Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Michael Connarty Responds

Last week I wrote to Michael Connarty to ask why on 3 July last year he voted to do away with certain reforms in Third Report from the Members Estimate Committee: Review of Members Allowances (House of Commons Paper 578). To see what that entailed see my previous post on that issue. However, I did ask if I could publish his reposonse and as there was no objection here it is in full.

Dear Stephen,

I will be disappointed if this turns out to be a Lib Dem propaganda seeking exercise. I worry that we are involved in a race to the bottom with people being asked to see a cheaper MP as being therefore a better MP. Norman Baker MP who has put himself up as the rent a quote MP on expenses turns out to have charged parliament £7,500 per year to rent a room in his house as his constituency office. I have a large room in my house entirely for my office but I do not charge anything. The Labour colleague who acts in the same holier and thou capacity is rumoured to pay his wife a substantial salary as his secretary. I do not employ family members. Who is to judge what circumstances support which decision?

I voted for the motion proposed as I thought the proposed system was flawed. For example the daily reimbursement for subsistence at £30 per day would mean that an MP could claim £150 per week, when the system in place at the time was limited to £100 per week. I am against clocking in for £30 a time.

I also think it is wrong that MPs would still be able to claim for a second home that was not in London. I have always regarded the allowance as a ‘Living In London Allowance’ and used it always for the home where I London where I do my parliamentary work. My main home has always been in my constituency, which meant moving my family from their previous location when I was first selected to stand in Falkirk East in 1992. The Members estimate Committee showed their own preference for using the allowance as a second homes allowance to be used wherever the MP wanted to designate their second home. It has been shown that they biggest abuses were of the flipping back and forward of the second home designation to London and then back to a home which is really the family home in the constituency in most cases.

I do not think the case was, or is well made against the need of an MP whose main family home is in his or her constituency being refused support to buy furniture for a flat in London. There needs to be strict and publicly available rules and strict limits, but it is not supportive of family life if an MP has to take money away from support for his family at their main home to buy essential household furnishings. It will lead to more of a two tier Parliament, with the danger that MPs will go back to the system where they work in another business or profession during the day and pop in after the office, or court day.

It was not a well thought out package. I would have been attracted to a review such as is being carried out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life being undertaken by Kelly at this moment. I have always thought MPs pay and conditions should be set by an outside body and accepted without power to amend the proposals, I hope that si what will happen when Kelly reports.

Thank you for asking.

Michael Connarty MP


subrosa said...

After the first sentence I was about to stop reading and I should have done. What waffle.

Lots more questions than answers but the main question is 'why take the job when you're a family man who needs to work away from home'.

I see he implies other parties all have second jobbers such as lawyers. Pity very few in the labour party have such good formal qualifications. Climbing up a union's greasy pole don't quite cut the mustard does it.

Stephen Glenn said...

I've actually started to draft a response as my intial email was sent before there were particulars and excuses which have arisen, non of which were addressed here.

I'll be publishing that here, as it is about concerns of constituents of all party allegiences last time and none that I have gathered over the last week.

Watch this space.

Kev said...

Perhaps Michael is conducting defence by finger pointing here. This is predictable enough from anyone in an embarrassing situation.

One of my main concerns is extravagance. I have an alarm clock that I take on my frequent work related travels. It cost about £5. If I forget it, I use my phone.

And travel expenses - well I think parliament's booking office could make cheaper arrangements, but that's another rant.


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