MPs expenses, again

Anthony WellsHead of European Political and Social Research
October 23, 2012, 10:40 AM GMT+0

When the MPs' expenses scandal first broke in 2009 one might have been forgiven for thinking that the reputation of Members of Parliament had reached a nadir, that it couldn't sink any lower.

Since then the majority of the MPs who were the most implicated in the expenses scandal have retired, been defeated or in a few cases have ended up in prison. A new expenses regime was introduced, with an independent standards authority to watch over it.

Our polling however doesn't suggest that the reputation of Members of Parliament has improved at all, if anything it has continued to decline. In 2010 48% of people thought that most MPs were at least hard-working, this has now declined to 34%. In 2010 34% thought most MPs were honest, this has fallen to only 26%. Just 13% of people think that most MPs are in touch with their constituents' daily lives, down from 19% two years ago. The proportion of people thinking MPs are principled is down 6 to 26%. Across the board perceptions of MPs' qualities has declined.

Only a tiny proportion of the public think that the problem of expenses has been addressed. 72% of people agreed with the view that "not enough had been done to stop MPs wrongfully claiming expenses and MPs are probably getting up to the same abuses as before", compared to 13% who thought that Parliament had learnt its lesson and new MPs would behave better. 69% of respondents thought that the rules on expenses were still not tight enough, and that MPs are still able to claim expenses that they should not be entitled too.

This is not necessarily a perception that MPs are cheating the system, the public simply don't agree that MPs should be entitled to some of the things they currently are. Asked specifically about whether MPs who represent seats that are too far from London to commute every day and who need to have two homes should be able to claim rent on a second home on expenses, only 31% of people think they should, 61% think they should not.

There is even less sympathy for the MPs involved in the latest expenses row - just 6% of people think it is acceptable for MPs who own property in London and can no longer claim mortgage interest on expenses to instead rent a property and claim rent on that.

See the full survey results here