Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Uninspiring dash to compromise...

. Tim Ball has blogged the letter that Nick Clegg sent to David Cameron and Gordon Brown regarding the ongoing expenses issue.

I was more than a little curious that we are still seemingly so desperate to compromise with a Prime Minister who obvious isn't willing to do any 'giving'. This is now a matter of a government doing the best it can to whip through on-the-hoof reforms with an opposition in both the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats who have been rebuffed and told they are inconsequential. Meanwhile, David Cameron and Nick Clegg are engaged in a desperate scramble to appear holier-than-thou and neither is doing particularly well at functioning as the governments opposition because they are not talking to each other. Worse still both look like part of an establishment that knows its wrong but doesn't know what to do about it which is unlikely to do either any favours in terms of standing with the wider public.

Brown's position of daily allowances is gross and offensive, the notion that people should be given money for turning-up to a job they already receive a salary for is, regardless of any receipts they produce, is just plain wrong. Accepting nonetheless that MP's do need a second residence to actually perform they job they are elected to do is a crucial part of this debate. It is patently ridiculous of public opinion to expect people to commute from all corners and still maintain that living vital link with the constituency they are meant to represent. So, the taxpayer will have to fork out money to assist with the purchase and maintenance of second properties however, they can realistically expect two things; that no personal profit is made by MP's on second homes and that money is recouped.

Tax can be reasonably applied to any accommodation related claim (and really, since our tax policy recently included a commitment to extend it to benefits-in-kind, we should naturally support this) as another way of reducing their cost and making the system overall more fair. Since a second home is the very definition of a benefit-in-kind it escapes me why Clegg isn't arguing for the extension of taxation to these payments. MP's currently are the only group of employees recognised by tax law as actually requiring a second home and thus eligible for tax-free reimbursement.

Clegg, in his dash to 'compromise', has also rather shamefacedly dropped any suggestion that MP's eventually be forced to sell their second homes. Rather than force them now they should be forced to sell them if and when they lose their seat with a portion of money being returned to the Treasury and a portion, which has its size determined by the amount of expense claimed or not claimed, being allowed to be claimed back by the now ex-MP (who incidentally benefits from a £30,000 tax-free windfall in any case) upon proper calculation of the extent of their personal investment. This is one issue where compromise will do us no good at all as a party and it certainly will not inspire trust that we are best placed to fix our 'broken politics'.

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