Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Frank Field: An Honest Politician

Frank Field, an MP whom I have always admired for his openness, has been the first MP (and probably the only one) to publish all of his expenses as an MP in PDF files, nothing missing.

The Liverpool Daily Post went through these, and was probably very pleased to find something to criticise.

THE taxpayer footed the bill not once but twice for an MP's shoe repairs. The website of Frank Field, MP for Birkenhead, reveals in 04/05 he received £26.50 under the additional cost allowance for having his shoes repaired. Claim forms posted on his official site also showed he again had his shoes mended as part of a £200 miscellaneous claim in January 2006. The claim also covered the cost of gardening and unnamed medicines (1)

When you consider he has expenses from 2004-2008, and that was all they could find, he comes out of it looking rather well compared to other MPs! Anyone can also look at them. I recommend doing so. Frank says:

I have published my expense claims from the last four years.  These claims cover the communications, ACA and IEP allowances. The Green Book contains the definitions and it can be found here.  The blocked out areas in the scans do not hide purchases, but are to protect sensitive information like bank account numbers, addresses and telephone numbers. The only redactions added by this office are to cover examples of this type of information missed by the Fees Office - (4 in total). (2)

On his blog he also outlines the reforms he would like to see:

The Speaker needs to announce immediate measures governing all allowances while awaiting the Kelly Commission on Standards in Public Life to report. All expenses from the beginning of this financial year should go online, the moment they have been agreed by the fees office. A slim-line Additional Cost Allowance should be announced with the clearest of guidelines outlining what can be claimed - not what cannot be claimed. The Communications Allowance should be abolished, no allowances should be used for supposed "services" received from local parties, and MPs should be forbidden to allow their local parties to use their offices in the constituencies.(3)

Some people are suggesting he could be the next Speaker. I certainly think he would be a good choice. He also has a keen idea of how much government should represent, not the just wishes of the party, but also the views of the voters, and strengthening the link between the electorate and government, something which is as much needed in Jersey as in the UK.

Party discipline is crucial to delivering a government that is responsible and accountable to the electorate. But the current whipping system is way out of proportion to what is necessary to achieve this crucial objective. It needs to be relaxed with respect to the details of bills so that the views of voters can be registered effectively in parliament. (4)

(1) http://www.liverpooldailypost.co.uk/liverpool-news/regional-news/2009/05/18/mp-s-expenses-taxpayer-foots-the-bill-for-birkenhead-mp-frank-field-s-shoe-repairs-92534-23647176/
(2) http://www.frankfield.com/
(3) http://www.frankfield.com/blog/
(4) http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article6302067.ece

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