That MPs should receive a £15 handout for dinner is bonkers. That they should moan about it is insane.

4 Apr 2013 at 09:02

What a bizarre topsy turvey world we live in. At a time when it has just dawned on a complacent nation that the juggernaut of the dependency culture has to be seriously slowed if not stopped our esteemed tribunes of the people have got their finger on the pulse of the mood of the nation. They are moaning about their dinner allowance.

But what shocked me was that there was any sort of food allowance at all. Back in the day the Commons restaurants were subsidised so we could have reasonably cheap meals. Not a cash handout from the taxpayer but from the tourist shop.

I hadn’t a clue until I picked up the Telegraph this morning that MPs are allowed £15 a day towards dinner if the House sits after 7:30. Labour MP Kevan Jones seems incensed at the injustice as some civil servants get £24 a night and “according to one of his colleagues” serving soldiers get £29. The delightful irony here is that Jones didn’t know what soldiers allowances were. And why should he? He is only Shadow Minister for Defence!

I am not one of those who are of the view that MPs should wear hair shirts and swear a vow of poverty. Although chastity and silence is worthy of consideration. However, at a time of national austerity, apart from Premier division footballers, Russian Oligarchs and the directors of Barclays Bank everyone is feeling the pinch. Why should MPs be any different?

Look at it this way. If the House sits after 7:30 Monday till Thursday hungry MPs can claim £55. More than job seekers allowance. What sort of message does that send out?

Being an MP can be hard work and rather tedious. Quite rightly they should have a competent properly paid staff to help them. Quite rightly they should have their accommodation and travel paid for. And reasonable office expenses. Most important of all IPSA should work fairly and properly. It doesn’t and that is a justifiable grievance.

When I was elected in 1983 my salary was £12,000. My secretary was paid for but office equipment apart from stationary was not. I remember buying a second hand Olivetti golf ball typewriter. Travel home and to the constituency was paid for as were housing costs. And that was it. Did we moan? Of course not. Because we were elected to serve our constituents and try and sort out their problems.

Where Parliamentary allowances really took off was at precisely the same time as the dependency culture was booming. Brown rolled over and had his tummy tickled by GPs and consultants who had money and mouthwatering pension deals thrown at them. And did healthcare improve? It was when the Mid Staffs ethos began.

It was also the time when there was the perverse financial incentive to claim rather than work was at its zenith.

MPs do not earn a great deal of money in the great scheme of things. But I always thought you went into politics in this country to improve other people’s lives. Not your own.

And to set an example.

Silly me.