Sir Thomas Legg Inquiry
The exoneration is welcome
But MP expenses still needs massive overall
Although the exoneration of the dishonest media claims against me is appreciated, I believe the Sir Thomas Legg’s Inquiry into the MP’s expenses scandal should have gone further. There’s still a need for a massive overall of the MP allowances system.
Well before the first lurid reports of scandalous misuse of MPs expenses were first revealed I had strongly argued that the public purse should become the holder of any property deeds and mortgages paid from public funds. I exposed that the London Living Allowance has been open to abuse and it seems a small minority of MPs have taken advantage of a lax system. Those who did wrong have been variously convicted and imprisoned.
The system must be tightened up. But I believe MPs who use the system to purchase properties should be compelled to hand the keys (and any capital gain accrued) back to the taxpayer when they leave office. After all it is the taxpayer, not the MP who has covered the costs. So the taxpayer should enjoy any capital gain generated after the period of use. And it would give Parliament a property portfolio to let to future MPs.
I my case, newspaper reports in 2008 falsely implied that I had bought a flat for a family member while I stayed in hotels. This was manifestly untrue. If it had been true I would have joined those MPs who were imprisoned for wrong doing! The reports also ignored the crucially important fact that it was I, not the taxpayer, who had covered the mortgage payments referred to in the reports. Most other MPs claimed the whole of their mortgage interest on their London flats. I did not. I felt I was picked on because I had been outspoken about a system which I felt was open to abuse, which failed to protect the public interest and had proposed methods of cleaning up the system, some of which have now been taken on board. As well as the completely false claim which WAS published, I was regularly assaulted journalists attempting to stand up other false stories which were never published but could only have been instigated by fellow MPs.
The whole affair had been a totally unfair media feeding frenzy. Members of my family had to go into hiding. My family endured abuse and appalling threats, including death threats investigated by the police.
During my thirteen years as MP I’ve lived in numerous rented flats and rooms for ten years and it’s only recently that I’ve taken a personal mortgage on a flat, which has been a saving for the taxpayer. I’ll be going back into a rented flat again soon which will cost the system more!
Of course it’s a relief this is now brought to its inevitable conclusion. It’s also reassuring that the many finance office bookkeeping errors uncovered by the inquiry show I had received a net underpayment. I will of course not claim the underpayment.
It’s of course disappointing (though perhaps inevitable) that some of my local Conservative and UKIP detractors ignore the truth and continue to troll me and my family by digging up and referring to the old false reports. They would be better advised to debate honest policy rather than dredge up dishonest newspaper reports.
Above all though, I really hope this will be a moment when the authorities will completely revise the system to give the public the confidence and reassurance they deserve that their elected representatives in Parliament are not able to misuse a lax expenses system to line their own pockets.