MP's expenses

Recently, I met the former Jockey Willie Carson.  His opening words were to attack me over MPs' expenses.  And, last week, on a visit to a local school, politics students didn't ask me about crime, global poverty or tuition fees.  They asked about my second home.

So it's not lost on me that people are very angry, and I understand why.  At a time when everyone is facing rising prices, MPs appear to be feathering their own nests at the taxpayers' expense.

Clearly there have been totally unacceptable abuses and the system needs reform.  MPs' should not set our own pay.  We should accept pay restraint.  There should not be a 'John Lewis list'.  Allowances should be audited and transparent.  I have voted for all these things since I was elected, and the expenses of Conservative MPs were published last week.

One of the items I listed was for photographs.  This was for the rights to images that are reproduced on my website and constituency reports.  The Mail on Sunday reported this as though I had bought prints for my own home.  Which portrait did they think I was hanging in my sitting room?  Che Guevara?

The staff who work for me in the constituency and at Westminster are all listed as "expenses".  So is the stationery and printer toner.  These are not perks.  And since the job is divided between Westminster (where the Commons frequently sits until 10 pm) and our constituencies, most MPs will continue to need help towards the costs of being away - unless we want only rich people to be able to stand for Parliament.

It's essential that MPs' allowances are reasonable and scrutinised, and I'm determined to be conscious that I work for the public at their expense.  But as I write this on the 7.13 Virgin service to Liverpool, where I'll be spending all day on an official trip, it doesn't exactly feel like a gravy train!

Michelle Taylor