MPs' Expenses, May 2009
This has been a dreadful week for public trust in politics. People are furious about the abuse of MPs' allowances. The system was introduced to ensure that anyone, regardless of their means, could become an MP and live in their constituency while also representing their electors at Westminster. But it's clearly failed.
I understand the public's anger, and I am very sorry indeed that we have all let everyone down so badly. I strongly believe that MPs should spend taxpayers' money with great care and only claim expenses when absolutely necessary. I also believe the public has a right to know how these funds are spent. Expenses should be reasonable and they should be audited.
This week David Cameron set out how he wants Conservative MPs to behave in the future. From now on none of us will claim for food, furniture, or other household goods (for the record, I didn't claim for these things anyway), and the sale of MPs' second homes will be subject to capital gains tax.
No Conservative will normally be allowed to ‘flip' which property is registered as their second home, and all claims we do make will be published immediately online.
More widely we want to reduce the cost of politics overall by scrapping the communications allowance and reducing the total number of MPs.
These changes aren't going to alter people's perceptions of MPs overnight, but by recognising the damage that has been done I hope they will go some way to fixing elements of our broken politics.
I believe that further reforms will be necessary and the independent Committee on Standards in Public Life will make recommendations later this year.
If the Conservatives win the next election, we'll be asking the whole country to come together to show social responsibility, personal responsibility and thrift. So the least we can do is to ask Parliament to live by those values as well.