A Strong Voice for Croydon Central - Gavin Barwell MP
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"It was all within the rules" is not an excuse
12/05/2009 22:15:00

So many people have spoken to me over the last few days about the revelations about MPs' expenses.

What can I say to them? That I am just as angry as they are at what some MPs have been spending our money on, particularly at a time when many people are struggling to cope because of the recession? That as a Conservative candidate, I am absolutely livid with those Conservative MPs who have been implicated because inevitably many people are going to conclude "You're all the same" and I am going to get tarred with the same brush?

I suppose there are two points I would make. First, the thing I find most infuriating is hearing people try to defend themselves by saying "It was all within the rules". Who made those rules? And since when did a set of rules absolve you from moral responsibility for the way you behave?

Second, I was impressed with David Cameron today. Unlike the Prime Minister, he does at least seem to get it. He's announced that he is establishing a panel to review as a matter of urgency every excessive expense claim by a Conservative MP and decide how much money they will pay back. Anyone who refuses to accept the decision of this panel will not be allowed to continue as a Conservative MP.

He's also imposing additional rules on Conservative MPs above and beyond the House of Commons rules. They will have to:

• publish each and every expense claim online as they submit them;

• only claim for what is necessary to do the job, not for furniture, luxuries or the weekly shop;

• not ‘flip’ their first and second homes to maximise what they can claim on expenses; and

• pay Capital Gains Tax when they sell a home on which the mortgage interest payments have been paid by us, the taxpayer.

But he'll need to go further. Once we have all the facts, it may that there are some people who have abused the system to such an extent that paying back the money is not sufficient punishment.

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