Sunday, 17 May 2009

Members of Parliament - Claims for Expenses and Allowances

Members of the British Parliament, when asked to explain the amounts they have claimed, invariably say: “All my claims comply with the rules – I have done nothing wrong”.

As I See It....... by L Berney

I was interested to know what, exactly, are the rules about expenses and allowances behind which these MPs shelter.

The rules and the amounts claimable are set out in a "Green Book" and in the "Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament".

The rules are crystal clear -- they include the following passages:
  • You shall at all times ensure that your use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters, and that you observe any limits placed by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities and services.
  • Your claims for expenses and allowances must be “wholly, exclusively and necessarily” incurred in the execution of your duties as an MP.
  • You must ensure that arrangements for your claims are above reproach and that there can be no grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money.
  • You should bear in mind the need to obtain value for money from accommodation, goods or services funded from the allowances.
  • You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you are, or someone close to you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from public funds or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation.
  • The costs of leasing accommodation from yourself is not allowable.
  • The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services. You should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious.
  • Funds must not be used to meet the costs of a mortgage or for leasing
  • The following questions are designed to assist Members in coming to a decision about whether or not costs incurred are appropriate to be met from the allowances:
  1. Is this expense genuinely incurred by me in my role as a Member of Parliament as opposed to my personal capacity?
  2. Is this purchase supporting me in carrying out my parliamentary duties? Note -- Anything which is done for personal benefit or for electioneering or for the direct support of a political party will not be part of a Member’s parliamentary duties.
  3. Does the claim match the purpose of the allowance in question?
  4. Could the claim in any way damage the reputation of Parliament or its Members?
  5. How comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under the Freedom of Information Act?
In my opinion, nothing could be clearer than that!

According to the allegations published by the Daily Telegraph, many MPs claimed and spent or pocketed Expenses and Allowances which were not “wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the execution of his/her duties as an MP”, that were not “above reproach”, did “misuse public money”, were not “value for money”, which were “extravagant or luxurious”, were not “in support of parliamentary duties”, were “for personal benefit”. And that, as such claims were knowingly in breach of the rules, the MP concerned could “damage the reputation of Parliament or its Members”.


Therefore, where the allegations are true, clearly the MPs concerned have NOT “claimed within the rules, done nothing wrong” as they all say – clearly they HAVE breached the rules.

In a commercial company, if an employee had been found to have personally benefited from or pocketed any of the firm’s money, that employee would certainly be expected to return the money he had “stolen” and would probably be dismissed, if not charged with criminal theft.

As I see it, that is exactly how MPs who have fraudulently spent or pocketed tax-payers’ money should be treated.

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