Gary's News and views

Gary Streeter MP for South West Devon

Gary writes a weekly article which appears in the Plympton Plymstock and Ivybridge News in South West Devon. The articles are published here.


Thursday, 21 May 2009


It started with a stolen disc ruthlessly exploited by skilful journalism and has now developed into a full blown constitutional crisis involving the first motion of no confidences in a Speaker of the House of Commons for over 300 years.

The system of MP’s expenses was far too lax; we all knew it and did nothing about it. Some have clearly abused it and a few may well face criminal charges. Others have over-claimed and may well face de-selection. The public, I know, are in the mood for heads to roll. We have now gone onto an interim system with no more claims for furniture or refurbishment, no flipping of second homes and all of our new expense claims will go online the day they are made in a week’s time.

But the damage to our reputation has been colossal and we have to somehow start the long road back to public trust. We must not waste this crisis and focus only on expenses. The furore over MP’s expenses must serve as a catalyst for wider Parliamentary reform. I suggest three things

First, we need the new system of remuneration (including expenses) to be imposed upon us by some sensible independent body, hopefully the Kelly Committee that is currently reviewing this matter. We should never again vote on our own pay and allowances. The most important safeguard, it seems to me, is immediate public scrutiny and publishing our claims online the same day should become compulsory for the long term. Then constituents – to whom we are ultimately accountable - can e-mail us to ask: why do you need to spend that? It sounds terrifying but necessary.

Second, we need a new reforming and radical Speaker who can better connect not just with the House but also the public at large. Why shouldn’t the Speaker appear on television to discuss the work of the house from time to time in a non-partisan way to help people better connect with their democracy?

Third, the whips must become less powerful and more MPs should feel free to speak and act independently, rather than cow-towing to the party line. This would help hold the executive to account and improve legislation – the proper job of the elected House.

It is not all broken. We must not throw the baby out with the bathwater; we still have a democracy that we can be proud of. But minor tweaking will no longer do.

posted by Gary @ 08:07