Yes but…….

Let me risk public anger and the wrath of tax-payers by saying an unfashionable word in defence of Westminster MPs.
Much of what they did in the big expenses scandal was, of course, indefensible.  I personally was shocked by the “flipping” of homes to maximise allowances.  It seems to me that any allowance should be solely for the purpose of enabling an MP to stay overnight in London to perform his or her parliamentary duties, which is why I believe a simple overnight allowance, equivalent to the cost of a medium-quality hotel room, would have been fair and reasonable, and would have prevented all the expenses nonsense we have seen.
But the fact is that they had a system in place.  It was a flawed system.  It needed (and needs) radical reform.  But nonetheless, the rules were the rules at the time.
Now it seems that Sir Thomas Legg is writing to MPs to put in place retrospective limits on the amounts that he feels it was reasonable to claim under various headings, and demanding the return of claims paid in excess of those limits.  This is outrageous and flies in the face of natural justice.  You cannot set up an official system, and then retrospectively penalise those who claimed within the letter and spirit of the rules.  It would be equivalent to the government deciding that tax rates were too low in 2008, and sending you a retrospective demand for more money, or your employer deciding that your salary had been too high over the past five years and asking for the return of tens of thousands of pounds.
By all means let’s reform the system, and put in place a fairer and simpler régime for the future.  I think that many MPs would weep tears of gratitude for a fair, simple and transparent system which would free them from the risk of public opprobrium.  But let’s not make retrospective demands for the return of money properly claimed.  This is an affront to natural justice.

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3 Responses to Yes but…….

  1. Chris says:

    Mr Helmer
    This system, ‘so wrong that MPs weep tears over it’. Was not brought to an end, and reformed by MPs from within. It was ended by an unknown civil servant that risked everything to bring it to the attention of the people, through the Daily Telegraph. Had that not happened, MPs would still be using this system, (tearfully or not). The issue here is the Morality of working as part of a system you know yourself to be flawed, and open to abuse. and not bringing it an end. There might also be a parallel in other matters. Supporting, for instance, a party that wishes to build large industrial Wind Turbines across much of Britain. Even though you know it to be wrong yourself. Admittedly you flip pebbles into the mill pond. But the mill pond has long ago frozen over. If you wish to make ripples you will have to smash through that ice.

  2. Chris, Thank you for your dramatic metaphor. But if one could only support a political party if one agreed with every detail of every policy, one could not support any party at all.

  3. Why we are so angry is this.
    The Labour party has banned smoking. It has lectured us about being fat. It has gone on and on in a highly moral tone about Climate Change. It has been very moral about foxhunting. It has insisted on mass immigration and Comprehensive Education and the National Health for us peasants while wallowing in all sorts of opt outs. It pretends to be green and then uses the Queen’s fights and drives 100 years in a limo with chauffeur.
    Then they are exposed – along with a lot of very quiet Tories – as scammers and swindlers and cheats just like they said we were.
    And nothing is done!
    If it was us who were swindling the tax, cheating our expenses and having a smoke in the Parliamentary bar, we would be immediately arrested like Damien Green.

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