LETTER:Salaries, MPs and the interests of the Commons man

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From Mr Malcolm Taylor

Sir: The row in Parliament about sleaze and disclosure of earnings has opened a window to a wider truth: we, the electorate now realise how little we know of how MPs expect to spend their parliamentary time.

Disclosure of extra parliamentary earnings will not be enough. An MP's duties have to span parochial constituency matters, national concerns, and all overlaid by the demands of the party machine. There is no one answer to how a balance is to be maintained. Parliament needs the lobby fodder time-servers as much as it needs the wheelers and dealers and those with social consciences.

The answer, ultimately, is not any heavy-handed Nolan committee, and its resulting watchdogs. The answer lies with the constituency party machines, which, influenced or instructed by the central organisation, have to choose the candidates. They alone have the power to ask candidates the questions that should produce a profile the electorate can vote on.

It seems, for example, fundamental that the candidate should disclose whether he or she is prepared to live on pounds 33,000 per annum. If he cannot, then we need to know how he proposes to supplement his income; will he be a part-timer or will he be a paid parliamentary consultant?

It is surely not beyond the bounds of reality for constituency party organisations to establish a code, or a moral contract, which their chosen MP would be expected to respect?

Yours faithfully,

Malcolm Taylor