As a long-term advocate of the idea that, in order to help MPs save themselves from themselves, information concerning their expenses and allowances should be placed in an Online Register which would list each and every claim in minute detail (see here, 23rd. May 2007), I note that the MSM is coming around to the idea, albeit snail-like.
Thus Iain Martin in The Daily Telegraph today:
“It is the sniggering and pointing about fingers in the till from acquaintances and constituents that is hard to take,” a Tory MP complains. “They think we’re all at it like Conway.”
They are not all at it like Conway, although that is no longer the point, as the public now expects them to prove it. One Tory, Ben Wallace MP, has made himself unpopular with some of his older colleagues, who think the boat is being rocked, by posting all his expenses on-line with receipts. The old timers are wrong and the new boy is right.
One is glad to see they get there in the end, albeit nine months later.
Meanwhile the reactionary Mr. Speaker (in the context of this issue that is: on other matters he is his usual leftie, bigoted, partial self) is leading the resistance to change of any sort. Today an Information Tribunal panel will deliberate on Mr. Speaker’s contention that no further detail of MPs housing allowances will be given out to those who might like to know how they are spending this rather nice little £11.8million-a-year housing perk out of our money.
We know that Mr. Speaker has chosen only those of like-mind to himself to carry out the laughable enquiry he has initiated into the issue of MPs expenses and allowances and one such Porker, Lib ‘Dem’ Nick Harvey, has removed his mouth from the trough long enough to give his opinion of the public’s desire to see a bit more transparency:
“If the public wants to know about our office, travel and staff costs that’s perfectly legitimate, but what goes on behind our personal front doors is our business.
“If we’re going to get to the state where local press or political opponents complain because we spent £25 on a kettle when Argos does them for £6, or we bought curtains from John Lewis when you can get them for less at the Co-op, then they can get lost.
“It’s no business of the public what we spend on our own homes.”
This is the Parliamentary equivalent to having a doormat decorated with the words “Bugger Off” outside the front door and demonstrative of the arrogance of this overweening elite. By the by, one might ask quite why we are buying kettles for MPs at all, whether from Harrods, John Lewis, Argos or Comet, but there.
I have long thought that the Labour Party was actually at the heart of and the progenitor of the conspiracy to conceal as much information as possible about MPs expenses and allowances from the public gaze. Now confirmation that this plot went to the very top of the Labour administration comes with this report in The Times which sets out how Jack Straw tried to stifle an independent enquiry into the issue of MPs expenses and allowances in the spring of 2007 because he feared ‘a backbench rebellion’ if it went ahead.
Many will think, with reason, that it was, therefore, no coincidence that contemporaneously a Private Member’s Bill was making its way through the House of Commons: the Freedom of Information (
Suppression Amendment) Bill promoted by David Maclean, who just happens to be a leading light on Mr. Speaker’s committee that has been set up to bury the issue if at all possible and who is a former Tory Chief Whip.
Thus does the fact that his Bill attracted, in May 2007, the support of 36 members of the Government (of which the Government Whips office provided about a third of the numbers) plus another forty Labour MPs (of whom six have now become Ministers) come into sharp relief.
As I have long contended the impetus for concealment of details about how MPs spend our money has come all along from Labour which has grown accustomed to keeping its backbenchers happy with shedloads of public money with which to buy kettles, ironing boards, curtains, houses and the like. The involvement of Jack Straw, who was then Leader of The House may thus be seen as part of a cosy stitch-up with Mr. Speaker Martin to ensure that the place of MPs around the trough should not for one in-drawing of breath be disturbed and that the abuses might continue ad infinitum.
What a shabby, crooked piece of behaviour! But then we should expect no more from a political class which has grown used to shoving its snout deep into the trough without terribly much restraint.
Perhaps the time has come to introduce a tape worm into the intestine of this particularly porcine class.