So the news rolls on about MPs travel expenses. As I understand, one of the biggest problems is that MPs are given credit cards to use to purchase things like rail tickets. They used to be given books I think. The rules are such that they use this card to purchase a ticket at the face price of the ticket.
It all sounds perfectly reasonable until you think of where the real problem lies. As all us ordinary, non-ivory towered proles know, if you have to do a long journey on a train the state of the railways means that you should buy a ticket in advance as much as is possible. This will save you masses of money compared to just turning up on the day and sticking your credit card in the machine.
So, do we think MPs do that? After all, they have a fixed working week, and it's timetabled with plenty of time in advance. The vast majority of them could, quite easily, buy advance tickets and save the taxpayer a few quid. Sadly, the reality doesn't work like that. As one former researcher said to me, "MPs try to get home early all the time, if they get a sniff there's no votes on Thursday they'll all fuck off at 6pm on Wednesday", and herein lies the problem.
If you're always itching to get home early, and you don't know if and when that might happen, why would you buy a ticket in advance and bind yourself to staying in London an extra day? Easier to just chuck the magic plastic in, type in your PIN, and not worry about it. After all, it's not really your money you're spending.
This leads me on nicely to car sharing by MPs where possible, and I want to use two MPs as an example who I believe still share an office, Mark Tami, and 'propa blogga' Tom Watson. Now, last year, Watson spent £5,077 on rail and £1,914 on mileage. At the same time, his close colleague and office buddy, Mark Tami, spent £7,589 on mileage and £1,310 on rail.
Tami represents the Welsh constituency of Alyn and Deeside, whilst Watson represents West Bromwich East, you can get to Watson's on the way to Tami's. So should they be expected to car share? OK, there will be times when it's not feasible but wherever possible would it not make sense?
I should stress that I'm not attacking either Tami or Watson on this point (although I was surprised that the year before Tami claimed over £12K for mileage), they just happen to be two MPs that I know share an office (or at least did) and who have geographically close constituencies, and appear, in terms of their claims, to travel by different modes of transport. They're a perfect case study for the question, should MPs be encouraged to car share?
Travel expenses sourced from here.