It was reported last week that Lockwood Smith has decided not to include details of how much each MP has used of their “travel” perk, as it is discouraging MPs from using it – which is unfair as the value of the perk is deducted from their remuneration package in setting their salary.
Now Lockwood has identified the problem correctly, but in this rare instance I disagree with his solution.
It is unfair to be deducting the value of the perk from the salary, and to be having witch hunts against those who use it. But the solution is to abolish the travel perk and increase the salary – not to try and keep the details secret.
Lockwood and the PM have opened up the books greatly, and doing so is a one way street effectively. Even if the Parliamentary Service only now publish the total amount of travel perks used, the media will question each individual MP about whether they have used it, and so the end result will be the same.
The Herald quotes Rodney Hide saying much the same:
“Why don’t you just pay the MPs, don’t allow the rebate and cover their legitimate expenses?”
While the Green Party is looking at releasing their rebate details anyway, Hide could not speak on behalf of all his MPs on whether they would follow suit.
“I don’t think the speaker can put the genie back into the bottle, because people quite naturally expect transparency and accountability and it would be impossible to explain, in this day and age, that this rebate is being paid out of an MP’s salary, even though it is.”
I agree with Rodney that this is what should happen. There has been an argument that the travel perk should stay, because it is the only way to recognise more experienced MPs service. But I would say that if we wish to do that, then do it directly through salaries. There is no reason the Remuneration Authority can’t be asked to set a slightly higher salary for MPs who have served a certain number of years. some may argue against this also – my point is one should set the salary to cover all remuneration, and then just have legitimate expenses claimed.
Some MPs do use their travel perk for a mixture of work and play – such as travelling to meet colleagues in other countries. But that can be funded from the Leader’s Budget. If the argument is their budgets are not big enough to cover that, then lets debate that, rather than keep the travel perk which will never be accepted by the public – inevitably it will go the same way as the perk for ex MPs.Tags: Lockwood Smith, MPs expenses, MPs salaries, Rodney Hide