Expenses incurred and claimed against receipts…

Gordon Brown has promised to overhaul the system by which MPs get their various allocations of cash but – as far as I can see from reports like this one on the BBC – still appears to be missing the point. The sceptics will say this is intentional – just as they are already rather wryly noting that Mr Brown’s new deadline for reform happens to coincide with the month in which details of MPs’ expense claims (since 2004) are finally to be published after years of legal wriggling.

The point Mr Brown’s measures seem to miss is the distinction between expenses and allowances. He proposes, for instance, a flat-rate ‘attendance allowance’ to be paid to MPs instead of the ‘second home allowance’ which recent revelations have done so much to discredit.

It’s still an allowance.

This reform may change what MPs are paid and how, but it does not seem to do anything to increase their accountability for the funds they take from the public purse. If Mr Brown’s aim really is to “restore people’s confidence”, as he claims, then surely the way to do it is to introduce more, not less of a link between what MPs get paid and what they actually spend.

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