Listening to some of the early responses to the Kelly Report fills me only with a mixture of disbelief and deep foreboding. The campaign from certain quarters of the House of Commons to dilute its headline proposals betrays a continued failure to appreciate the scale of public anger at the perception that the parliamentary allowances system has been subverted to maximise MPs’ personal enrichment.
Whilst I accept that the Kelly proposals throw up anomalies and inconsistencies bordering on injustice for some MPs, I believe that they should be accepted swiftly and in their entirety.
Nothing would be more catastrophic for the reputation of UK parliamentary democracy than for the allowances controversy to continue polluting the next parliament, as it has over these recent wretched months. As I observed in my own submission to Sir Christopher Kelly:
‘The public rightly asks, ‘If parliamentarians lack the ability to put their own House in order on expenses, how can they be trusted to regulate and legislate for the rest of the country?’.
The electorate will treat with corrosive cynicism any attempt to tweak Kelly’s published proposals (whether concerning the employment of relatives, entitlement of suburban MPs to second home allowances, the reduction in the London allowance or transitional arrangements to put existing MPs in a more advantageous position than those yet to be elected).
On these matters parliament can no longer be allowed to treat the voters with contempt. They now fully appreciate the real reason for the long-running rearguard action in the High Court by the former Speaker, Party managers and senior MPs (some of the very same people now charged by parliament with advising the newly created IPSA). Those legal manoeuvres were designed to prevent publication of the detailed breakdown of all MPs’ expenses. This motley group of “respected senior” parliamentarians knew full well that transparency and public scrutiny of expense claims would be disastrous. So ? courtesy of the Daily Telegraph’s exposé – it has proved.
I will have no part to play in any exercise of public deception designed to water down a robust package that will begin the process of restoring confidence. Kelly’s proposals should now be accepted without delay or reservation.