FOR SALE: MPs’ expenses… hurrah!

Details of MPs’ expenses are for sale, alleges an indignant member. A terrible breach of privacy that may reveal all kinds of perfectly legal but very embarrassing purchases. Tabloid editors must be very tempted to enter a bidding war.

The embarrassment of Jacqui Smith is a good thing. It has exposed the system by which MPs are remunerated to ridicule and accelerated the process of reform. Parliament’s attempt to hide how much MPs are paid by allowing them to claim generous allowances has been exposed. It is a corrupt practice in itself – voters should be able to access transparent information on MPs’ pay – and encourages a corrupt culture whereby MPs are constantly looking to maximise their claim. That second home allowance needs to be spent by financial year end or it’s lost, so one might as well splash out on a £1,000 fireplace, £460 table and a new entertainment system.

And what makes it particularly hard to have any sympathy for Jacqui Smith is that by becoming a cheerleader for ID cards, and much in the same vein, she has been leading the sleepwalkers to the surveillance society.

There is a thriving market in personal data and with that comes a sad inevitability to the theft and sale of information that may embarrass MPs. The more information the state collects, the more common will be scandals like this.

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