Bosworth

Full Version: PC 20 - Expenses Scandal
You're currently viewing a stripped down version of our content. View the full version with proper formatting.
What do you think about the expenses scandal, what should be done?

Cycle closes at 23:59 on the 28th February
I as Prime Minister need to lead by example and apologise on behalf of my fellow MPs, this scandal has highlighted how many of us have fallen short of our commitment to public service, there are no excuses. Any MP that has been caught claiming expenses that are frivolous or inappropriate should pay back that money to the taxpayer and every MP should comply with any investigation by the police or any inquiries that may come as a result of this. There must be wholesale reform of parliamentary expenses with independent oversight outside of the hands of MPs to avoid a conflict of interest as well as a much stricter expenses system overall.
Quite simply, where there is ignorance about the rules and process, there must be instruction. Where there is carelessness, there must be correction. Where there is greed or intentional malfeasance, there must be severe consequences. To prevent it from happening again, we need vigilance. Undoubtedly, some who have had improper expenses did not understand the rules and process but believed they were proceeding correctly. We must better educate all MPs and Parliamentary staff on the expenses process to ensure that inadvertent error does not occur. At the next level, those who have acted carelessly and have broken the rules through willful ignorance and have not exercised due care. To them there must not only be instruction, but also correction to be more scrupulous in future with the money of the UK taxpayer. Anyone whom it is shown acted with intentional malfeasance to cheat the taxpayer out of their hard earned money must be suspended from Parliament and have the whip removed by their party if they do not have the decency to resign their posts outright. There can be no compromise here, and they must fully cooperate with any police investigation. Above all, we need vigilance. In the short term we need the vigilance of an independent inquiry to determine the level of responsibility of each MP who claimed improper expenses. We must further create an independent organization to audit expenses moving forward so that this betrayal of the trust of the people of this Great Kingdom can never occur again without detection, correction, and consequence.
The problem here seems to be the expenses system itself. I do not believe that we can force MPs who have legally claimed for something to pay it back, if they have been honest in their claim. We can ask them to pay for frivolous expenses out of their own pocket, or to donate the amount to a charity. If an MP has claimed for one thing, but used the money for another purpose, then they should be ashamed to call themselves an MP, and they must co-operate with any investigation, whether it be parliamentary or police. However, no matter how frivolous their claims are, no matter how out of touch their claim is, if they have used the money for what they claimed for then the system is to blame. Whether it is the cleaning of a moat or a KitKat, if our political system has allowed an MP to claim for it, without any pretence or deceit, then it is the system that is at fault, it is the system that is broke, and it is the system that needs to be fixed.
Maintaining the trust our constituents have placed in us as their MPs and the public-at-large in Parliament as a whole is one of the most sacred duties as members. The allegations made in the press show how we have failed in that duty, and I am deeply sorry for it. There must be a full inquiry into these allegations, with a remit extending to reforms to prevent this from happening in the future. Perhaps we should even give constituents the power to force a by-election if their MP is found guilty of wrongdoing. As for those in my party who are subject of these allegations, we will investigate their conduct and take appropriate action.
The expenses system is clearly not fit for purpose, and is in dire need of review. All parties need to take this seriously and acknowledge that this is an issue with the institutions and culture of Westminster, that this goes beyond the standard party political fray and becomes something more serious, more fundamental. We need an independent body to set the terms and rules of parliamentary expenses and parliamentary pay, removing the conflicts of interest that inevitably arise from the de facto self-regulation we currently enjoy - with this independent body not just auditing such claims, but deciding the rules and regulations themselves. The power of recall must be introduced. And the importance of the stronger political reforms that the Liberal Democrats have long called for - a referendum on our voting system to make politicians truly representative, changes to the upper chamber to ensure true electoral accountability, radically redistributing power from Westminster to local communities - is now ever more apparent.

Following the revelations surrounding Norman Lamb's use of the expenses system, he has stepped down from the frontbench team, a decision I fully support. While nobody would suggest for a second that Norman, a great public servant who wanted to benefit a charitable cause, was acting corruptly, it is only right that he steps down as inquiries are held into his decisions. He has apologised unreservedly, pledged to repay, and pledged full cooperation with any investigations. All Lib Dem MPs named in these revelations are being urged to take these three steps - of apologising, cooperating, and repaying what is appropriate - and further disciplinary action will proceed as appropriate. I am also calling on other Liberal Democrat parliamentarians - at European and devolved levels - to transparently publish their own expenses claims. 
It is a disgrace that members on £64,766 are allowed to claim fuel back, most of us know where our constituencies are based in comparison to Westminster, so we can quickly find out how much the commute would cost us and how long it would take. That members can also claim £24,222 in Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure, means we are giving MP's a huge stack of money to spend, with minimal oversight and clearly, lax procedures to follow in order to claim it.

When I heard about the claims made, I said to the Prime Minister that we should scrap them all but travel to and from Westminster/Whitehall on public transport or at a fuel option set by the AA or RAC. We should fund constituency offices and staff at a set uniform level, with variances allowed for regions/rent costs and have a body that sets reasonable hotel allowance or seeks a deal with local London hoteliers for discounted rooms at hotels within x miles of Westminster/Whitehall and have them paid centrally.

Obviously every MP who has wrong claimed, abused the system, broken the rules or otherwise got money they are not entitled to, should pay it back immediately, and comply with any investigation by the police.