'Scrap allowances and increase pay'

PUBLISHED: 13:00 12 June 2009 | UPDATED: 11:09 10 June 2010

THE parliamentary second home allowance is unreformable and should be scrapped and replaced by a larger pay packet for MPs, says East Devon MP Hugo Swire. Mr Swire gave his personal views in an exclusive, wide-ranging and remarkably frank interview with

THE parliamentary second home allowance is 'unreformable' and should be scrapped and replaced by a larger pay packet for MPs, says East Devon MP Hugo Swire.

Mr Swire gave his personal views in an exclusive, wide-ranging and remarkably frank interview with the Journal.

He answered questions on his expenses claims, specifically on his Additional Costs Allowance - which amounted to £22,802 last year - and gave his views on the MPs' expenses scandal.

And while the current system remained in place he is backing 'spot checks' of members claims.

Mr Swire had been quizzed by Sir Christopher Kelly, chairman of the parliamentary watchdog, The Committee on Standards in Public Life and asked his view.

He said tightening up the rules was 'nibbling around the edges' and the scandal had turned into a 'political bidding war'.

He said"My own view, and I have testified to the Kelly committee who asked us for submissions, and I just said to him I think it is unreformable ... because I think people still really don't understand why MPs need these allowances for second homes.

"I do think salaries should be taken from MPs and spot checks... (should be carried out).

"You have seen the categories under which (MPs) ... can claim and some have been done for claiming under these categories, so what's crept in is a sort of moral judgement.

"Okay, you are entitled to claim this but why do you have to? However you reform it, it is going to still be there."

He said the system should have been scrapped 'ages ago': "(It should be part of)...MPs pay and let them decide how they want to use it.

"Whether they even want a house in their constituency, that's between them and the constituents, whether they want to do this rental share or live in their grandmother's basement flat, free it all up but don't have a separate allowance, put it in the salary.

"...take it out of the say of the MPs, have a senior salaries review board and make that binding, unless there are exceptional circumstances...

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