And they thought was all over... Well, not quite


Expenses, expenses, expenses. That's the name of the game.

According to the Parliament website, a backbench MP has a basic pay of £64,766 as of 1 April 2009. Not bad if you can get it in the first place. Many of the UK's 2.1 million (7.1%) unemployed would probably be very happy with this.

Northern Ireland has an unemployment percentage of around 5.7% with almost 43,900 unemployed. Not too bad in the wider scheme of things and much lower than the UK wide figure.
Now it should be pointed out that these figures are only for those able to be employed are are currently not employed. This means that a lot of the population is not working because they are house mothers or fathers, retired people, children, those too disabled to be taken on in employment.

You should also think about the context of actual employment. Of the 756,000 people who are employed how many are only part time? How many are on temporary or short term contracts? The average median gross weekly salary in Northern Ireland is £418. An MPs salary, after tax, is £1204 per week. Food for thought.

According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, an MP, without expenses and only drawing on their basic pay of £64,766, would have a higher income than around 92% of the population - equivalent to about 55.1 million individuals in the UK. I calculated this under the parameters of the MP being married, the only earner, council tax of £2,000 and with 2 children under 13 years of age.

Now I don't begrudge the MPs, or indeed any elected representative, earning a good wage. It is a career, much like a doctor, a lawyer, a nurse, or any other profession. I think it actually is a good enough wage for an MP. I also don't have a huge angst against expenses either. It is always a perk of any job many of us enjoy. Not all, but many.

So, where did it all go wrong?? The soon to be ex-speaker of the house seems to have tried to cover up, and failed in the high court, the release of expenses into the public domain. This is possibly the biggest indictment on the Rt Hon Michael Martin MP. MPs are paid, just like the civil servants they are trying to make redundant, from the public purse.

I wonder what George Orwell would have made of all of this? Animal Farm 2: Napoleon's expenses?
According to the Member of Parliaments Code of Conduct, MPs must observe the general principles of conduct identified by the Committee on Standards in Public Life as applying to holders of public office. These are,

Holders of public office should take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits for themselves, their family, or their friends.

Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.

In carrying out public business, including making public appointments, awarding contracts, or recommending individuals for rewards and benefits, holders of public office should make choices on merit.

Holders of public office are accountable for their decisions and actions to the public and must submit themselves to whatever scrutiny is appropriate to their office.

Holders of public office should be as open as possible about all the decisions and actions that they take. They should give reasons for their decisions and restrict information only when the wider public interest clearly demands.

Holders of public office have a duty to declare any private interests relating to their public duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a way that protects the public interest.

Holders of public office should promote and support these principles by leadership and example.
MPs must base their conduct on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest.

Hmmmm. How many can truly stand up and say they have adhered to these Snowball like commandments?

We shall see how this sorry saga ends up and hopefully we will not cave in to pure cynicism that could undermine our democratic society.

MPs have a lot to do to win back our trust - but i am hopeful this will be sooner rather than later.


Hand of History. Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved Revolution Two Church theme by Brian Gardner Converted into Blogger Template by Bloganol dot com | Distributed by Deluxe Templates