Page last updated at 21:04 GMT, Monday, 18 May 2009 22:04 UK

What future for MPs' expenses?

By Victoria King
BBC News

Notes and credit card
How can we, the taxpayers, get MPs to spend less of our money?

For almost two weeks the expenses scandal has rumbled on, with mud-slinging, hand-wringing and cheque-waving.

Almost everyone - both those who used it and those who allegedly abused it - seems to agree the system is "rotten", so what could replace it?

The BBC News website asked a range of figures for their views.

THE REFORMER

George Reid, former Presiding Office at the Scottish Parliament, led an overhaul of the expenses system there. He believes Westminster should follow Holyrood's lead.

"Learning from the Scottish experience, transparency is everything," he says.

"Here, all individuals' claims are posted on a website where the public can then see them.

"Knowing that their claims will be seen by the public concentrates members' minds wonderfully when they are submitting them."

THE LABOUR MP

Derek Wyatt, MP for Sittingbourne and Sheppey, feels the solution to the issue is higher wages.

"I've always thought the idea of a salary and then expenses was fundamentally flawed," he argues.

"MPs should be paid an inner London and an outer London salary and no expenses. The current expenses should be wrapped up into an enhanced, taxable salary, but that portion should not be allowed to be added to our pensions."

Mr Wyatt adds that a starting salary of "over £100,000" would mean MPs could "pay all expenses - accommodation, office rental, staff salaries - out of it" and then have those accounts "signed off and put in the public domain".

THE INDEPENDENT MP

Dr Richard Taylor, who represents Wyre Forest in Worcestershire, has published all of his expenses for 2004 to 2008 online. Last year, only four MPs claimed less than him and he has a number of suggestions for reform.

"The distance an MP should be expected to commute should be defined by time and a time of one hour seems typical for most people who work in London," he said.

"The accommodation allowance should be restricted to rent for a second home in London and only basic furniture and equipment.

"If mortgage interest is to be allowed, then somehow the taxpayer should have a share of any capital gain.

"Personally, I do not think that a £25 daily allowance for food is necessary in any way. If this remains, it can only be acceptable if paid on the production of receipts."

THE CAMPAIGNER

The Taxpayers' Alliance has demanded that police look into the issue of expenses and pursue prosecutions if they are appropriate. Mark Wallace is from the campaign group.

"No matter what system is adopted the lynchpin has got to be transparency," he says. "This is the taxpayer's money and every single penny of it should be open to scrutiny.

"The second thing that has to be done is that MPs have got to start living by the same rules as the rest of us.

"You can only claim for something you've actually incurred, anything you claim for must be backed up by receipts and any other benefit you receive should be taxed."

THE THINK TANK

Neil O'Brien is director of think tank Policy Exchange. He campaigned against efforts by some MPs to try to block the publication of all expenses details under the Freedom of Information Act.

"Expenses were being used in an attempt to pay MPs more, without actually raising the basic salary," he said.

"The real problem is the second home allowance. Pre-expenses scandal, it was widely assumed that it would be consolidated into higher pay, but the Telegraph's last 11 days of revelations has closed off that avenue.

"A radical alternative might be a means test. Most MPs would reject this out of hand as humiliating - but why should MPs be treated differently than people on benefits?

"Why would we want to pay the same to a multimillionaire and a former postie?"



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