On Andrew Lansley MP and the benefits of austere living.

This post was written by Reuben Bard-Rosenberg on May 11, 2009
Posted Under: Uncategorized

Several months back the Conservative Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley hit the headlines when he appeared to suggest the recession will be good for people.

‘On many counts’, he said ‘recessions can be good for us. People tend to smoke less, drink less alcohol, eat less rich food and spend more time at home with their families.’

While Lansley appears to be convinced that austere living is good for us peons, today’s revelations suggest that he takes a somewhat different to his own lifestyle. The Telegraph reports on some pretty wanton exploitation of the parliamentary expenses system:

“The shadow health secretary had his thatched Tudor cottage painted inside and out, using Farrow & Ball paint in some rooms, at a cost of more than £2,000, and also spent more than £500 having the driveway “re-shingled” and grass reseeded before selling it for £433,000.

Months before the Cambridgeshire South MP sealed the property deal, he “flipped” his expenses claim to his Georgian flat in London, where he spent thousands more, including £750 for a Laura Ashley sofa….

Mr Lansley’s spending spree began in the 2004-05 financial year, when he claimed £2,487 on furnishings, maintenance and decoration, including £399.80 for handmade curtains and £450.20 to have a chair and stool reupholstered, the latter in Titley & Marr “Hezlett” fabric, which currently costs £45 per square metre. ”

Oh dear Oh dear

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Reader Comments

Tendai

In my view, the issue with the whole expenses ‘fiasco’ isn’t so much THAT these guys spend this money, or even what they spend it on. If you’re given an allowance, well, it’s yours to use as you see fit. The problem, then, doesn’t lie with the MPs, so much as with the Allowance Rules. The problem with it is that it effectively gives MPs a) a private income on top of their salaries b) encourages them to use the expenses system to create a lifestyle. The second of these consequences is particularly distasteful in a liberal democracy.

I think any solution to the problem, (assuming it is a problem), would have to be wary of attracting only those with private incomes into politics. At the same time, there really ought to be a more standardised way of assessing what exactly MPs should be entitled to in terms of the whole package. Should their remuneration allow for a degree of ‘prestige’ in the same way that ambassadors and senior politicians expenses and lifestyles are given? Or should it be equal to a middle-ranking civil servant’s remuneration? Do we accept that they’re doing what is in some sense an extra-ordinary job, and should that have any relevance in their remuneration and the level of comfort and financial peace of mind they ought to have? All these things are no doubt to be borne in mind.

It’s a trite thing to say to sum up, but I think in the end, it’s got to be down to the House and the parties to ensure that, without being excessively prescrptive or intrusive the allowances are used for what they were intended/designed for. Of course, this then raises questions of degree: should the cost of a second home include furnishing? If so, what quality and kind? What kinds of expenses should be counted as legitimately within the system’s intended spirit? Whatever the answers, I think there’s something distasteful about using public money to maintain or create a lifestyle.

#1 
Written By Tendai on May 13th, 2009 @ 9:51 am

Personally, I hate the damn things and avoid them like the plague whenever possible. We have let them become another habit and use them to ridiculous levels, I hope history doesn’t prove us wrong again, as was the case with smoking.

#2 
Written By Gerovital on August 31st, 2010 @ 2:33 am

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