A "BAD smell" has returned to the corridors of power, according to a Swansea MP in the wake of UK Culture Minister Maria Miller's resignation.
Geraint Davies said he believed Mrs Miller was right to step down yesterday.
"She had to apologise, and it's only right that she resigned," said the Labour member for Swansea West.
"There needs to be transparency, accountability and, at the same time, the public want good value for money."
Mr Davies said nobody talked to him solely about expenses, but added that the public discussed what they read in the press.
"Expenses have been heavily highlighted in the newspapers," he said. "It creates a bad smell in the background."Mrs Miller fell on her sword over a row which began when a national newspaper printed an article suggesting she had breached rules in force prior to 2010 about claiming second home costs. The MP for Basingstoke was investigated by the parliamentary commissioner for standards, who cleared her of making false claims but said she had over-claimed by £45,000 and should repay that amount.But this sum was reduced to £5,800 by MPs on the Commons Committee for Standards, who added that Mrs Miller should apologise to the House of Commons because her attitude to the commissioner’s inquiry had breached the parliamentary code of conduct.Her brief apology last week was felt to be under-whelming in many quarters, and pressure built.
Transparency is the name of the game since the expenses system was reformed in 2010.
They are now overseen by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) and, combined with other reforms, are said to have saved the taxpayer some £35 million.
Expense details are published online on Ipsa's website — and MPs must wonder when the subject will ever go away.
And would you expect to pay for your travel if your boss sent you off to London for the night?
In addition, doesn't a large claim in some areas perhaps indicate a hardworking MP?
Should constituents be concerned or pleased that their local member has gone through a load of stamps or made scores of journeys to Westminster?
A quick glance at the Ipsa website illustrates the long hours involved at the House of Commons, and the hefty price of London hotels where many MPs stay.
For example Mr Davies's accommodation claim of £8,579 during 2013/14 — with more claims pending — included hotel costs of up to £600. Neath MP Peter Hain (£5,786), Gower MP Martin Caton (£1,836) and Aberavon MP Dr Hywel Francis (£13,248) have had rental costs and bills to pay, while Swansea East MP Sian James has only claimed for a £125 hotel stay thus far.
There were no recorded accommodation claims for Llanelli MP Nia Griffith.
Costs for stationery, plus postage, also varied considerably. Ms Griffith and Mr Davies, and their staff, appeared busiest with their quills during 2013/14, claiming £8,594 and £8,085 respectively. Mr Hain claimed £5,265, ahead of Carmarthen East and Dinefwr MP Jonathan Edwards (£3,289). Mrs James, meanwhile, claimed £148.
Living in South West Wales as an MP is bound to incur significant travel costs. In this category, claims by MPs in our region fluctuated less, with Mrs James highest (£4,559) and Mr Caton lowest (£2,740).
Mr Davies said: "The vast majority of MPs just do a good job. It gets tainted by the few."
Swansea University politics professor Jonathan Bradbury said he reckoned the public had relatively little awareness of the expenses reforms prior to the Mrs Miller row.
He said he believed the role of MPs in still having the final say on expenses disciplinary measures "is simply not tenable any more."