The arguments and publicity regarding MP’s expenses are in danger of becoming hysterical – with the result that we might end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
The excesses needed to be brought into the open and, more importantly, brought to an end. But in most cases, the MP’s were claiming within the rules and, if the rules allow for a £4,000 TV to be claimed, or for both husband and wife to claim for a separate second home, then it is the rules that are at fault and not necessarily those MP’s who claimed within them.
That is not to say that claiming for Mortgages already repaid isn’t bordering on fraud or selling a 2nd home and not paying CGT shouldn’t receive the full investigative processes of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Of course it should, and the rotten apples should be thrown out of the barrel. But for the most part MP’s are operating within a very lax set of rules which are inappropriate for today’s more austere circumstances. The rules need to be changed – and changed quickly.
As far as second homes are concerned, the simple solution would be for the constituency home to be the main home and for the London residence to be the second home for which a fixed amount is received. MP’s who live within – say – the M25 should not be allowed to claim.
Whatever is decided, it needs to be done quickly. There is an election due withiin 12 months and if the current hysteria continues, the more radical parties such as the BNP are going to benefit from the general level of dissatisfaction with the mainstream parties.
It is not an exageration to state that Democracy itself is at stake.