Conservative Diary

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David Cameron is one of the few politicians to emerge with credit from the expenses scandal

David Cameron concludes his weekly email (despatched yesterday) with this paragraph:

"The end of the week has been dominated by expenses stories - and I expect there will be many more over the coming months, from all parties. I understand why people are angry about this. That's why as soon as the problems arose I was first out of the blocks, making sure that our MPs and MEPs set out clearly how they spend public money. This is just the first step to a cleaner, more open system. Slowly and surely we're going to re-build the trust between politicians and the people they serve."

Fair comment.  Although The Telegraph has not yet revealed the expenses of Tory MPs (the lone Greg Barker does inexplicably get singled out today) we can be sure that some of our MPs are not going to emerge smelling of roses.  MPs from all parties have worked the system and a holier than thou attitude from the Conservative Party isn't going to wash.

What can be said, however, is that David Cameron has emerged well from the whole episode.  He has consistently forced the pace on this issue - within the Conservative Party and more widely.  Here are some of the measures he has proposed in recent times*:

  • MPs living within a reasonable distance of the Commons should not be able to claim.
  • MPs who co-habit could only claim once (extraordinary that this rule should be necessary).
  • Mandatory annual public declarations by MPs justifying designation of primary and additional home (including all relevant details – i.e. parents’/family home).
  • MPs would not be able to claim for stamp duty, TV bills, furniture or decorations.
  • All claims and receipts must be published online within 28 days. Receipts would be required for all claims.
  • The abolition of the £10,000pa Communications Allowance.
  • No Conservative MP with a grace-and-favour residence should be able to claim the second homes allowance.
  • MPs’ staff should be employed centrally by the House of Commons.
  • Greater transparency on remuneration from second jobs and tighter controls on ex-Ministers taking jobs.
  • Independent spot-checks and audits of expenses.

I would have liked him to have gone even further but in proposing what he has he has often gone against the caution of senior colleagues (notably William Hague and David Davis when he was Shadow Home Secretary) and Patrick McCloughlin, his Chief Whip.

Tim Montgomerie

* I am grateful to CCHQ for supplying me with a comprehensive list of proposals after I requested it yesterday.

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