Frank Field MP
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A Beating too Far

There is another side to the expenses saga. Although it won't be popular, I hope nevertheless it will be worth telling.

When I first came into the House thirty years ago, older Members told me to claim my allowances. They had been told by the then Chief Whip in the Wilson Government that pay was being frozen, but Members were expected to claim their enhanced allowances. And so the story was handed down as though it was some part of an apostolic succession.

Over the last three decades I cannot recall a time when MPs were given their pay increase in full. I am sure there were some occasions, but most governments have been too feeble to implement recommendations from the top salaries review body. No trade union would have put up with this behaviour. Nor would any professional body such as teachers or doctors.

Instead of implementing the recommendations in full, the Whips would go about spreading the weasel words about claiming the allowances in place of a full pay increase.

So that is the culture I came into and which has been massively strengthened over the years. All too many MPs have come forward once they were exposed by the Daily Telegraph and said their claims were within the rules or worse still blamed modestly paid staff in the Fees Office.

Only the exceptional MP has replied that they were told to claim the allowances and that is what they had done. My expenses were put up on my website as soon as possible and I was the first MP to publish them and they have since been published again by the House of Commons.

Now we are into the next round of beating up MPs and humiliating them. The House passed a resolution that all our outside earnings should be published. And mine will be published here when they are sent to the authorities.

That has not stopped the Sunday Telegraph trying to jump the gun. They have sent a beguiling email asking us within a day to provide not only details of the earnings but how long we take in earning these sums.

Their enquiry to me and my reply are posted below. I am reluctant to disclose how long it takes me to write articles as I fear for the jobs of highly paid journalists once editors see how quickly copy can be put together.

But there is a bigger issue at stake. I think it is good that MPs have outside interests and earnings. It is crucially important that none of the earnings are ever used to influence votes here in the Commons. But the process of Government - making laws which affect real people's lives - is enhanced by having real people with a real spread of interests here in the House of Commons.

During my time here I have seen a big change in who becomes an MP. And the numbers who had lives before politics has gone down, and the numbers who have only had a political career, being researchers, or MP's assistants, or working by lobbying government, have significantly increased.

The result is a poorer House of Commons. I believe we should move to a system where those MPs without substantial outside earnings gain one rate of pay. There should be another option for those MPs who have substantial earnings outside the Commons.

I do not think it necessary to list what those earnings are. I think it is none of my business or the public's business.

We have no serious trade unionists in the House. There is an almost total lack of big businessmen, there are few entrepreneurs, there is no-one representing the big interests in the country - like women's organisations, sports clubs, centres of musical excellence, IT innovation and I could go on.

Why should any of these people ever think of coming in to the House of Commons, which is in danger of becoming so frightened of the media, asked to provide information you would never ask of your best friend and would be embarrassed to learn it of your neighbour?

I shall as resolutely as possible oppose moves that come to the Commons that are meant largely to acquiesce to unjustified media campaigns against politicians. The campaign against MP's earnings will make the House of Commons poorer, and better government, even more difficult to achieve.

The standard of MPs and governance will not increase as a result of these campaigns. That will come from MPs having the courage to take power back from the Government, to control our own timetable so that every measure opposed by the Government that affects our constituents' lives can be properly considered before being passed into law.

We won't raise our own moral by endlessly succumbing to the latest media hunting party. It will come when the public see at last that we are behaving as MPs traditionally have done down the centuries and that is to hold the Government to account.

Sunday Telegraph Enquiry - (to protect sensitive information about Sunday Telegraph employees, the following has been redacted).

From: FIELD, Frank

Sent: 25 June 2009 14:32
Subject: RE: MP's second jobs survey - Sunday Telegraph

Dear ,

Thanks for your e-mail. In the spirit of the new rules which you cite, I will happily send you my return after I have sent it to the Registrar. My worry however is filling in the amount of time it takes me to write articles. For I fear that once the management of the Telegraph sees how quickly good copy can be purchased at such reasonable sums more jobs at the Telegraph may be at stake.

With best wishes,

Frank Field


From: [mailto:]
Sent: 24 June 2009 14:42
To: FIELD, Frank
Subject: MP's second jobs survey - Sunday Telegraph

Dear Frank Field

We are conducting a survey on MPs' second jobs for this weekend's Sunday Telegraph, ahead of the introduction of new rules due to come into effect on July 1.

According to the Register of Members' Interests, you have listed the following remunerated employment, office, profession or directorships:

Directorship: Medicash Health Benefits Ltd.

Regular column for PensionsWeek, a publication owned by Pearson. (Up to £5,000)

Occasional articles for:

Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph. (Up to £5,000)

Times and Sunday Times. (Up to £5,000)

Mail and Mail on Sunday. (Up to £5,000)

Guardian and Observer. (Up to £5,000)

The Spectator. (Up to £5,000)

The Independent. (Up to £5,000)

Occasional appearances on BBC Radio 4 . (Up to £5,000)

In the spirit of the new rules, could you please tell us:

1 a) the precise amount you earned in the 2008-09 financial year from each of the above interests?

b.) the nature of the work carried out in return for that payment?

c.) the number of hours worked during the period to which the payment relates?

d.) the name and address of the person, organisation or company making the payment - except where it would be "contrary to any legal or established professional duty of privacy or confidentiality"? If you are withholding details under this exemption, please can you state the reason why?

2. a.) Could you also please tell us, from July 1, what outside remunerated employment will you continue to undertake? - if same as above, please state.

b.) what precise amount you expect to earn from each of these interests in the 2009-10 financial year?

c.) the nature of the work carried out in return for the payment?

d.) the number of hours you plan to work?

e.) the name and address of the person, organisation or company making the payment - except where it would be "contrary to any legal or established professional duty of privacy or confidentiality". If you are withholding details under this exemption, please can you state the reason why.

We would be most grateful if you could reply to this message by lunchtime on Thursday June 25th. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call on the numbers below.

Yours sincerely,

and  ,

The Sunday Telegraph

020 7, 0797 or 0779 

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Showing comments 1 to 2 of 2

Has it not always been the case that politians were, if you like, professional politians, coming from political, if not old school backgrounds? Had this not been discontinued with an influx of middle-management mentality parliamentarians since New Labour, and before that John Major's tenure? Just wondered.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011
Isn't this just a result of Brown trying to play party politics and embarrass Conservative MPs? This country is doomed as long as he remains Prime Minister.
Comment by Anonymous on 15 Jul 2011

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