Leading article: Revelations that underline the need for reform

MPs should stop grumbling and accept the Kelly recommendations

Share
Related Topics

The House of Commons' agony over allowances continues. Quentin Davies's bell tower looks destined to join Peter Viggers's ornamental duck house, Douglas Hogg's moat and Jacqui Smith's blue movies in the pantheon of expenses shame.

The hundreds of thousands of receipts published by Parliament yesterday are less heavily "redacted" than the last batch released in June, which were censored to an almost farcical degree. But this welcome enhancement of openness is unlikely to elevate the esteem in which our MPs are held by the general public.

For these claims, many of which predate this year's popular uproar on the subject of MPs allowances, seem to provide still more evidence of politicians milking the system. Receipts for garlic-peelers and hamburger- makers reinforce the perception of petty grasping from our political representatives. And yet more MPs are revealed to have engaged in the dubious practice of "flipping" their designated second home for personal gain.

But all this fresh detail does not actually take us any further in the long-running expenses saga. In terms of what needs to be done, the prescription remains the same. Where fraud appears to have taken place, the police must investigate. And reform of the wider system is another imperative. We all know that the old system was outrageously lax, with the Commons Fees Office positively encouraging MPs to maximise their allowances.

Yet the general public could usefully discover some perspective too. There remains an unwillingness in the wider country to recognise that MPs with constituencies outside the capital need some form of allowance if they are to do their jobs properly. If we want decent political representation, we will need to pay for it.

And some of the rhetoric that has been bandied around has gone overboard too. The idea that Britain has elected the most grasping and corrupt set of legislators in its history, as some seem to suggest, does not bear scrutiny.

What we must hope is that these latest revelations demonstrate to our MPs the folly of attempting to water down the reforms proposed recently by Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life. There has been talk of the Commons rejecting some elements of the Kelly package, which includes a ban on home flipping and MPs' employment of spouses. That would be a grave error.

Some MPs are also making noises about fighting the recommendations of Sir Thomas Legg, the civil servant whose recent report has recommended that some MPs should make repayments on past claims that, in his judgement, should never have been authorised. That too would be a serious mistake.

It's true that both Kelly and Legg might be dishing out rough justice in some cases, but MPs collectively only have themselves to blame for their predicament. Their historic failure to agree on reforms to the expenses system, and their repeated attempts to evade the searchlight of public scrutiny on allowances, means that they have surely forfeited the right to self-regulation.

There is only one way for MPs to escape the agony of expenses opprobrium and that is wholesale reform and independent scrutiny of their allowances system. They should take this latest dose of embarrassment as an invitation to stop grumbling and to get on with it.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The power of anonymity lies in the freedom it grants

Boyd Tonkin
Rebel fighters walk in front of damaged buildings in Karam al-Jabal neighbourhood of Aleppo on August 26, 2014.  

The Isis threat must be confronted with clarity and determination

Ed Miliband
Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone