Leading article: An unhealthy sense of entitlement

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

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Service Delivery Manager (Software Development, Testing)

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A well-established software house ba...

Day In a Page

Read Next

British economy: Government hails the latest GDP figures, but there is still room for skepticism over this 'glorious recovery'

Ben Chu
Comedy queen: Miranda Hart has said that she is excited about working on the new film  

There is no such thing as a middle-class laugh

David Lister
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform