We’ve all heard, and will no doubt continue to hear, lots of explanations from Members of Parliament accused of abusing the Expenses Regime, often blaming the ‘system’.
Actually the Green Book 2009 www.parliament.uk/documents/upload/GreenBook.pdf places strong emphasis on Principles, which if these folks had bothered to read Section 1 of the Green
Book before rushing off to read Section 2 pages 12-56 of what they could claim for, some of the more astute of them might not be in the position they find themselves in.
Pages 6-9, Section 1.3 describes the Fundamental Principles. What follows is a verbatim extract :
In July 1995, the House agreed to adopt the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament
– which includes a number of general principles of personal conduct. These are based on concepts of selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
The broad principles set out below are derived from the Code of Conduct and underpin the allowance regime. When making claims against parliamentary allowances, Members must adhere to these principles.
The principles are:
* Claims should be above reproach and must reflect actual usage of the resources being claimed.
* Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.
* Allowances are reimbursed only for the purpose of a Member carrying out his or her parliamentary duties.
* Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.
* Members are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.
* Individual Members take personal responsibility for all expenses incurred, for making claims and for keeping records, even if the administration of claims is delegated by them to others.
* The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services – Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious.
* Claims must be supported by documentary evidence, except where the House has agreed that such evidence is not necessary.
Applying the principles
In the majority of cases, the application of these principles will be straightforward. But the role of Members is constantly evolving and different Members have different needs, priorities and ways of performing their duties. Therefore there will always
be areas of uncertainty and the need to exercise individual judgement.
The following questions are designed to assist Members in coming to a decision about whether or not costs incurred are appropriate to be met from the allowances:
* Is this expense genuinely incurred by me in my role as a Member of Parliament
as opposed to my personal capacity?
* Is this purchase supporting me in carrying out my parliamentary duties? Anything which is done for personal benefit will not be part of a Member's parliamentary duties.
* Does the claim match the purpose of the allowance in question as set out later in the Green Book?
* Could the claim in any way damage the reputation of Parliament or its Members?
* How comfortable do I feel with the knowledge that my claim will be available to the public under Freedom of Information?
None of the above is ‘new’ to 2009; previous editions of the Green Book are almost identical. So judge for yourself how the ‘system’ or how the ‘Fees Office’ can be to blame?