Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Should MPs from Kent claim a second home allowance?

Whilst reading about the latest expenses scandal to rock Parliament - especially the Helen Grant story, something that I am going to write about later on today as it will require proper referencing etc as to why she has indeed failed her constituents even by "Playing by the rules" - I came across an interesting brief debate on Twitter about the necessity of a second home allowance for Kentish MPs.

At first I agreed that such a measure should not be necessary. After all they live within spitting distance of London but after the brief knee jerk reaction I opened my mind and thought about it... (something I hope you guys will do too) and actually I have some good reasons why they should have a second home allowance for a flat in London.

Firstly - The Commute. On paper it is nothing that vast numbers of people don't already do. I include myself in that, I travel five, sometimes six, days a week up to Waterloo at varying times of the day and back to Gillingham. It is perfectly reasonable to expect MPs to do the same...


Some sittings of the house go on as late as 11pm. Taking it takes 30 minutes to get from Westminster to Victoria or Waterloo and entering in target destinations these are the times three local MPs would get to their respective stations.

Mark Reckless MP 23.42 from Waterloo East --> Arrives Rochester at 0.51

Tracey Crouch MP 23:42 from Waterloo East --> Arrives at Strood at 0.51 then she would have to wait until 04.55 train to Aylesford arriving there just before 6 am the next day.

Obviously for Tracey, the train journey would not be viable.

Helen Grant MP 0.07 from Victoria arrives at 1.11 at Maidstone East
                          23:42 from Waterloo East arriving at Strood at 0.51 where she would join Tracey in the long wait/walk home.

If however, she lived in Marden, where her Wikipedia Biog suggests, the 23:43 from Waterloo gets in at 0.33

Of course for Helen living in Reigate some 19 miles from Westminster the above journey is of course irrelevant.

So this is all well and good but then factor in the need to be back in the office for 9am... Well the return legs are as follows: (worked out as from home to London stations)

Mark Reckless would need to catch the 7.15 to Victoria arriving at 8.17
Tracey Crouch would need to catch the 7.12 to St Pancras and tube it to Westminster
Helen Grant on the 7.09 Maidstone East to Victoria arriving at 8.23

So put yourself in their shoes. You've been at work until late, you get off the train at 1am and then some six hours later you have to get a train back to work.

I've done similar. On a late shift I finish at 6pm and get home to Gillingham and to my front door at 8pm, I then need to start at 4am to do an early shift (I'm doing that today!!!) so I am back for 6.30 am and I can tell you - It is indeed Bloody tiring, throws life into chaos and is bad for your health. I find myself often run down and kipping on trains which has the amusing side effect of being robbed on one occasion whilst I dozed.

I miss my little girl Sophie
Secondly with the Commute is the lack of time with family etc. There is the fashionable "Work life balance" term that gets thrown around and it wasn't until I commuted did I really see what it meant. When commuting these sort of distances and at times implied, albeit not every day, your work life balance would be horrifically tilted towards work and that is no way to exist. We're all human and not robots (although I have my doubts about some) and part of being human is social contact especially with our loved ones and friends, even your children. I tire of not seeing mine because they're in bed when I get home or when I leave for work - it explains the big hugs I get from Sophie when I get home.

Let us be honest, I know - rare in the life of many politicos - wouldn't you rather spend more time with your families and doing what you want to do rather than at work or on the train?

So lets take a deep, collective breath and think about this... is it really such a gain for them or such a burden ( £20k a year) for the tax payers. I'd argue that an MP who is able to function properly in the House, without a lack of sleep, commute weary and able to sit until 11pm and back for 9 is worth the expense.


As so often I have charged in a direction that is slightly erroneous and in the light of Tristan's comment I am more than happy to amend my original statement - I appear to have used the wrong timetable!

In light of the *cough* correct information, although, taking a rough two hours a journey (which is my Lambeth to Gillingham trip) an MP who sat until 7pm would get home around 9pm. This is a bit more of a reasonable time.

Yes they may still have 9am starts for office work etc but the balance is fairly similar to what the majority of us put up with.

The rules on housing may be a hangover from an older period before faster modes of transport.

Maybe this situation does need looking at.


  1. you forget, apparently Helen Grant doesn't even live in Maidstone but in Reigate so she's not even in the same county!

    1. That's coming in tomorrow's highly critical post of Helen Grant's actions and role as MP

  2. Perhaps you should get some stats on just how many late night sittings our MPs have actually voted on

    ‘from this year the Commons now only sits late on Mondays, starting at 2.30pm and finishing at 10.30pm. Late sittings on Tuesdays have been dropped and the Commons now begins business at 11.30am, rising at 7.30pm’

    Read more:
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  3. I have spoken to IPSA and emailed HCinfo to find out more about this.

    Late sittings happen only once a week, 34 weeks a year. No attendance records are kept, however you can work out if a certain MP has attended by looking at voting records.

    With regards Helen Grant in particular, I have assumed (for brevity) that she attended EVERY single possible late night sitting.

    I then got quotes from 12 different cab companies from the houses of parliament to Reigate (the police station to be precise). Quotes ranged from £60 to £40. The average quote worked out at £45.

    34 sittings per year * £45 cab fare home = £1,530 PER ANNUM.

    Not, the £20,000 (maximum allowed) being claimed.

    What galls me the most about these expenses is that Helen Grant MP amended one of her assistants employment contracts so he received only 2 weeks sick pay rather than the normal 6 months in IPSA contracts. When this was discovered, she used the excuse that it was done "to save taxpayers money".

    It's that paragraph above which has made me so vocal in my outrage at the expenses she has been claiming.

    Just to repeat those facts - if Helen Grant really wanted to spend more time with her family and was concerned with her safety on a late night train - she could get a cab for a total annual cost of less than one months current claiming.

    £1,530 in place of £20,000.

    For all the excuses, all I can see is greed here.

  4. The problem with Parliament is that it still operates on last millennium's methodologies. There should, by now, be no reason to have to be phtsically present.

    After all, if suspects can be tried and convicted in virtual courts, then there can be no reason not to have a virtual Commons as well – not just for speeches but for voting too.

    This is supposed to be the 21st century!

    If this were done, there'd be no need for *any* MP to have a second home, and all that goes with that topic would vanish for ever – and rightly so!

    Meanwhile, we're stuck with much of it; and here in Kent we are a bit borderline in some respects, making it difficult to make a sensible judgment. For example, Helen Grant's school-age son is a valid enough reason to afford the benefit of the doubt; but at least that will be applicable for only another two years and so many months, so is shortish-term.

    We really need to move away from the methods of the past, and that will pull the (taxpayer-funded!) rug out from under all those who claim second-home expenses of any kind.

  5. You can have your say on MPs expenses in the annual review that is out for consultation at present:

    There's an online (short) version, or you can take time to write a formal response and email it to them. Deadline is early January 2013.