Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek was great entertainment and additionally contained many valuable messages that were just as valid in the 196os as they are today. When reading about Jacqui Smith’s “second home” expense claim today, I am reminded of a quote in Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country.
“just because we can do a thing, it does not necessarily mean we must do that thing. ”
I am, of course, referring to the Additional Costs Allowance that MPs are allowed to claim in order to support them when they must be in parliament. The idea behind this is that MPs need somewhere to live and work comfortably whilst in London and away from their constituencies (if their constituency is too far away) – so the allowance pays for expenses such as mortgage payments, kitchens, bathrooms, flat screen TVs and fridges.
I do not begrudge MPs this payment, it is right and correct that a London residence be funded in order for MPs to carry out their work. The items listed are essential in our daily lives.
But Jacqui Smith already lives in London. She claims her main residence is her sister’s house, therefore she feels it OK and necessary to claim her second home as one in the West Midlands (her constituency). This is despite the fact that as home secretary, Jacqui Smith qualifies for a “grace and favour” home in Whitehall (which means she would not need to claim for a second home).
To be clear, Jacqui Smith has not broken the rules, per se. But she hasn’t really stuck the the spirit of the rules.
I ask you, Jacqui Smith, with your £120,000+ p.a. salary do you really need to fleece the taxpayer again?