Much of what has been exposed on the topic of MPs’ expenses is trivial. What is not trivial is the extent to which MPs have time and time again claimed in their defence that everything that they did was within the rules. There are a number of problems with this. The first is that MPs made the rules so they are in a poor position to pray them in aid. The second is that obeying the rules does not make what you do right or moral simply because you’ve been told that it within the rules.
I would not go and beat up old ladies in the street if the law said that I was permitted to do so. It is clearly wrong.
MPs receive an allowance for the costs of maintaining a second home to allow them to work in London. Putting aside the question of what costs are legitimate, the purpose of this allowance is fairly clear. What then are we to make of Andrew MacKay MP who claimed for the costs of a second home in London whilst his wife, fellow MP Julie Kirkbride, used her second home allowance to pay the costs of their main home in Bromsgrove (sorry her second home but his main home). Here’s what he had to say earlier today.
“I had taken advice from the most senior person at the time in the Fees Office and they had suggested to me that I elect our family home in north Worcestershire, in my wife Julie’s constituency,” he told Sky News.
“My second home that I claimed on is our home in Westminster, near to the House of Commons. Equally, Julie was advised to claim the main home in London, the second home in Bromsgrove.
“This was all transparent, it was all approved and frankly until it was drawn to my attention it did not occur to me that it didn’t pass the reasonableness test.”
It didn’t occur to him?
Watch him try to defend his position. Pay close attention to how he never once admits that he ever, ever, thought what he was doing was wrong. Awesome.