Frank Field MP
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Expenses pile-up

How fair is my comparison of Sir Thomas Legg's imposition of a retrospective 5 year claw back on MPs' housing claims with a similar retrospective decision to change the speed limit?

I have likened Sir Thomas Legg's application of the rule on expenses to the scenario of a motorist who drives at 25 miles per hour in a 30 mph limit zone then five years later, once the speed limit has been changed to 20 mph, discovers he has been fined for speeding following a decision to back-date the claim.

Emails have pointed out that I'm wrong to use this analogy. The speed limit should not have been 30 mph in the first place. It should have been 20 mph all along. Yes, that is presumably why the Highways Agency has taken the decision to reduce the speed limit. But should the change be introduced retrospectively and fines imposed?

I have never made an ACA claim which I thought was unfair to the taxpayer. I would be ashamed if I had. Indeed only by assuming that I was intellectually inadequate could one take the view that I was using my housekeeping bills as a means of boosting my personal income. The total of all of my claims over the past five years have ranged from 50 per cent of eligible sums to 30 per cent last year.

The main point that I was attempting to make in my column for the Liverpool Echo was that Sir Thomas has arbitrarily imposed a cap on only cleaning and gardening expenses. At no stage has he explained this, nor why he has restricted his cap to only gardening or cleaning costs.

If his precedent had been followed consistently Sir Thomas would have applied his retrospective rules to all the main headings allowed in my claims. He has not done so.

Robert Verkaik in today's Independent goes further. He argues that Sir Thomas Legg's decision is not akin to retrospective changes to the criminal law, but to the changing of tax loopholes or windfall charges on corporations who have benefited from unintended legislative consequences.

The charges arising from the closing of tax loopholes, however, are never retrospectively imposed.

But if Robert Verkaik's argument is to hold, and there is much attraction to it, shouldn't the new retrospective rules be applied consistently across all main headings of expenditure?
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Showing comments 1 to 5 of 18

Pay back the money Mr Field! You do well enough from being an MP as it is. Don't give us the sob story of how hard you work! Many people in own town are on the bread line! You should do what is right & PAY IT BACK!
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Thank you for your reply, but regarding this latest addition to the so-called blog I should say I couldn't comment about any other comment if I wanted to.. nor could I get involved in any argument in todays Independent because at least in my view - "it's not on and it's not working properly". (Nor is this particular comment box which is so thin I can’t read one end of my sentence from the other and so I have to go and practice my piece in some other place and then copy it here. Naturally this interferes with the spontaneous expression of what I wanted get across.The point is there are no rehearsals in the real world, Frank. Instead, Parliamentarians or indeed anybody else might do better with somewhere to bang heads together when concerns, frustration and despair appear to be spoiling all our jobs and the capacity of research eg RISC ( See DoH ie the department of health). Such speculative research might be useful to clarify the most efficient way forward for everyone concerned;First things first, and in my view it seems Parliament needs a good Matron to sort out the hospitalities including decent channels of communications re; health and work/life balance matters. Perhaps domestic cleaning arrangements and care of the gardens might be part of such a responsible persons remit for example if it becomes clear that M.P’s may work better if they could “live in”, so to speak. ( like the Speaker?). Parliamentarians ( elected or otherwise) have an exceptionally important and privileged role and this is why I think it may be reasonable and possibly more efficient to provide them with the most dedicated and best arrangements when sitting.I think Parliamentarians need their own research faculty and dedicated researchers who understand the importance of their position from the micro (in relation to the privilege members of Parliament may have upon the initiative of a diverse range of constituents concerned) eg regarding IT communications and individual web-site facilities - to the macro eg the kinds of global research which may in effect have some bearing on events. Eg. ( )We may or may not be able to view the comment I sent in earlier to this article so I’ve copied it here for your perusal;“What a happy looking couple of prize winners!I agree that "Enormous courage is now needed." but I think this article and indeed this chap’s mission is somewhat incomplete, if not generally missing the point.The last thing we need in view of the propensity of the world to blow bubbles which are far too big is a government which thinks it must "allow the non-market part of the free economy to flourish again – and to set the rules within which the market operates." If a government was to do this it’d probably end up in deep trouble should citizens discover it had taken for granted gaps in provision, the occasional failure, or that some of the free non-market institutions will be "exclusive", (and probably largely unaccountable eg bankers bonus arrangements ).The point of presenting the work of these two happy winners in the same vein so to speak, seems obvious; Elinor Ostrom Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, USA, got it;"for her analysis of economic governance, especially the commons"and Oliver E. Williamson University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA;"for his analysis of economic governance, especially the boundaries of the firm".It seems to me this economics prize may in effect help put together a bigger so-called “paradigm” for analysis with a view to finding balanced ways of working which are on the level.”
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Dear Mr Field, I look forward to you discussing with Mr Timms your learned colleague the implementation of Section 58 of the finance bill to implement retrospective taxation dating back to 1987 which has affected over 2000 freelance workers producing tax bills in six figures with backdated punitive interest.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Sorry, Frank, But your still missing the point. Your quibling the small stuff while the Honor of Parliament trickles down the Members' collective legs.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
You have missed the point, again. Why are we the tax payer paying for your gardening and cleaning? What is it about being an MP that makes you incapable of cleaning your own house? And why do we have to pay for your food?
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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