Wednesday, 20 May 2009

WE Are The Parliamentary Standards Authority!

How smug and complacent it is for MPs to suggest that a politically manageable Quango act as the arbiter of their "standards". This is simply further evidence that they just don't understand the depths to which they have sunk in our esteem. Expense claims are at the tip of an iceberg.

So let's be clear with them. I suggest a missive be sent to each MP and Peer to the following effect:
We, the citizens of the UK, are your so-called Parliamentary Standards Authority. You work for us. We pay you. It is best that you act in a way that inspires our trust and confidence in you, otherwise you will be thrown out of Parliament. As a guide, we have some standards we want you to abide by. These include, but shall not be limited to the following:

1. You must stop using the title "Right Honourable", because we do not believe that either term applies to you, any more than it does to anyone else.

2. You will abide by the most draconian expense policy that applies to middle managers in a FTSE 100 company from time to time.

3. You will publish your expense claims on your parliamentary web page within 7 days after the end of each calendar month.

4. You must not submit an expense claim that does not comply with the expense policy and is not supported by a valid VAT receipt.

etc - e.g. more transparent declarations of 'outside' interests and income, prohibition on taking cushy consulting roles with industries you are supposed to have been supervising.

We can amend this charter at any time in our sole and absolute discretion. Be good. We are watching you.

And the first job for the so-called "Digital Engagement Team" at the Cabinet Office should be to ensure a public datafeed of MPs' and Peers' expenses so that taxpayers can use the various analytical tools that have already sprung up to determine whether their legislators' interests are aligned with citizens' or with the lining of their own pockets.

PS: Also worth getting involved with the MySociety intiative on this. I wrote to my MP, Andy Slaughter, and he's promised to publish his expenses online. However, we need them all to publish in a format that can be readily analysed.

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