MPs expenses back in spotlight

Politician’s expenses have hit the headlines again after the relative calm of the summer recess, with a slew of new complaints.

The Government was widely criticised this week for failing to mention any reform of the expenses system in the Queen’s Speech, whilst figures from the Scottish Parliament show that MSPs claims rose by 8% over the previous year.

Questions are bound to be asked of the commitment of MPs and MSPs to overhauling the expenses system, especially as public anger over the issue remains high.

Figures from the Scottish Parliament show that the total bill for expenses in 2008-09 increased to £10.9 million, with a £876,587 rise from the previous year.

Whilst this rise was partly down to an increase in staff salaries, claims for office supplies rose by 31%.

Conservative MSP John Lamont claimed the most for office supplies at nearly £27,000.

Mark Wallace, Campaign Director for The Taxpayers’ Alliance believes politicians could become complacent over expenses.

He said: “There is a danger that politicians who haven’t lost their positions will be breathing a sigh of relief.

“People will be furious at the lack of reform mentioned in the Queen’s speech and at the complete lack of transparency in the system.

He added: “I think people want Sir Christopher Kelly’s reforms implemented fully.

“In Scotland, expenses have risen. In recessions, politicians should be tightening their belts, rather than claiming more.”

The Scotsman reports that 26 MSPs are still employing members of their family as staff, despite the furore caused by this practice in Westminster.

After a Westminster review recommended banning this practice, there are calls for the Scottish Parliament to do the same.

Robbie Sullivan, Director of Vote for a Change suggests that the Scottish expenses system is working, and a similar model should be adopted in Westminster.

He said: “The expenses system in Westminster is a scandal, with MPs claiming for cleaning moats and for mortgages that no longer exist.

“The Scottish Parliament is more open and transparent, you cannot compare it to Westminster’s expenses system.

“The Scottish model ought to be adopted in London. We should be proud of our modern system, while London appears stuck in the Middle Ages.”