While we, the public, face a wide spectrum of penalties for any transgressions in our lives, from fines or bankruptcy for non-payment of taxes or licenses, right across to being sanctioned for turning up at the Job Centre a few minutes late (potentially through failures in local services due to funding cuts) MPs have such lax codes of conduct to regulate their actions, leaving them to profit, vote and debate with self-interest uppermost in their minds if they wish to.
When you see the Bills being passed through government and quietly seeping out in the press, (these seem to become extremely hard to find a few days later), it may already be apparent to you that self-interest is driving some decisions being passed through parliament.
At the bottom of this article are links to all the coverage on this topic I was able to find.
I will attempt to piece together a jigsaw of information to create a clearer picture of what could be going on.
MPs seem to be immune to the private sector by receiving pay rises and claiming expenses. So how is it that they can profit from the private sector through rental properties, shares and other corporate involvement? In the real private sector, wages are not increasing or are even going down while the cost of living continues to rise.
The ability to reduce wages could be attributable to the erosion of social housing and the safety net provided for everyone by the welfare state, making people increasingly scared to challenge their employment conditions, leave jobs or go on strike. The recent Infrastructure Bill is taking away local decision making to oppose property developers from buying and building on public land, while MPs try to tell us it is all in our interest.
Laws may benefit a group par se, such as buy to let landlords, however if you look at how many MPs are private landlords, you can see why tax allowances such as council tax and mortgage interest are the way they are.
Fundamentally, I want to know how it is possible for MPs to have personal financial interests while they sit in parliament? That is a blatant conflict of interest. My searches for a reliable answer to the question ‘Do MPs pay tax on private income’ produces no results. On the official website, you can see ‘Do MPs pay tax’ but there is no information on tax paid on rental income or shares. If they are contributing fairly, how come they don’t want us to know? I reckon they don’t want us to focus on their private financial interests at all, to deflect scrutiny over their parliamentary activities.
When someone is voted to sit in parliament, their private incomes, shares, rental properties and corporate involvement ought to be frozen (with profits placed in an Austerity Fund for the benefit of the nation) until they are no longer an MP or peer.
Currently, MPs have to register their private interests, including donations to their party and private income from rent, earnings paid to family members and shares in companies.
This system is so lax to provide no curbing of self-serving behaviour. A MP can register an interest and then go to debate and vote as they please, therefore they can openly serve their personal interests and face no consequences.
I tried a variety of internet searches including MPs shareholdings, MPs private income and other combinations of words and was shown some quite dated media coverage on this.
Have a look for yourself at the list of registered personal interests declared by members of parliament.
In 2011, Conservative MP of Watford, Richard Harrington was investigated. Harrington received £10,000 as director of wealth management firm The Eden Group and entered the debate on 50% tax for high earners saying ‘it would prove to be a disaster’.
While Harrington refused to meet fire fighters about their changes to their pensions, he personally benefits from his property group Harvington, set up with university friends in 1983 and has a buy to let property to let in Southwark. He voted to make subletting social housing a criminal offense.
The government plans to sell NHS contracts to private service providers, while MPs have shares in healthcare and pharmaceutical groups.
With such lax rules of conduct for MPs, personal financial interests can be served against the good of the public.
Many MPs are listed on the register of private interests with income from property rentals. Now they want to sell off the land registry, using reasons and excuses, which are just not true. The Land Registry does not cost the taxpayer anything and in fact it raises revenue as it is.
There focus of the updated Housing and Planning Act that has just passed through the House of Lords is on ‘starter homes’ ie under £250,000 outside London and £450,000 inside London. For most wage earners that will mean a hefty mortgage.
A mortgage, even on the relatively low rates of interest in comparison to APRs in the 1980s, still usually means you pay your lender monthly for 20 or 30 years but still owe them most of value of your home at the end of the mortgage term.
Meanwhile, MPs are probably benefiting from this. They can claim expenses for their buy to let properties and they earn income from their rentals. Interest on mortgage payments can be set off against tax.
The Infrastructure Bill means that local decision-making is being by-passed in the sale of public land. The reasons given by parliament include ‘improving social mobility”, “creating more affordable housing” (while ignoring and eroding social housing), “giving money back to tax payers” etc. Meanwhile over 30% of the nation will never be able to own property in the UK.
When you look at the registry of declared private income among MPs you can see rental income and shareholdings, which include property companies, wealth management companies, pharmaceutical and healthcare companies.
The fact that MPs can even have personal financial interests is bad enough. The fact that they can debate and vote in parliament to further those interests is rot, which is at the core of how our country is being governed.
We must challenge MPs when they say they are working in the public’s interest to uncover any self-interest behind their actions and expose it for all to see.
Articles on MPs private income and potential for self interest
UK Bureau of Investigative Journalism (2011)
Social Investigations (healthcare)
The Guardian (investigates the register of private interests)
The Telegraph on how MPs exploit the system of parliamentary allowances to subsidise their lifestyles
The Canary on the Infrastructure Bill, by passing local decision making and selling public land
The Guardian on how a third of MPs are buy to let landlords
The Guardian on the privatisation of the Land Registry
The Guardian, again on the Land Registry
The Mirror on selling off the NHS and who has healthcare interests.
The use of “spin” to tell us it is in our interests:
Government UK “”””””Boost for Housing”””””””” (totally eroding social housing)