Wednesday, 24 June 2009

New Laws On MPs Expenses

Brown and Co have announced a new Parliamentary Standards Bill on MPs expenses. 93 pages of new rules, regulations and requirements, I know the government like bureaucracy yet that just sounds unworkable. The big headline grabber under these new rules is that, MPs who knowingly provide false or misleading information in their expenses, could face up to 12 months in jail or an unlimited fine, this is commonly referred to as fraud which there is already a law for.

There are also fines set out for not registering an outside interest and for "paid advocacy" – asking questions or making speeches for money, fraud as it's commonly known. Though interestingly they don't have to step down after paying the fine and discrediting themselves. Same is applicable to the fraud charge, you not banned from standing as a MP or being one with less than 12 months jail time.

Two new authorities will be setup - "Parliamentary Standards Authority" that's the fees office under a new name and apparently independence. Also a "Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations", which will have the power to conduct investigations into MPs expenses. Though the only thing wrong with the fees office was the lack of transparency and accountability, just put receipts on-line, MPs won't make claims they can not justify to voters. It will also make people feel empowered, which is something sadly lacking in these proposals.

It just all seems so "New Labour", throw paper work over the problem, create a committee and call it an important name, job done. Yet all the public want is for MPs to be accountable, it's a job not a free ticket to do as you please. If Brown really wanted to be as historic as he announced he was, let people deselect their MPs, be accountable to voters not just once every 4-5 years.

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