MPs expenses: 'Put confidence back into Parliament,' say Cambs MPs

THE public has lost in confidence in the way MPs are reimbursed their expenses, both Huntingdonshire Members said this week. Neither Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, nor Shailesh Vara, whose North West Cambridgeshire constituency includes north Hunti

THE public has lost in confidence in the way MPs are reimbursed their expenses, both Huntingdonshire Members said this week.

Neither Jonathan Djanogly, MP for Huntingdon, nor Shailesh Vara, whose North West Cambridgeshire constituency includes north Huntingdonshire, has become the focus of attention from the national media.

However, Andrew Lansley, whose Cambridgeshire South constituency includes Cambourne, Papworth and Caxton, has felt the need to defend himself.

Both Mr Djanogly and Mr Vara live in Huntingdonshire, and both have London homes that they have retained from their pre-Parliamentary days. Both are commercial lawyers and both are Shadow Ministers.

No one has seriously questioned the need for MPs representing constituencies outside London to maintain a home in the capital, but the way some Members claim expenses for maintaining those homes has recently come under critical scrutiny.

"There's no doubt that the recent period has been damaging for politicians of all parties," Mr Djanogly told The Hunts Post. "It has been damaging to Parliament and so has become a constitutional issue.

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"Clearly, voters must have confidence in people whom they have elected, and the public is angry about this issue."

Mr Djanogly said it was clear that some MPs had "abused, sometimes wittingly, sometimes unwittingly" a system that was set up 35 years ago. Others, however, had been misrepresented.

If an MP needs to do some work on the second home, he or she gets an estimate an submits it to the House of Commons Fees Office, which will say how much it is reasonable for the public to contribute. If the Member wishes to proceed with a more expensive job, he or she must pay the difference. But in some cases the sums that are being disclosed in the national media represent the total cost, not the taxpayer's contribution.

And, in some cases, receipts have included items that are not claimed for.

"When I came into Parliament [in 2001, succeeding former Prime Minister Sir John Major], you didn't have to show receipts, though I always did."

Mr Djanogly believes the whole second-home expenses system should be scrapped, with MPs' salaries increased to compensate.

"The public clearly doesn't like to see MPs getting money for living expenses. It's subjective what is necessary or unnecessary, what is a luxury and what is not. Whatever system you put in place would not satisfy everyone."

Mr Djanogly and Mr Vara, whose London flat is in Pimlico within walking distance of the Commons, support the setting up of Sir Christopher Kelly's independent review body, which is expected to report during the summer, possibly before Parliament rises for the summer recess in July.

Mr Vara told The Hunts Post: "This is a cross-party issue and we need to sort it out and sort it very quickly. The system is unsustainable.

"The new system needs to be one that is open and has the confidence of the public, which the present system clearly doesn't. "We need to resolve this and get back to the business of politics and real issues."

Details of MPs' actual expenses claims are due to be published in July.

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