on Sloane Street  

Sunday Times Rich List: We are no longer in thrall to the super rich

Terence Blacker
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence