MPs’ Expenses back in the news

Britain’s “Culture” Minister, Maria Miller, mainly known for her piloting of the Same Sex Marriage Bill through the House of Commons last year, has been investigated for claiming £90,000 in mortgage payments and other “running” expenses over 4 years (2005-2009) on a house lived in by her parents (Daily Telegraph report, 17th February 2014).

In 2009, Tony McNulty, the then Home Office minister, was heavily censured for installing his parents in a so-called second home funded by the tax-payer, on the same basis, i.e. as an MP’s expense.  The then parliamentary standards commissioner ruled that second homes, paid for on MPs’ expenses must be exclusively for their own use and that housing their parents was “specifically prohibited”.

So why did it take the present parliamentary commissioner for standards, a Mrs Kate Hudson, a whole year to compose a 100 page report on Ms Miller’s case?

What is difficult to understand about the phrase “specifically prohibited”?  Would anybody in any other job believe at any time that their management would judge legitimate expenses connected with doing their job being extended to paying for their parents’ living accommodation; and in such a way that when the property is sold, all the profit belongs to the employee?

As we have remarked before when the MPs’ expenses scandal blew up back in 2010, living accommodation for MPs in constituencies more than a commute away from Westminster, should be provided by Parliament’s direct renting or buying pieds à terre for them to use within easy reach of Westminster[1].  This way the issue of second home expenses will not arise.

In the present case Ms Miller is reported as claiming expenses (Daily Telegraph, February 17th 2014) for a four-bedroomed house in South London as her second home, when she actually lived in Basingstoke, a town from which many people commute to London every day.

Quite a few MPs have paid back expenses judged to have been inappropriate.  It is difficult to see on the evidence of her actual expenses claims, why the same should not apply to Ms Miller, a minister in the government of David Cameron, who has repeatedly claimed his government would be “squeaky clean”.


[1]  Many international companies do this in London for the benefit of their staff on temporary assignments.

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