The graph above shows the amount claimed by MPs for their second home. The idea is that as MPs often work late, those that can’t commute can claim for accommodation in London.
What I would like to be surprising, but don’tt, is that over half of MPs claim right up to the limit. The Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed £135 under the maximum and her ‘second home’ is her own house – she claims her sisters house in London is her main residence, so claims the cost of owning her own home as an expense. Nothing technically wrong there of course, but it is a little immoral – not an ideal quality in a Home Secretary.
Kevin Barron claimed only £14,909 for his second home in 2001/2, the 364th lowest out of 657 claims, so well done Kevin for economising – I notice though that he has got the hang of it since, and has managed finish in a medal position ever since coming 1st (2002/3), 3rd (2003/4) 1st (2004/5) and 1st again (2006/7). He has claimed over £20,000 a year in ‘additional costs’ every year since 2003. You can see more detail of Kevin Barron’s expense claims here.
Gordon Brown is now mooting the idea of scrapping the second home allowance – presumably on the grounds that the MPs can’t be trusted not to abuse it, nor civil servants to monitor them. Instead he has suggested a flat-rate fee per overnight stay.
I can see a better solution though – I understand there is something called a recession on – the MPs might have heard of it – meaning there are unsold flats all over London. Why doesn’t the government simply buy a flat for each constituency – providing stimulus to the housing market whilst at the same time ensuring there is no need to pay housing expenses ever again? When you are elected you get allocated a flat. When you lose your seat you give the keys back. If the government is short of cash it can sell the flats. It will provide a boost to the housing market. It removes any doubt about the legitimacy of MPs expenses. It saves MPs the bother of finding somewhere to live away from home. It would save the need for MPs to claim expenses for furnishing homes – the basics could be provided. It would save the administration costs of expense claims.
I’m struggling to see a downside, to be honest. Any views on this, Kevin?