Even after one of the greatest scandals in the history of our parliamentary democracy, MP’s continue to bleat about their expenses. It is a measure of how set apart from the rest of society our political class has become that so soon after the expenses scandal they have the insensitivity, the chutzpah even, to make headlines about the ‘complexity and effectiveness’ of the new system.
Let’s be clear about one thing. The majority, yes the majority, of MP’s were submitting claims under the old system that in any commercial organisation would have resulted in instant dismissal. They argued that they were operating ‘within the rules’ – rules that they had devised remember – they probably were, but that is not the point. Any honest, self-respecting individual would not have taken advantage and would have acted in a responsible and proper fashion. In a way we would have expected an elected representative to behave even.
Now they are complaining like stuck pigs that they are having to submit detailed receipts for absolutely everything, just like the rest of us. They are taking their frustration out on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which is the new body that processes all their claims. It may have had its teething troubles, but it has had a tough time dealing with a not insignificant number of MPs who have been determined to make life difficult.
Adam Afriyie and 40 of his cohorts are some of them. They have been making a nuisance of themselves complaining about ‘the unnecessarily high costs and inadequacies of the system’. We should beware of people like Mr Afriyie. This is an attempt to discredit the IPSA and undermine its commissioner John Lyon. It should be resisted at all costs and seen for what it is, an attempt to intimidate, weaken and ultimately regain control of the expenses system.
John Lyon sounds a good man, but he’s got his work cut out. Already he’s having to fight his corner over disclosing MPs who make ‘less serious’ mistakes in their claims. Under a ‘rectification procedure’ MPs who make these mistakes are allowed to apologise and repay the money rather than undergo a full investigation. He wants to make that information public. I would have thought that this was a more than reasonable compromise. Apparently Mr Afriyie and his buddies don’t.
I think that it is important that John Lyon is allowed to make the system transparent. We should be wary of MPs who try to undermine him. Let’s not lose sight of the fact that self-enrichment is important to the political class. They don’t like people who frustrate this ambition.