Fewer, better MPs

More advice does not equal better advice, but it does equal more cost. We could do with fewer, better MPs, better resourced to serve their constituencies. So we propose that we should:

  • Reduce by approximately one-third the number of constituencies and MPs.
  • Pay MPs an annual sum to cover all their costs, except for travel expenses (which are the only expenses that need vary significantly between MPs).

This annual sum should cover:

  • The wages of the MP and their staff.
  • Accommodation costs
  • Office costs
  • Hospitality costs.

The MP would have a larger team than at present, as each MP would have many more constituents. This should also allow us to reverse the trend of recent decades, where the primary role of backbench MPs has increasingly changed from scrutiny of legislation, to being a glorified councellor, dealing with local issues, and petitioning government for bunce for the constituency. Democracy is dead when it becomes a question of interests competing to get their hands on a bigger share of the public pie. Under the proposed arrangements, the MPs' staff would deal with the majority of local issues, while the MP got on with the job of representing their constituents in parliament.

By requiring MPs to live within pre-defined means and to manage their own financial affairs, we would do away with the distraction, bureaucracy and exploitability of the MPs' allowances system. MPs would be able to focus on the job of representing their constituents in parliament, and would be judged according to how they perform that responsibility, rather than focusing on record-keeping and being judged on how good a pencil-pusher they are.

Parliament is only a tiny part of the cost of government. Paying too little to attract quality representation is a false economy. But by reducing the number of MPs, the cost of parliament should be reduced, even though the cost of each MP (and therefore the likelihood of attracting a quality MP) is increased because of the increased staffing levels.

Some mainstream parties are proposing a modest version of this change, reducing the numbers by 10% or so. That is barely enough to make a difference to the costs and quality of representation. And they have little to say about radical overhaul of the remuneration mechanism, perhaps because they are embarrassed, perhaps because the current arrangements suit them very well. Only Freedom & Responsibility is proposing substantial change to bring real improvement to our democracy.