Tuesday, 12 May 2009

David Cameron: Action on Expenses

Speaking at a Press Conference this afternoon, Mr Cameron said:
“I want to speak directly about the issue that’s doing so much to undermine our whole political process: MPs’ expenses.

I want to start by saying sorry. Sorry that it’s come to this. And sorry for the actions of some Conservative MPs. People are right to be angry that some MPs have taken public money to pay for things few could afford. You’ve been let you down. Politicians have done things that are unethical and wrong. I don’t care if they were within the rules – they were wrong.

So what are we going to do to sort it out?

An independent inquiry into MPs’ expenses is underway, but it won’t be reporting until later this year. I don’t want my party to wait that long. So I want to set out this afternoon the action I’m taking right now.

And by that I don’t mean things I’d like the Government to do. I don’t mean things I’d like the House of Commons Committee to look at. I mean things that my Party, the Conservative Party; Conservative MPs, the things that they will do – right now.

To start with, I want to establish the new principles that we will abide by. I’ve said that the thing we need more than anything else in this country, the idea that will be at the heart of everything a Conservative Government will do, is responsibility.

When so many of the problems that face our country - like debt, like family breakdown, like crime are questions of individual behaviour and personal responsibility, then it’s vital that our representatives in Parliament set an example.

I’ve also said that a Conservative Government needs to be careful, not casual, with public money. That principle of thrift should apply to Conservative MPs as well.

So from now on, I want them to claim what is reasonable to do their job, not the maximum they can get away with. I have explained these principles clearly to my party today. First with the Shadow Cabinet, then with the Parliamentary Party. From these principles of social responsibility and thrift follow the actions that we’re taking.

I’ve had a series of meetings with various members of my shadow cabinet to go through those expense claims that have caused concern, and to agree what we are going do about it.

So Michael Gove will pay back the £7,000 claimed for furniture.

Oliver Letwin will pay back the £2,000 for the pipe under his tennis court.

Andrew Lansley will pay back the £2,600 for home improvements.

Alan Duncan will pay back nearly £5,000 for gardening expenses.

Francis Maude will no longer claim any money for his second home in London.

And neither will Chris Grayling.

Theresa Villiers - the only London MP in the shadow cabinet – will follow suit later this year.

I’ve also dealt with some of the smaller, but nevertheless significant, claims that have caused concern, whether that is Ken Clarke’s council tax bill in Nottinghamshire or David Willetts’s electrical bill.
George Osborne will pay back the cost of a particularly expensive car journey.
And I will pay back the only maintenance bill I have claimed in eight years as a Member of Parliament.

For the whole Conservative Parliamentary party of all Conservative MPs I have established a new Scrutiny Panel to review every excessive expense claim by any Conservative MP and to decide whether the money should be paid back.

So let me make this absolutely clear. I’ve said that we want to put responsibility at the heart of our society; we want to put thrift at the heart of our government. So we’ve got to live by those values.

So Conservative MPs who have made excessive expense claims will have to go in front of that Scrutiny Panel and pay back the money agreed or they will no longer be Conservative MPs. It is as simple as that.

I have also insisted on the following actions with immediate effect.

First, I’m making first my Shadow Cabinet, and then all MPs, publish online – for everyone to see - every expense claim they make as they make it.

Second, I’m banning so-called ‘flipping’ – the process where some MPs change what they describe as their first and their second home to make the most of what they can claim on expenses.

Third, any Conservative MP selling a home for which the mortgage interest payments are currently paid by the taxpayer must confirm that if they sell it they will pay Capital Gains Tax on it.

And fourth, I’m banning my MPs from making claims for any furniture, household goods or food. Only rent, mortgage interest, overnight bills, utility bills and council tax can be claimed.

Now these actions alone of course they will not fix our broken politics. It’s just a start. I know it’s going to take time and effort to repair a system that has been allowed to deteriorate over many years. We are going to have to build that system brick by brick and the public confidence in it.

But when it comes down to it I think all of us want the same thing – we want to be proud of our Parliament and the people in it.

We’ve got big, big problems in this country. We need big change.

If we win the next election, we’ll be asking the whole country to come together to show social responsibility, personal responsibility and thrift. So the least we can do is to ask Parliament to live by those values as well.”

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