One year from an election and yet another expenses scandal. But this time you don’t see Labour MPs calling for Maria Miller’s scalp. The reason is that, if the Standards Commissioner investigated any MP who claimed for a mortgage prior to 2009, half of Parliament would be in Miller’s position. MPs’ expenses undermine the democratic process. As we recover from Labour MP Denis MacShane being sent to prison, the Miller scandal erupts, and there will be another before long. David Cameron and Ed Miliband need to abolish expenses entirely. Ukip is taking votes from the main parties, and as long as scandals continue, they will benefit. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority costs the public £6m per year and makes major errors. We don’t need a committee of MPs or another quango, we need a Prime Minister and deputy leader with the guts to agree they got it wrong and make amends now by abolishing expenses. Unfortunately, I’m not holding my breath. Nadine Dorries is Conservative MP for Mid Bedfordshire. She claims no personal expenses.
The current expenses system – expensively administered by Ipsa, a bureaucratic monster of a quango – is not perfect. But MPs should be afforded appropriate support in performing their important duties. And just as employees in the private sector generally have to account for all business-related expenses, taxpayers deserve the same standard of transparency from MPs. The simplest way to administer these costs would be to issue MPs with a credit card specifically for the purpose. The card statements could then be available for scrutiny online, with MPs having to explain each transaction in a few words. This would make it easier for taxpayers to hold their representatives to account, and would go a long way to reducing the high cost of processing claims. Accountability could ultimately be enhanced by the introduction of a proper system of recall, whereby constituents would be able to vote mid-term on whether they wanted their MP to remain in office. Dia Chakravarty is political director at the TaxPayers’ Alliance.