Today we received this helpful explanation from Sir Owen Reddy-Cash MP, Member of Parliament for Soakingham, which gives the lie to media hyperbole about MPs' "expenses".
Dear ASI: I was disappointed by your recent blog making fun of my colleagues, Jacqui Smith and Chris Hoon (and Derek Conway and the Wintertons, etc., etc.) over their claims for second homes, barbecues, sinks, porn films, etc., etc. You people call yourselves economists but you obviously know very little about money, and nothing at all about the value and proper remuneration of public servants, such as Members of Parliament.
You cannot seriously believe that anyone would volunteer for a job that involved as much as 35 weeks' work a year, and almost four days' labour each week, for the paltry salary of £64,766. And you must know that every time the House of Commons suggests raising that figure to something more reasonable, the Daily Mail launches a campaign of smear and vilification.
Obviously public opinion should not stand in the way of what is right for our legislators. That is why, a few years ago, we came to the obviously sensible arrangement of taking our pay, not in salary, but in a form that would not excite such tabloid headlines. We calculated that MPs should be paid £305,059 in today's currency. Deducting the £64,766 awarded by the top people's pay body, that leaves £240,293 to find from this other source. Take out 40% in lieu of tax, and you get £144,176 which happens to be precisely what, on average, we claim. Not a penny more, not a penny less. We are scrupulously honest in this.
So you see, £305,059 is the proper salary for MPs, and that is exactly what we get. I can't see why you complain that we spend the money on £1,000 fireplaces or buy two washing machines in two years. Or employ our spouses and student children, for that matter. We don't ask how you spend your earnings. It's our money, and you just confuse the issue by calling it 'expenses'. It's no more than the appropriate rate for our very thankless job. Yours, etc.