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Students, Vicars, and Members of Parliament

May 25, 2009

I’ve been doing my best not to blog about the MPs’ expenses debacle (I mean, who wants to talk about that when there are signs out there in need of better grammar?) but I really don’t get how so many can grasp a stick so simple at completely the wrong end…

For me, it seems so simple. If I buy a book for work, and the company pays for it, then the company owns that book. If I then leave, the book stays with the company. Similarly, if I don’t need the book but someone else in work does, then they get to have it.

So if the taxpayer is paying £6k to furnish an MP’s house, then the furniture belongs to the taxpayer, right? And if that MP stands down, or fails to win at the next election, then the furniture is available for the next MP to use. Right?…

I don’t know, but I’m guessing that pretty much all of today’s MPs went to university. In my day, the university provided accommodation and furnishing for you to rent. They certainly didn’t give you a big fat cheque for you to buy a place and furnish it and keep at the end of your course. Sure, if you had wealthy parents they might choose to buy you place, but it certainly wasn’t expected or necessary. Why doesn’t the provision of London homes for MPs work on the same basis? Sure, they get a salary, and if they want to buy a second home out of their own money then they’re welcome to, but there’s certainly no obligation for them to do so.

It’s not like it’s just students who live this way. Vicarages are owned and maintained by the church, and are made available for the incumbent to live in. Do they get to keep the house once their time as vicar for that parish is over? Of course not; the vicarage then becomes available for the next priest.

Parishes need priests to live in their area, and so provide a vicarage for them to live in during their time as the priest of that parish. The Houses of Parliament need MPs to live in London, and so should provide for them during their time as an MP. And once that time is over, those assets and resources are made available to the next in line.

Finally, one thing I really don’t understand why other people aren’t making this point. I was listening to The Nolan Show on Radio 5 last night, and all the people on there seemed concerned with was drawing an arbitrary line in the sand between what the taxpayer should buy for MPs and what they shouldn’t. Why should we buy anything for them at all? If they want to buy things then let them buy them from their ample salary. Yes, let’s provide the necessary resources for MPs to function as MPs during their tenure, but let’s not gift it to them and then have to provide the same resources time and time again for every new member through the door.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 25, 2009 6:51 pm

    Good point. Seems obvious now you point it out. Maybe you should add your point to Question Time?

  2. May 25, 2009 6:54 pm

    To drag the conversation back to the pedantries of grammar, shouldn’t the title be “Students, Vicars, and Members of Parliament”?

  3. May 25, 2009 8:17 pm

    QT comment submitted, title corrected; good work Burns.

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