The Blog of
Nadine Dorries
Truth Serum
Posted Monday, 20 April 2009 at 22:06

The accusations of expense abuse affected us all. The atmosphere here in Parliament before Easter was very unpleasant as the majority of hard working MPs were tarred with the same brush as the few.

Different things affect different people. I was particularly upset at a headline in a red top - it said something like, 'when second home allowance gone - MPs still on £100,000 expenses.

I want to put that one straight.

I receive £100,000 a year as an allowance, not an expense, to employ staff. It’s known as the staffing allowance. (It may have gone up in April, I’m not sure)

The 100k is held in a budget in an office known as 'the fees office'.

When I employ a member of staff I draw up a contract of employment and pay them according to a scale set by the fees office.

The contract is then submitted to the office and out of the budget with my name on my member of staff is paid directly by the fees office, into a bank account.

As an MP, I am self employed. Out of the same budget is deducted E.R.N.I.C

My 100k per year employs three staff.

No money changes hands between the fees office and I, that just isn’t allowed. All MP employees are paid directly by the office, from an allowance, with the MPs name on.

I don't see a penny of the 100k staffing allowance. The nonsense you read in the newspapers about us having hundreds of thousands of pounds of expenses just simply isn’t true.


I am THE VERY FIRST TO SAY that the allowances system with regard to accommodation is archaic and needs to be reformed, IMMEDIATLEY.


David Nettleton, one of my commenters, has made a useful suggestion in the last thread. Whichever method of reform is embarked upon, it will only succeed in the eyes of the public if the media behave in a manner which is mature and responsible. One would hope this means reporting the facts as they are rather than printing as sensational a headline as possible in order to make someone pick up the paper and buy.


The system is wrong, but not totally. Some of the reporting has been correct, but not all. Being an MP is a 24/7 52 weeks a year job and the majority take that very seriously, but not everyone. In comparison to other MPs in other countries and in comparison to other professionals in the UK, we are not well paid. We may get the same holidays as teachers, but we are never actually ‘off’ as my Easter demonstrated.


The press often report on our gold plated pensions. What they don’t report is that they are paid for with a monthly 10% contribution of salary. I pay £497 per month into my pension.


Changes do need to be made. There is no point in appointing an external body to make recommendations and then ignore them, which is what happened last time.


The media have just reported that MPs are having 12 weeks summer holiday. Again, not true. I’m afraid my constituents don’t buy that and although I do have a restful August, September 1st is when everything lifts off again.


For the sake of democracy we need drastic and sensible reform at our end and honest reporting without embellishment from the media.


Sadly, I’m not holding my breath for either.

Gelert said:
Responded: Monday, 20 April 2009
"Being an MP is a 24/7 52 weeks a year job". Sorry, Nadine, but no it isn't. An MPs job by definition can only be a part-time occupation. Were it anything else, where would a Government Minister find the time to be a minister?
Chris Knight said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
A large part of the problem you face in persuading us that MPs are worth their salt is to show that parliament itself is worthwhile as an institution. For at least as long as Labour have been in office it seems to have become less and less relevant to what actually happens in the country. Bad laws are passed without MPs having any idea of what they are voting for a lot of the time, government takes place without proper parliamentary involvement and one has the impression that rule by decree (informed by knee-jerk responses to sound bites) is probably mandated somewhere in the latest raft of legislation designed to frighten the masses. When people start to believe that MPs can actually make a difference (and I mean people as whole - not the relative few an individual MP can help in their constituency), then perhaps there will be a readier acceptance of what they cost.
Danny said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Thanks for that Nadine. I must say that I am guilty as charged. It's hard when you don't know anything else to do anything other than believe what you read. I understand the 24/7. I would hate your job. Keep giving me the leaflets and I'm happy.
Dave said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
"and in comparison to other professions...we are not paid well".......................... Not sure whom to compare an MP to. With 85% of Laws now coming from the EU, not very much of a Lawmaker. Problem solver. Can't compare you to a Citizens Advice worker as they work voluntarily. Footsoldier(one of your own adjectives) Maybe,that's a 24/7 job especially in a war zone and you sometimes put your life on the line(not 24/7) but your basic pay is about 2-3 times higher than a British Army soldier. Think I'll just stick to comparing thee to a summer's day........ :-)
Brian E. said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
MP's expenses should be paid on the same basis as the Civil Service. Many years ago, when I worked for the then Board of Trade, which had responsibility for aviation, I went to Maastricht for a meeting. On my return, I was questioned about my expenses. I was asked whether I had bought any duty free, and said that I had, but it wasn't included in my claim. I was told that I would have to pay them the duty as I "could not be seen to getting a benefit out of my official duties at the expense of the taxpayer". On another occasion, I went to Stockholm and was to return on a Friday evening. I asked them to make the air ticket out for the Saturday evening and said that I would pay for the extra night's accommodation as I fancied seeing the city. Again this was refused on the grounds that I "must not get any personal benefit as a result of doing my job". Perhaps if we MP's expenses were scrutinised in a similar manner people might have more faith in the system.
Peter said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Many MPs do work hard, but I think MPs who leave in a an area from Sussex in the south, Wiltshire in the west, Northamptonshire in the north and Suffolk and Kent in the east should not get as many expenses as MPs living beyond that boundary. I live in Sussex but work in London. My rail fare is 3,572 pounds a year. My choice where I live. It's also an MP's choice if they want to represent a constituency far from London. If they don't like it, then stand for Westminster or Vauxhall next time. I have no problem paying for staff, but why should taxpayers pay for furniture and other goods in second homes. Fridges, TVs and so on. Why, why, why, why why?!
Phil Hoare said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Well, Gordfather Brown's just solved the problem. You won't need any second home or expenses in future - just a government-issue laptop to stay in your original home and watch his latest edicts, together with those of the EU on YouTube. What a fantastic saving for the taxpayer.
Peter said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Message to Alistair who commented on what I said on Sunday about moving smergate on: Alistair: I was a Civil Servant senior press officer for Harman, Straw and Falconer - not a Labour party one. Yes, I currently do support Labour, but wholly more Blair than Brown, but it might surprise you to know I agree the e-mail story was scandalous, and I sympathised more with the Conservatives than Labour on this one. Here's a stat for you, Alistair: I supported Blair on Iraq, tuition fees and almost every other policy when he was PM, but only ever voted Labour once in that time - 2005. Lib Dem before that. Hope that clears it up.
isitworthit said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
It’s all to do with perception. When one sees that the chamber of the house is only full on “set piece” occasions, and only very sparsely filled at others, it does encourage the voters to wonder a little about what members are doing. So I would suggest that the conservative party might set up an attendance rota. Make sure that there are always at least 50 members present (more if possible) on the opposition benches, with the specific objective of shaming their opponents and at the very least making sure that as a party it does take the house seriously. Oh yes, I have no doubt that some of the debates are sensationally yawnworthy, but this is a starting price that MPs have to pay to make the public begin take them more seriously, and start counteracting the lazy and sloppy mainstream reporting which they find so irritating.
Peter said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
As if you didn't know by now, tomorrow is Budget day. In the midst of current economic, and let's face it, political, difficulties, it will be an opportunity for Alistair Darling to set out the way forward. And the debate that follows is an opportunity for all of us to get over the message that Labour is the only party with the policy substance and progressive values to see Britain through the recession. It is not hard to find evidence of the economic downside. Today's inflation figures will form an important part of the backdro p, alongside projections on growth on spending. But on both sides of the Atlantic there have been at least some encouraging signs. Not everyone loves Tesco but you can't deny today's figures are impressive. Interesting comments fromthe CBI yesterday. So this Budget is our opportunity, as Labour people in Go Fourth, to tell a good story about Labour in government, to show that when the agenda is serious policy, we can be strong. There is no point pretending that the Party has not been damaged by Damian McBride's email nonsenses and MPs' expenses. But in terms of the impact on real people's lives, these are nothing like as important as a Budget, particularly at a time like this. Though some of the recent goals against us may have been very much of the own goal variety, of course it suits the Tories not to talk about the economy, jobs, homes, the NHS and education. Or Europe, with the European elections coming up. So at least the Budget allows the debate to return to issues that really matter to people. And even in these difficult economic times, for all the negativity in the media, Labour still has a positive case to put, not least on Gordon and Alistair's handling of the crisis.
Mike H said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Peter - you have to be joking. Labour is good for two things - growing the state and wasting taxpayer's money. It's going to take a lot more than the typical tweaks that are applied in a Budget to sort this mess out. What's needed is a change of government.
Geoff said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Nadine, you say your pension is paid for with a monthly 10% contribution of salary. Well, no it isn't. What you pay is a contribution, but it's very far from being the whole cost of your pension. You have a final salary pension, which means of course that the amount of lump sum and pension you receive is linked to your eventual salary. No-one knows now how much it is going to cost the parliamentary pension scheme to pay you those benefits over the years. This is because no-one knows how successfully the scheme funds will be invested, or what future inflation will be, or how long you will survive to draw the pension, and there are a host of other imponderables. So, this means that you are only paying for part of the cost of your pension. We the taxpayers are paying for the rest, and we are taking all the financial risk that the parliamentary pension fund may be too small to pay your pension. And why should we take that risk? The number of final salary schemes in the UK, outside the public sector, has shrunk markedly in the last few years. This is largely because of actions taken by the government, and approved by MPs in Parliament. Most of the rest of us, not in the public sector, have to pay for our own pensions. We (typically) have money purchase pensions, which means that we individually are taking the risk that we may not have saved enough. I have a feeling that whatever is done to reform the remuneration and expenses rules, the criticism will not go away so long as you and fellow MPs continue to benefit from a hugely generous, largely state-funded, no-risk (to you) pension scheme. Nadine, I think that you personally are one of the good guys. I see from They Work For You that there are about 250 MPs who claim more than you do - good for you. And I enjoy your blog! But I feel pretty unhappy that MPs have set up for themselves a pension scheme that is much more generous, and therefore more expensive, than most people that MPs represent can afford for themselves.
William Blake's Ghost said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
I accept and agree with much of what you say. However, there is an underlying problem here and that is the way that Parliamentary candidates are sel ected. Given the archaic procedures used and the lack of clear consistent sel ection criteria based on actual experience and ability there is no guarantee that the MPs sel ected are up to scratch. Clearly you would pass such criteria. However, how many of your opponents on the Government benches would? Furthermore, how many MPs are clearly sel ected because of their physical characteristics or their links to a party (often nepotistic) rather than on actual ability and experience (and I don't mean being able to front up in the media either or being a 'research assistant either)? Far too many Mps give the impression that we are paying money for old rope! So whilst clearing up the expenses debacle is a step forward, the whole question of whether parties can better ensure that their candidates are up to scratch needs to be addressed. There is yet a long way to go until MPs are off the hook and until issues around experience, proven management skills (essential for anyone who might become a Minister), nepotism, closed lists dictated by party HQ's and the rest are dealt with the appreciation of MPs is hardly going to improve......
mark said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
I think your comments are fair in defending the work that is done. However, having the so called 'John Lewis' list, is taking the proverbial somewhat. The point, is that no-one in the real world actually receives these kind of benefits, and has difficulty perceiving that they may be justified in any way whatsoever. Especially when people (a minority) live just down the road from their 'second home'. So it is perception and reality mixed with press sensationalism that rules the day. Also, why give the press something to feed on? Why make your own rules so pull apart-able? Parliament as a whole, is corrupt, and needs a good shakedown. Hopefully this is the start. I do appreciate that many MP's do sterling work, but in order to serve, you have to be squeaky clean, or at least give the impression that everything is fair and above board. Otherwise, the press will make their mountains, and the public will draw their own conclusions (which may or may not reflect true reality). The fact is, we want to like and respect our politicians, but with the advent of new technology, the flaws and mild corruption are staring everyone in the face. In this, our great land of fairness and freedom. It needs sorting out, asap.
Mike Spilligan said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
Thank you, ND, for putting your views under the spotlight on this, but as I feel that there is a somewhat negative response overall, let me say I agree with almost everything that "mark" said, and particularly "...we want to like and respect our politicians....". As for Peter (the third) what he says deserves a really good "fisking" as some of it is pure supposition or even fantasy - but don't worry, I won't waste my time.
Johnny B said:
Responded: Tuesday, 21 April 2009
The system needs an overhaul but this is just knee jerk. How can a London MP claim a second home allowance of any kind. I appreciate that vote are sometimes late but some the expenses claimed, Jacqui Smith please note, are just ludicrous. Did she claim for a plug? And I suspect that this is the same for all the party's in that a lot of them have their noses in the trough. A unique idea might be to purchase a block of flats, kit them out and let them stay there! I digress, the standards comittee should have teeth and balls to reject some of the claims made. The sight of the empty chamber also gives an impression that no-one is there working. I realise that hard working mp's like Nadine do important work outside the chamber but doesJoe Public? Rant over.
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