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Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 11:25 UK

MPs' pay and expenses

Almost exactly a year ago, parliament challenged a freedom of information ruling that MPs' expenses should be made public.

xpenses under scrutiny

Video: MP's expenses 2008

And we at the Politics Show asked you, the viewers, to let us know how you thought the thorny issues of MPs' pay and expenses should be dealt with.

A viewers panel came forward to investigate just how the system worked - and to suggest some ways of overhauling it.

If you want a reminder of the conclusions they came to - just play the archive video above.

And here are their thoughts on this week's lurid revelations...

Jude Palmer's views

I wouldn't like to think that our time was wasted when we investigated MPs' Pay and Expenses on the Politics Show in 2008.

However, given the current headlines I fear that it may have been...

As the drama unfolds and MPs hide behind the "it was within the rules" line, I fear we have an even greater problem.

Yes, we know that the expenses system needs changing - that's a no brainer.

Jude Palmer
Jude Palmer- - changes are needed

It needs a truly independent body to assess the system quickly and put it right.

But the problem is deeper than that.

We know that MPs exist in some archaic parallel universe, but more importantly most of these people seem to be morally bankrupt.

How can any MP think that some of these expense claims were appropriate given their position, irrelevant of what the rules said?

Is it universal? Do we all "fiddle our expenses"?

Or is it more sinister than that, and does becoming an MP appeal to a certain breed that seems to think deceit at all levels is part of the job?

That "spin" is a unique form of political communication to be used to manipulate the public or to hide bad behaviour.

Let's stop focusing on the detail - bath plugs and swimming pools. We know that's wrong.

Surely there is a greater issue in terms of the job itself and the people it attracts, an issue that needs further investigation.

In my opinion, most of our MPs lack vision, integrity and passion for our country.

It is no wonder we have lost our soul as a country when the people we choose to govern us, the people we choose to shape our society lack such judgement, and more importantly they lack the trust of the people.

A challenge to anyone who will listen - let me and The Politics Show panel put together an independent body to sort out the expenses system!

What have you got to lose?

Watch a video clip from May 2008 below:


Bob Pitman's views

Last year I was a part of the Politics Show Citizens panel looking into MPs' pay and expenses.

We came up with a 10 point list that we thought would help preclude further outrage such as was caused by the then Conservative MP, Derek Conway.

Derek Conway
There was outrage over the then Conservative MP, Derek Conway

We came up with 10 points that we thought would remove the temptation of expenses and therefore avoid scandals.

We suggested giving the wages a boost and scrapping the second homes allowance.

Then MPs who needed to refurnish their homes would have been spending their own money.

Raising the salary would ensure that being an MP did not become a rich man's hobby - it would erode the old school tie network, and it really could open the door to people who genuinely want to do the job, not just independently wealthy MPs.

The system was discredited a year ago. Everything that has been suggested since to patch the existing system up has been a band-aid applied to a decapitation.

It's bankrupt, broken beyond reasonable repair.

Ditch it and add 23K to the salary… But that's not enough.

Whether these claims were within the rules or not, whether the Fees Office was encouraging MPs to take as much as they could stuff into their swag sacks and run for it or not, these MPs are grown ups, they could have said "no".

It's called taking responsibility for your actions and the appalling cries of "it's all within the rules" are just making it worse.

There are always going to be legitimate reasons for expenses being claimed: the MP who has to drive hundreds of miles to do their job in a large constituency; the MP who has to fly to London from the Orkneys to go to work…

There's no getting away from that.

But maintaining homes is something we all have to do whether it's your second home or not.

Bob Pitman
Bob Pitman suggests a digital solution

Getting rich off the public while you do it is not something we elect our MPs to do.

Here's a radical idea to wind up with - move Parliament to somewhere with cheap land, build a new House, add an accommodation block... problem solved.

It's the era of digital communication - a few high capacity lines and MPs are in touch with departments in London or anywhere else.

Now my vision of the future is grim and probably wildly off, but if Parliament can't clean its act up, then we the people will have to do it for them.


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