Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Make all MPs' expenses public

It can't be right that an MP can claim expenses for watching (or a member of the family watching) a film regardless of the content at that film. Now that I have admitted that Jacqui Smith's position is indefensible I am going to offer some support. MPs need to be informed. They need access to broadband and they may even need a knowledge of popular culture in all its forms. As power corrupts MPs need a check on their ability to spend our money, and someone has to do that job.

I believe that the vast majority of expense claims are honest. Honest may not be the right word but the vast majority of these expenses may well fall within the limits of the regulations. I say that honest may not be the right word because if I am told that I can buy a television for say £400, then there is a good chance that I will buy one for £400. I will not buy a cheaper model, I would not go to a discount retailer and haggle. I would not spend time going to different shops and comparing the prices.

What really concerns me is the process by which every detail of my expenses got to the press. What entitles them to know that I have a specific television or a specific broadband distributor? The reason that this kind of detail is now published on Jacqui Smith, is because it was leaked. With evidence mounting, it must have been tempting to leak information if what they thought were corrupt practices were discovered.

However the leak should be a bigger story than the expenses because it is so selective. The Tories could all be bigger players of the system than any Labour MP, and we will never know it if we rely on selective leaks from someone with an anti-Labour grudge. If other parties are going to exploit the information in such leaks, they should call for all the details of everybody's expenses to be made public.

Change the world.

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