Anne Snelgrove MP signed a letter from the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party to all MPs last week, urging them to publish their expenses claims themselves rather than waiting for House of Commons authorities to release them.
Today she has published her claims on her website and is calling on other MPs to follow suit. Anne is publishing her 2008-09 expenses as well as the three years (2005-08) that were due to be published in July by the House of Commons.
She said, “People are angry and it’s time for MPs to start meeting that anger by publishing their expenses. MPs can’t publish the actual receipts because of data protection laws, but they can and should publish the figures.”
• a reduced annual taxable sum to ensure MPs can carry out their duties in Parliament and their constituency, weighted towards the first two years after MPs are elected (similar to companies’ relocation packages for their workforce);
• tax paid on any capital gains made on sale of property;
• a ban on second jobs as too many MPs are part-timers and have a conflict of interest between externally paid work and their parliamentary duties.
Anne took the decision earlier this year not to claim the second homes allowance from 1 April as the house rules changed and it became possible for her to opt into the new London Allowance of £7,500, taxed at 40 per cent (the second homes allowance is now worth £24,000 and is not taxed). Anne has done this because she believes the concept of a tax-free second homes allowance is now untenable and should be replaced as soon as possible.
Details of Anne’s expenses are published at: www.annesnelgrove.co.uk
With regard to her expenses she said, “When I became an MP I realised I could not regularly work up to midnight in London, return to Swindon every night and return to work early the next day and be an effective MP. I claimed the second homes allowance and that enabled me to stay overnight in London. I bought items of furniture using that allowance but at the same time I financed setting up my office in Swindon, and I have continued to subsidise my office amounting to approximately £10,000 over the last four years.”
“I am pleased that my claims will now be audited independently, as announced by the Prime Minister. I have always had my full accounts audited every year and this will give extra reassurance.
“I want to apologise for the actions of many MPs and the system of allowances, which is unacceptable and has led to so many abuses. I am working with Tony Lloyd, the Chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party to encourage all MPs to be as open about their expenses as I am being. I am challenging MPs to give up their second jobs and devote their full time to working as an MP as I have done.”
Anne cannot yet publish the actual receipts because the Clerk of the House, Malcolm Jack, has issued the following advice:
"….in publishing this information yourself, you would take on responsibility as data controllers for ensuring that it meets the requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. For example, you would need to take care to avoid publishing personal data about staff or suppliers. You may wish to take your own legal advice before publishing.
Second, if you are contemplating publishing the information electronically, you should be aware that, in the current format, apparently redacted information may remain accessible.
The third issue arises because of the huge size of the allowances files held on the TSO website, due to the very high volume of data involved. If a significant number of Members simultaneously download this information onto the parliamentary network, store it, or transmit it using parliamentary email, there is a risk that the parliamentary network will slow down or freeze."
Anne has therefore decided to type in the amounts and a description of what these were and load the information onto her website: the ACA on 18 May and the office costs later in the week, as this will take longer to type.
Once the House authorities publish the full receipts Anne will add a link from her website.