Tony, this is a system that has been in place forty or more years. A culture has built up in parliament where taxpayers' money is seen as an "entitlement" rather than other peoples' money, to be husbanded and protected.
That is not in dispute Richard. The basic fact is that the culture is wrong and should never have been allowed to develop. The only elements that should be entitlements are salary and compensation for essential spending, recognising that for many MPs a second home is essential. The use of the ACA should never have been allowed to facilitate the building of property portfolios. Perhaps I should have known more about the system before, but like most people the system was remote from me and my attention was on other things.
However, the ethos in parliament reflects society as a whole ... and particularly public administration, where the quangocrats, local authority officials, police, civil servants and even senior military officers, all feed at the tit of public money.
It does. Again it does not make it acceptable. In order for the culture to be repaired we need top-down culture change, with public officials being held to account and their use of public money being transparent and open to effective scrutiny.
The current furore, therefore, solves nothing. The MPs' behaviour is simply a symptom of a broader malaise. There is no recognition of that, and neither is there any reasoned discourse about how to fix that malaise. We will see a rush to apply sticking plasters to "fix" the more egregious problems, and then things will carry on as before.
If there is effective reform in our public bodies then the malaise might be addressed. The fixes to the issues of MPs' use of public money cannot be quick, it must be carefully considered and appropriate - and it must be part of wider reform giving power back to the public. Too many MPs, quangocrats and other officials need to learn that they are there to serve, not control. This furore does give us the opportunity to redefine what is expected of them and ensure their conduct comes back within acceptable bounds. Maybe this is a forlorn hope, but it is incumbent on us to try and bring that about.