In view of public interest and media queries I would like to place on the record I do not have a second home. I have only one home in my Ilford South constituency on a mortgage paid for by me from my salary. Although I have in the past made use of the Parliamentary allowances which I am entitled to claim and either occasionally stayed in hotels or for a few years rented a flat near Westminster to assist me in working more efficiently in doing my job as a Member of Parliament and since 2005 as Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, which involves many late evening engagements or early morning meetings or media appearances, I have never had a mortgage paid for by Parliamentary allowances. However for personal reasons I gave up my rented flat in Westminster in early 2008 and for more than a year I have returned to commuting daily to and from Ilford to the Commons. This is not without its risks and three weeks ago I was 40 minutes late for a Committee meeting due to an incident on the Central line.
I do not employ any members of my family or any relatives. I have two full time and two part time members of staff working in my House of Commons and Constituency offices who all have contracts and are paid in accordance with trade union and House of Commons agreed scales. None of them are related to me. These staff all work extremely hard and may also do unsocial hours from time to time.
I receive about two hundred items of post, more than a hundred emails and dozens of telephone calls each day. I also do a regular constituency advice surgery. None of this would be possible without the essential support staff who work for me and my constituents.
Contrary to some press reports MPs - unlike journalists - do not get expenses; we have allowances which should be used only against defined criteria. If people break the rules they should be exposed and sanctions taken. If they break the law they should be punished.
Politics is a noble and necessary occupation and it must be defended against those who corrupt it and those including too many of our so called “political commentators” who attempt by cynicism to undermine it. Let us unite to defend politics and parliament by making the rules more transparent and clear but also by ensuring that MPs have the staff and other resources to do their jobs properly to represent their constituents, to legislate and to hold the executive to account.
posted 30 March 2009