“the circumstances applying in Northern Ireland..”

The UK’s Prime Minister Gordon Brown has announced proposals to overhaul MPs’ expenses – to be voted on asap. And the announcement was made not in the House of Commons, but in an online video clip. The main proposal might have some interesting ramifications for some of our local politicians..

A. Flat-rate Allowance. We propose that, for MPs representing constituencies outside London, the Personal Additional Accommodation Expenditure (commonly known as the ‘second home’ allowance) should be abolished and be replaced by a flat-rate daily allowance, based on actual attendance at Westminster on parliamentary and government business or the business of the Opposition frontbenches. This will be limited to the Parliamentary session or a maximum number of days.

DON’T PANIC!

There is a possible caveat..

H. We will ask the Committee on Standards in Public Life to look at the circumstances applying in Northern Ireland before final application of the flat rate allowance for MPs representing Northern Ireland.

Adds Brian notes a second ‘bombshell’.

Update From the BBC report

Shadow Northern Ireland secretary Owen Paterson added: “I hope that the Committee on Standards in Public Life will agree with the then Speaker Boothroyd who said that the House of Commons should not permit ‘associate membership’.

“All elected MPs should attend under the same conditions.”

Indeed.

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  • Paul

    This wont play well in Duper land

  • More of the same from Pete….duplicate posting on the same topic….why?

  • joeCanuck

    Seems reasonable and fair to me.
    There already is a model in the allowances paid to members of the House of Lords. A daily allowance for attendance and an overnight allowance if they have to stay overnight.
    For remote MPs like those from N.I. free travel based on actual costs would need to be added.

  • SM

    That get out clause for the local MPs is awful – there should be no special treatment for them just because the current 18 wasters are rarely there due to their other 3 jobs or so! I believe the CUs have promised to ban multiple mandates which, along with these reforms to expenses, should help NI get some proper representation in future as our MPs would then have no excuses for not turning up. Ever the optimist, me!

  • Seceder

    will they also pro rata the the office cost allowances?

  • Chunk

    Maybe Mr. Shilliday will be as quick covering David Hilditch’s ‘no case to answer’ as he was in announcing the investigation?

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8010868.stm

    http://sluggerotoole.com/index.php/weblog/comments/dla-mla/

  • Frustrated Democrat

    I hope we finish with a system that allocates money to MP’s on the basis of effort. Most MP’s spend 3-4 days a week in Westminister during session. Attendance expenses should be allocated on that basis so if the second home allowance was 24,000 then it would be, on a 36 week year, £170 per day, that would pay for a reasonable hotel.

    Of course if you are an occasional visitor like many of our NI MP’s it will prove to be expensive. Family Robinson could potentially lose £100,000 inexpenses and salaries. Of course our First Minister now welcomes the changes when his family have exploited the possibilities to the maximum for years – is this acceptable behaviour for the First Minister’s family? You can decide when you cast your vote, it is your money.

    ,.’
    ”s

  • Richard Timney

    this has to be done because of evil people abusing the system unlike the brilliant Jacqui Smith all ofm whose expenses were to do with her job as an MP.

  • Rudy

    Block of flats. Near Parliament. One flat per Honourable Member. Sorted.

  • Driftwood

    The block of flats should indeed be there for those attending the Mother of Parliaments.

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/northern_ireland/8011307.stm

    Good to see Jim Nicholson leading on this agenda.

  • willis

    From the link above:

    Sinn Fein MP Conor Murphy said his party would abide by whatever new rules were introduced.

    However, the Newry & Armagh representative and Stormont minister added: “We are determined that none of the democratic entitlements of our electorate are in any way diminished.

    “It seems to me the people who will be worried by these measures are not those of us who have abided by the rules but rather those MPs and politicians who are grossing hundreds of thousands of pounds of taxpayers money in salaries, allowances and, equally importantly, through the direct employment of relatives or the payment of mortgages on second homes.”

    I was unaware that anyone who employed their relatives was breaking any rules.

    Maybe I am wrong.

    Despite being one of Peter Robinson’s constituents for practically my whole adult life, I have never voted for him. However I am not aware that he or his wife or indeed children have broken any rules.

    I am sick of this pernicious tabloid campaign fronted by NI’s principal evening newspaper which seems to suggest that some wrongdoing has taken place.

    Maybe some of their proponents would like to come on Slugger and defend this sleazy campaign. Dear only knows they get enough scoops here.

  • elvis parker

    Joe Canuck – Joe it is much easier to get to Westminster from NI than the West of England or Cumbria so the argument that they are further away etc just doesnt stack up.

    Jim Nicholson is right to point to the crazy idea that SF MPs will get paid for doing nothing but the question is this. Is this two tier system being created simply to facilitate 5 MPs who never turn up and who have no influence on the dying months of a Labour Govt? It seems unlikely.

    One has to wonder why did the DUP rush to welcome this announcement? Could it be the DUP, with their nine MPs and obvious influence during occassional ‘tight’ votes at westminster have had this ‘concession’ granted as part of a DUP/Labour trade off. Much better for Labour to give this than risk losing votes on Post Office privatisation etc. – which lets face it could bring down this govt.

    Any objective viewer is likely to conclude that this two tier system has been created for the DUP.

    The damning indictment is that the DUP were so anxious to maintain their allowances position so much that they were willing to allow the five SF MPs to also continue milking the system.

  • Dec

    British MPs claimed allowances amounting to £93million in total last year. That the main focus of this story is now the £450,000 SF MPs claimed in housing allowances in an 8 year period speaks volumes. If Gordon Brown wants to change the rules he should; it’ll not be SF MPs who feel the pinch.

  • Brian Walker

    Willis, It’s not mainly a matter of “breaking the rules.” The only clear case of an MP breaking the rules was Derek Conway 15 months ago who paid his son for work no one can trace. It was the Conway case that burst the dam. The point is not that the amount of 24k allowance a year is gross: it’s not. It’s that MPs are left to themselves to decide what to claim for and how much, up to the limit, so get your bath plug claim in now. Some London MPs claim a second homes allowance (although the Tory MP for Windsor 20 miles from Westminster was de-selected for doing so). The problem is that it was left to a lady’s and gentleman’s honour whether to claim the full whack. Too many did. MPs fearing embarrassing disclosures first resisted the application of Freedom of Information rules but have ended up having all expenses disclosed in July. They themselves are mainly to blame for leaving their reputations so far stuck in the mud. Successive governments have a share, for PR reasons keeping the publicly declared salaries low (at 60k today, that’s what I believe) and bumping up the undeclared expenses. The Robinsons haven’t broken any rules but does a husband and wife team need two sets of allowances (like the Wintertons who paid off their second home mortgage but continued to claim for it without breaking the rules and to cap it all made the house over to their children to save on inheritance tax.) The point is a lot of MPs abuse the system rather than break them and treat the full allowances entitlement as the annual basic.

    On family members as assistants to MPs, the financial point here is that a spouse costs less than an outside worker and yet full office allowances are paid. For NI, I happen to think the number of family workers is unhealthy as it may build up undemocratic dynasties. It’s also scandalous that MLAs can hire their relatives at public expense when under our special anti-discrimination laws, the rest of you in the world of work have to obey those laws and at least hold interviews, while those who make the laws are exempt. This is a gross violation of social justice. Time for another campaign!

  • joeCanuck

    Elvis,
    That’s why I said …remote MPs like…

    Creepy; code word is “members”

  • Comrade Stalin

    I hope we finish with a system that allocates money to MP’s on the basis of effort.

    “Expenses” are supposed to be additional costs incurred as a person goes about their work. They’re not for allocating to MPs on the basis of “effort”.

    It’s clearly not workable to have MPs staying in hotels, likewise it’s not workable to pay their mortgages for them, so it’s time (as someone said above) that the government arranged the accomodation for them, purchasing or building it as required and holding it in perpetuity.

    The question I have, though, is why Sinn Fein need to claim expenses for being in London. What business do republicans have there ?

  • joeCanuck

    What business do republicans have there ?

    Good ones or bad ones?

    Hyde Park,
    Regent’s Park
    Victoria Station
    Paddington Station
    Downing Street Garden,
    Canary Wharf.
    to name just a few.

  • willis

    Brian

    My point is that the Robinsons have been treated as if they were Derek Conway while at the same time they have attempted to be open and honest about their allowance claims.

    I completely agree with all your points, however I would not want to join any campaign designed solely to sell more papers.

    The above is a serious point. The tabloid newspapers, an illustrious club the BT has finally admitted joining, have poisoned the well on MP’s pay.

    Still, on a lighter note, among the many clips of Clement Freud, a MP and a journalist, was the one where he said at the time of yet another scandal.

    “In my day the tradition was that you pay your secretary and sleep with your wife”

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Willis

    Because they are now ‘open and honest’ does not mean what they did was right.

    To use two second homes allowances to acquire a £500,000 apartment in London and then employ 4 family members all at the tax payers expense is not looking after the people who elected them, it is looking after the Robinson family.

    No amount of spin and supporting the new rules can change the facts.

  • Lidl Richard

    They get an allowance of £23 000 a year and the proposal is thta this goes so that they get a straight £200 a day to attend the 143 days that Parliament sits.

    If only I knew the answer of 200 * 143!

  • Neil

    The DUP is efficient at extracting money from the taxpayer, they’ve been doing it for long enough. It’s a club for the boys to get rich, fueled by the suffering of the Unionist working class. IMHO.

    SF have plenty of faults, and I could easily stick the knife in there, but when it comes to riding the gravy train, the DUP are way out in front. See the DUP’s Ballymena office, worth a staggering 62k a year to Sarcon (No. 250). When asked about the expense of this Paisley junior moved to quell fears that taxpayer’s were being ripped off (from the newsletter):

    Mr Paisley Jnr, however, insisted Mr Sweeney was no longer a director and has been replaced.

    And who was he replaced by? Well, junior’s da in law. Well that’s alright then.

    He went on to defend the £62,500 annual rent. The News Letter has discovered that the most recent rates valuation (carried out by Land and Property Services in 2001) for 9-11 Church Street, set the rental annual value of the property at £16,400.

    Honest as the day is long these fundie, christian types. Just not to worried about sodomising the taxpayer is all.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    Neil

    There are two points that should be added.

    1. The director of 250 is now a local DUP councillor.

    2. The shareholders of 250 seem to be two employees of their solicitors.

    The question is who are the shareholders representing, is it the DUP or some of their members, they should be asked. If they do represent them it means the DUP is profiting by buying a property at the taxpayers expense. Seems familiar, property purchased at the tax payers expense, see Robinson family’s £500,000 appartment.

    Is buying property at the taxpayers expense a DUP policy?

    We should be told.

  • Rory Carr

    What need is there for any accomodation allowance? The House of Commons has admirable canteen, bar and toilet facilities during all hours and the green benches seem ideally suited to sleeping on as anyone who has watched an afternoon sitting can readily confirm.