One of the consequences of becoming an MP is that so many people think its only a trough of cash that attracts. And nothing has done more to reinforce this negative opinion than the constant reference to 'the John Lewis list'. Surprisingly, a lot of people I've talked to don't understand how this list fits into the scheme of things. So I'll outline how the same situation was dealt with in the National Assembly, as it applied to me.
When I was a member, I had an allowance of about £11,000 to cover expenses relating to living away from home during the week. This could be spent on hotels, the interest on a loan (not repayments) of any property purchased, and all expenses relating to that second home, including Council Tax, electricity, gas, telephone, and furniture etc. Receipts were required for all claims.
I do not know what measure Assembly officials used to decide what was a reasonable claim, but at Westminster it seems that there was a list based on John Lewis prices that was deemed to be the limit. Perhaps if an 'Ikea list' had been used, with MPs paying anything above that out of their own pockets, there would not have been such a media frenzy over this issue.
Individual AMs used the allowance in different ways. Initially I stayed in hotels, but hated it so much that Mrs D came down to Cardiff one week and searched out a suitable flat for me - in Adventure's Quay. Mission of mercy she called it at the time. Most of the costs of that flat were met by the Allowance, including the purchase of some furniature, bought from Hafren Furnishings of Llanidloes. After about five years, we decided to upgrade to a much nicer and more expensive flat. This meant that the allowance did not remotely cover the costs, but it was my choice to pay extra. So for the last few years I was an AM, the whole of my allowance went towards paying part of the loan interest. I paid for everything else myself, so the equivalent of the John Lewis list wasn't applicable to me at all.
Sometimes, politicians make a killing because of an increase in the value of the property, the interest of which having been paid by the taxpayer. All I can say is that because I bought for convenience to my work, rather than for potential profit, I did not make a profit on my first flat beyond what I has personally spent on it - and so far I have retained my second flat, which is worth significantly less than I paid for it.
I have not made any personal profit out of the allowances that were available to me. But like many politicians, I really do not like being portrayed as being on the make. Which is why I was so disappointed that MPs decided to vote against the reasonable changes being proposed to their allowance system yesterday. I accept that a logical argument can be made in support of what they did, but in my opinion that vote did great harm to the standing of Parliamentarians everywhere. I just thought it would be helpful if I listed all those Welsh MPs who voted in favour of retaining the old system - without further comment from me..
UPDATE - Sanddef tells in comments that Madelaine Moon should not be on this list, and that boty Martyn Jones and Ian Lucas should be.