The events of the last week or so have confirmed my long-standing view that a culture change is needed in Westminster to regain public confidence in politicians when it comes to their expenses. I am pleased that Sir Christopher Kelly has brought forward his Committee’s inquiry but the time has come for more than a change of system and rules, but for a change in culture and approach.
I have entered politics because I believe in public service. I want to make a contribution to my country and believe in working for something that is greater than self interest. I also believe that the vast majority of MPs enter politics for the same reasons. But MPs now need to take responsibility for the mess that is Parliamentary expenses and prove that is the case.
Let us be clear; MPs should claim expenses or allowances only when they incur a legitimate cost (and have receipts to prove it), not because they are “entitled” to claim them. The culture of claiming allowances because they are on offer (and are seen as a salary top-up) has to end. For those of us who work for public bodies and accept that our expenses are open to public scrutiny, and that we only claim expenses we incur doing our jobs, the current Westminster system is hard to stomach.
I have made an “expenses pledge” as somebody who is standing for Parliament. http://www.amjcomms.com/2009/03/25/my-expenses-pledge-to-voters-of-halton/ I would hope all candidates, whether they be current MPs or not, would agree to do something similar. All candidates, including MPs need to show some leadership and clean up this mess. Only then will the reputation of politicians start to be restored.