Sunday, 28 March 2010

Overhaul party finances

If you are an MP then you are part of the legislature. MPs make decisions and others will want to influence those decisions. At the most basic level this amounts to constituents speaking to their MP. However it gets much more sophisticated than that. People form groups and lobby MPs. There are professionals who do this. Sometimes they work for pressure groups, but they may also work for unions or big business and there are thousands of organisations who wish to influence decision making at Westminster.

So what can these groups do? It must be alright to speak with the MP. I suppose it is alright to put down thoughts on paper. What about making a DVD? What about presentation in a hotel and providing a meal at the same time? I'll jump a few steps and ask if it is alright to pay MPs. If you are an MP and you are convinced that a certain cause is right, why shouldn't you get paid and give extra time to this cause? Three Labour MPs were suspended from the Parliamentary Labour Party this week for hiring out their services. Stephen Byers described himself as a "cab for hire" but this cab cost £5 000 per day, but have they done anything wrong?

There is nothing wrong with MPs working elsewhere as long as this does not affect their role as decision makers. If a business employed an MP it is very easy to see how this influence could look like an assualt on our democracy. If the MP agrees with the business then why do they need paying? If the MP speaks to this business or speaks about this business it should be part of their role as an MP and as such should be paid for by their Westminster salary.

If I have an opinion that I wish to express to my MP then I would tell them. If someone else wishes to put forward the opposite case why should they provide a meal as well? How do you tell the difference between influence and corruption? The answer is that MPs should avoid payment by individuals, pressure groups, big businesses or unions. We need to overhaul the way our parties are financed.

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