Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Cameron's New Rules

So my post from earlier today brought this from a colleague and co-conspirator:

"Your post is typical Don Quixote. There is a system in place and when we pay for our legislators and lawmakers properly then perhaps the system can be amended. One goes with the other. Why should our MPs not earn well and be able to claim expenses for their work...or even better just allow MPs to claim for expenses and Parliament pays for staff etc. It's all very solvable with a clear set of grown up rules. But frankly all this ‘hairshirt’ and ‘why don’t our MPs work for nothing’or ‘how dare they claim anything’ is just such nonsense and frankly people who make these arguments just show themselves to be stupid and small minded."

He has a point. It's all very well wanking on about what's wrong with the system but how should it change? Here's the current system for reference, extracted from the Parliament website:

Summary of current rates with effect from 1 April 2008

Members' Parliamentary salary £63,291 from 1 April


Staffing Allowance Maximum of £100,205
Incidental Expenses Allowance (IEP) Maximum of £22,193
IT equipment (centrally provided) [worth circa £5,000]
Pension provision for Members' staff 10% of employee’s gross salary
London Supplement £2,916
Additional Costs Allowance Maximum of £24,006
Winding up Allowance Maximum of £40,799
Communications Allowance Maximum of £10,400
Car Mileage (per mile) 40p (for first 10,000 miles)
25p (after 10,000 miles)
Bicycle allowance (per mile) 20p
Motorcycle allowance 24p

So if you milk your allowances right and employ your wife and daughter you can walk off with about £250k per annum.

My Suggested Reforms

1. Reduce the number of politicians

We have 772 peers, 646 MPs, 21,000 councillors, nearly 100,000 parish and community councillors and God knows how many hundreds of thousands of quangocrats. This is way too many. We are massively over governed. The US Senate has (obviously) 100 senators and the House of Representatives has 435 representatives for a country with a population five times the size of ours to put this in perspective.

In round numbers, we have 450-ish councils (some two tier, some not) and 10,000 community and parish councils.

And don't get me started on the just incredible number of politicians per head in Scotland and Wales when you take into account their over-representation at Westminster, the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and their ludicrously small and numerous councils.

We need to massively shave the numbers. A considerable saving to the taxpayer for little loss in output.

2. Part-time versus full-time

Now just concentrating on Westminster, if you add up their Christmas, Easter and Summer holidays, the Commons will meet for only 153 days this session. (By comparison, if the average British worker gets 4 weeks holiday and 8 bank holidays, the comparative number of working days is 233. MPs have longer holidays than teachers. And please don't run the "we're terribly busy doing constituency work when Parliament isn't sitting" line because we all know it's bollocks.

So on this basis, we don't need full-time MPs. Nor should we want them or else we get ourselves into the current situation where none of them have ever created a job, fired anyone or have any experience of the real world. Just like the British Army General Staff in WWI, those doing the planning were so remote from the reality, they were utterly out of touch. We want Parliamentarians to have outside interests, albeit with strictly enforced rules about conflicts of interest independently set, applied and policed.

3. Salary

So therefore, an MP's salary should be a top up to compensate him for his time not spent on his work or for lost promotion prospects because he has chosen to be an MP, a critical point. No one made him stand.

So I reckon the current £63k is about right. Let's face it. There is not a shortage of people wanting the job is there? Supply and demand and all that.

The pension should be trimmed accordingly also as a top up to an MP's occupational scheme. And how about leading the public sector by stopping the final salary scheme. Difficult for unions to defend if politicians have led the way.

4. Secretarial support

Two assistants at £25-30k each, works out at an allowance of around £70k. But as my wise colleague said above, get Parliament to administer it. Do not just give the money to MPs.

No family employees. At all. Ever. Seems harsh? Well MPs need to be seen to be whiter than white.

5. Give them a per diem rather than ACA

WTF should the taxpayer help MPs build a property portfolio? They should get a per diem for nights they spend in London. No London MP, or any other MP that is within a 90 mins commute to Westminster should be allowed to claim a per diem. If it's alright for us proles, it's alright for them.

6. Receipts for anything over £10

Astonishing to even have to type this.

7. Get the NAO to audit them all once a year

Simple. Minor transgressions published and fined. Major transgressions, reported to the Speaker and publicly banned from Parliamentary office for life with an immediate by-election. Trust me, there wouldn't be a compliance problem.

Job done. Come on Dave, you know you can do it.


Anonymous said...

1. Cant argue with that
2.No, wrong if they want two jobs then fine - they have to explain it to their electorate. dont fall for the if the house is not sitting they are not working.

3.Bolloks - better people will come forward if we pay more and why not pay properly.Some will be full time some will have other jobs (See above)

Could be that if there is less difference between MPs and ministerial salary that MPs who are propmoted are not scared of losing their job and do some good

4. this is fine but we should be more trusting of Hon memebsr - ahgain if they can explan family employees to electorate then fine.

5.Wrong again. i think it is fair that with no more late sittings that 10 miles from Westmister is no reason for a second home or a perdiem. But more than that then i think it is fair but the rules should be sleare on capital gains and what the money pays for (interst only mortgage..if sucha thing is possible.
6. Yup
7. Yup

Anonymous said...

From EUReferendum...There is a very simple answer to the long-running soap-opera over MPs' pay and expenses. Stop paying them salaries and expenses – and pensions. Instead, treat them like the adults that some claim to be.

Pay each an annual "constituency fee" and let them decide how to spend it, whether on themselves, staff, offices or whatever. Require them to publish annual, audited accounts on their websites and a summary on their electoral addresses if they stand for re-election. Let the voters then decide whether their MPs are value for money.

The "fee" would be equivalent to the combined total of pay and expenses, currently in the order of £200,000 a year. If they decide to pay themselves the whole amount to themselves in salary, fine. Let them answer to the voters – and the media. But also include a "recall" provision whereby, say, ten thousand voters in any constituency can demand a re-election at any time, to oust someone who is abusing the system.

Then, get rid of all the "privilege" committees, pay reviews, etc., and focus on what MPs actually do for their money. That is where the emphasis should lie.

Anonymous said...

An MP's job is a part-time job - it cannot be anything but. If it was a full time job where would a Government Minister find the time to be a Minister?

Anonymous said...

It we can manage with one Queen (and I don't mean Peter Mandelson) then we can certainly manage with a damn site fewer MPs. And Peers, while we're at it.

How does "Lord Cragsbury of Sordid Peccadillo" sound?

Anonymous said...

Ah it's all so easy isn't it?

But not a mention of what we actually expect our elected representatives to do - what the scope of work is or should be, what the workload is and so forth.

That doesn't matter because they are all a bunch of scivin wotsits aren't they?

Well tell you what why don't we just scrap the lot and go back to the days when family tribes used to look after their own and take what they could from their neighbours using whatever force is necessary.

Alternately let's just have a dictator. All those pesky elected representatives will be gone then won't they......

Job done!

And yes I am being sarcastic because this is little more than an ill considered 7 step recipe to disaster......