Some newspapers have published details of claims made by MPs for energy bills. In my case this referred to the accommodation I rent in London.
An MP’s job requires you to work in two places – your constituency and in London. It used to be the case that you would only become an MP if you could afford to fund this arrangement yourself – meaning that only the wealthy became MPs. I firmly believe that we should never go back to these elitist days, when ordinary working people were prevented from becoming Members of Parliament.
Therefore there are now arrangements to support MPs in funding their second accommodation. Because my home is in Barnsley, I rent a tiny, one-bedroom flat in London, which I use when I'm attending Parliament during the week. The £433 referred to in the media relates to the fuel costs on this property for one year.
Along with the vast majority of Labour MPs, I could never afford to meet the costs associated with being an MP from our own pocket. However, I do of course fund all the costs for my main home – where I live with my family.
I completely understand why people are angry about the past abuse of the MPs’ expenses system. It’s part of the reason why MPs are held in such low esteem – an issue I have been attempting to address.
Let me be absolutely clear: I have not and will not claim for anything as an ‘expense’ that is not essential to supporting the job I do as MP for Barnsley Central. If I don’t need it, I don’t claim for it – it’s as simple as that. There is nothing I have ever claimed that I couldn’t justify to the people of Barnsley. That is the test I constantly apply.
What is clear, however, from the subsequent public debate is that many people don’t know what an MP actually does. So to help inform that debate, here are 12 things I’m doing at the moment:
- Dealing with often complex casework to support constituents, on a broad range of issues.
- Representing the views of constituents in Parliament – by regularly contributing to debates and tabling Parliamentary questions.
- Serving as the Shadow Minister for Justice with specific responsibilities for Youth Justice and Victims of Crime.
- Serving as the Opposition lead for the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WW1.
- Attending numerous local events – over the past few weeks I have attended local Remembrance services, presented awards to children for their reading achievements and spoken to constituents at my regular surgery.
- Working with stakeholders to address important local issues, such as cold weather deaths amongst the elderly.
- Providing support to the local business community – by highlighting their work and helping with problems.
- Engaging in development work with young people – often with staff and students of local schools.
- Regularly meeting local residents to hear about issues affecting their area – I have recently been in each ward across the constituency.
- Working with the council to promote Barnsley as a good place for business investment.
- Supporting local community groups by providing backing for funding bids; I have also been helping the Barnsley Youth Choir promote their charity Christmas single.
- And every week I try to walk around the constituency and just talk to people, to find out what matters to Barnsley people and where I can help them.
I am extraordinarily careful about how I use public resources. There is nothing amongst my ‘expenses’ that isn’t absolutely necessary and, rather than personally benefiting, I have in fact made significant personal contributions.
The reality is that it’s a great privilege to serve the people of Barnsley Central as their MP. I do it because I believe in public service and want to make a contribution to the town that I’m very proud to represent.