Sort out this financial sleaze now

JUST what is it about MPs and Euro MPs that they have an above average capacity for getting themselves into financial hot water and also for being caught out in lurid sexual indiscretions?All the media exposure of expenses, allowances and pay is enough to make voters think they must have thousands of elected representatives.

Graham Dines

JUST what is it about MPs and Euro MPs that they have an above average capacity for getting themselves into financial hot water and also for being caught out in lurid sexual indiscretions?

All the media exposure of expenses, allowances and pay is enough to make voters think they must have thousands of elected representatives. In fact, there are only 646 MPs at Westminster and just 78 Euro MPs elected to represent the UK at Brussels and Strasbourg.

The latest MP for fall prey to the media's appetite for exposing how public money is spent is Conservative Party chairman Caroline Spellman, who allegedly paid her nanny from public funds. Last week saw the resignation of Giles Chichester, the party's leader in Brussels, over the issue of staff expenses.


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Ms Spelman, who was yesterday meeting Parliamentary Standards Commissioner John Lyon, insists she did nothing wrong because the nanny had undertaken secretarial and administrative work as well as providing childcare services outside school hours.

It follows the long and unsuccessful legal appeal by the Speaker Michael Martin on behalf of all MPs against the Information Commissioner's ruling that their expenses, allowances and second homes claims should be published in the public interest.

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Over in Brussels, two Conservative Euro MPs were caught out last week over their expenses, another two Tories were identified as having questions to answer, and one UKIP MEP - the East of England's Tom Wise - is under investigation by parliamentary authorities. That's five out of 78 - or 6.5%. If 6.5% of British adults were under investigation for alleged financial misdeeds,

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`That the MEPs involved all come from the “bash Europe” wing of the Parliament makes it all the

more difficult for voters to accept.'

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there'd be no bobbies on the beat because they would be spending all their time looking into bank accounts and expense accounts!

And don't forget that four years ago, the Tories sacked the East of England's Bashir Khanbhai just days before he was due to seek re-election to Brussels because of allegations over claiming expenses from an address which turned out to be a boatyard on the Norfolk Broads.

That the MEPs involved all come from the “bash Europe” wing of the Parliament makes it all the more difficult for voters to accept.

Critics of the EU and the European Parliament claim both bodies are corrupt. That might be going too far, but they both are certainly cavalier with public money. Euro MPs are paid the same as MPs in their home country, but these are topped up with attendance payments, a staffing allowance for secretaries and researchers, and generous expenses for travelling - a total calculated by the media as £330,000 a year.

How to squash the allusion that our MPs and MEPs have their snouts in a trough funded by you and me is, I believe, easy to overcome.

MPs and MEPs should have their staff paid for out of public funds, including National Insurance contributions. If the parliaments paid them directly, there would be no need for MPs or MEPs to make claims for them and this would overcome allegations that cash was somehow being siphoned off.

If accommodation was provided in London and Brussels by the two parliaments, again there would be no need to claim housing costs such as state of the art stereo and television systems.

MPs and MEPs would end up with fair pay and genuine - and fully accounted for - expenses in connection with constituency duties, which would be put annually into the public domain.

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