Wednesday, April 22, 2009

“Here’s More Money To Do Your Job. That We’re Already Paying You To Do…”

I know this isn’t the biggest story about the recently released UK government budget, but after catching the cover of today’s Times, and couldn’t pass up commenting on this ridiculous headline:

MPs to get extra £150 a day for turning up

What?!

According to the story, by Sam Coates,

“MPs will receive about £150 a day on top of their salaries for attending the Commons in an emergency package of anti-sleaze reforms to be rushed through Parliament.”

Quite how this proposal is related to anti-sleaze reforms is quite beyond me, but in the wake of the release of MP expense claims, and the clear evidence that a dishonest many are submitting expenses for everything under the sun without doing any (or much) work, this is unbelievable.

As far as I can tell, the taxpayers will now be paying their MPs an extra £150 per day that they spend doing their job. Which they are already paid handsomely for (£64,766, according to the same story).

Well, as always, there’s a little more to it than that. After I overcame my bout of populist-outcrying, I read on. Coates explains:

“His central proposal is to abolish the £24,000 second-home allowance that has caused dire headlines, most notably for Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary. The Prime Minister wants MPs to vote for a tax-free daily allowance to be obtained by ‘clocking in’ at Westminster. Members would not have to submit receipts and the allowance would come on top of their £64,766 salaries.”

Sounds pretty reasonable, no? (To me, it sounds rather like the system the Labour Government put in place to effectively bribe kids to go to school).

Dispensing with the need to submit receipts looks like a doozey for MPs, so I imagine this will receive a great deal of support. And, no doubt, we’ll see an up-tick of MPs present and correct in Parliament, tapping away on their Blackberrys, reading books and magazines, paying not a bit of attention to what’s going on. That, or they’ll clock in at 9am, collect their £150, and go home.

“If the daily rate is more than £150 the new system is likely to cost more than the current one, according to a 2007 analysis by the Commons. With the House sitting 150 days a year on average, many MPs could claim more than £20,000 a year.”

£22,500, to be exact. So it’s not more expensive, but it’s still a lot, and the difference is negligible.

The reaction from MPs? Well, another story by Sam Coates, entitled:

MPs aghast at clocking in, but set to back £150 attendance fee

Naturally.

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