15/07/09 Richard Reeves describes giving evidence on MPs' expenses to the Committee on Standards in Public Life
Giving evidence to the Kelly Inquiry is a strange experience. It is hard to know where the Inquiry’s work will end up. When Sonia Sodha and I turned up to present to the 8 June hearing on behalf of the Demos/IPSOS Mori Citizens Convention, Sir Chris got a kick out of my description of them as ‘vaguely establishment’. I don’t think they’ll take up my idea of converting St James’ Palace into MPs accommodation, although the New Statesman’s attack on the monarchy this week includes a breakdown of their accommodation costs at that palace runs at £1.7 million, so why not?
There was some concern about how ‘representative’ the 53 members of the Convention really were, which we tried to allay. But some Inquiry members were happy to use letters sent to them as a proxy for public opinion. And they are certainly not representative. We pointed out that the Convention were very reasonable in their demands – including higher pay for MPs, more or the same number of staff, an independent body rather than citizens signing off expenses, and so on. One of the options being discussed in parliament is that the new ‘public standards administrator’ is appointed by the Queen. When democracy needs saving by hereditary monarchy, you know how much trouble we’re in.