Public wants MP’s jailed for false expense claims

More than three quarters of British voters want MPs that are guilty of the worst breaches to the existing MPs’ expenses rules to face prosecution, according to a survey by GlobalExpense and WebExpenses, two of the UK’s leading expense management companies.

Over 80 percent of the public agrees that MPs should pay back the excessive amounts of expenses they received.

But despite the public anger surrounding the expense abuses by MPs, only 55 percent believe that Cabinet Ministers or member of the shadow Cabinet should step down from their posts for abusing the system, and only 56 percent think that MPs should be made to resign completely from their job as an MP if found to have breached  the rules.

The Labour vote will suffer the most at the next election the survey also revealed. 17 percent of voters said they are less likely to vote Labour as a result of the scandal compared with only three percent that said they are less likely to vote Conservative and one percent for the Liberal Democrats. 

Overall, 24 percent of people say they are less likely to vote at all at the next general election because of the MPs’ expenses stories, although a further 43 percent say that the scandal will have no impact on the way they vote.

MPs’ circumstances are not unique and the same tax rules should apply to MPs that apply to other workers, according to 85 percent of the British public.

Other changes the public would like to see introduced include an independent body to check and pay MPs’ expense claims (74 percent); and the publication of MPs’ expenses on the House of Commons website (66 percent). 

Just under half (49 percent) favour the removal of the MPs’ second homes allowance.

The suggestion that MPs’ salaries should be increased if expenses get cut receives little support from the public.  Three quarters of the British public believes that MPs’ salaries are sufficient and should not be increased to reflect any reductions in allowable expenses.

David Vine, managing director of GlobalExpense, said:

“The public wants MPs to be treated in the same way as the rest of us.  By not paying tax, MPs have been applying one set of rules to themselves and another to employees in general.  This smacks of unfairness and has increased the public’s sense of anger at the expense abuses. 

“The desire for MPs to be seen to follow the rules from now on shows the extent to which the public has lost faith with politicians. The good news is that it is relatively simple to introduce automated, externally managed, transparent expense systems.”

Sanjay Parekh, managing director of WebExpenses, commented:

“What we often find when organisations approach us to help with expense management is that it is lack of clarity and understanding of the rules that causes employees to make claims that are unacceptable, rather than fraud.  As we have seen, there has been widely differing interpretations by MPs of what it is permissible to claim.

“In addition, those approving expenses seem not to always have been clear on what the rules were, as we understand there have been inconsistencies.  This is a missed opportunity. For most organisations, Travel and Entertainment (T&E) spend is the second largest controllable cost after payroll and significant cost savings can be captured quickly and inexpensively with the right tools.

“Outsourcing the management of MPs expenses to one of the large IT companies as has been suggested may not be the best solution. Such a contract would doubtless be at vast public expense, and these contracts also have a history of failure.  A better idea would be first to look at what tools could be used that would enable expenses to be effectively recorded and managed centrally according to pre-assigned rules. 

“Such tools already exist, can be bought off the shelf and easily customised, and are not expensive. The effective use of such solutions, however, depends on absolute clarity on expense policy and the accurate setting of detailed rules about exactly what can and cannot be claimed.”

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