Sunday, April 05, 2009

Putting MPs' travel expenses in perspective

We are grateful to Liberal Democrat Voice for drawing attention to a useful map* which is a great example of how you can use maps to make statistics clearer. Mark Pack of LDV writes: "In this case, the big issue is that MPs do have genuinely different legitimate travel needs depending on where they live. It’s only reasonable for an MP from Scotland to have much higher travel expenses than one who lives in London, for example.

"Putting the sums on a map helps show the patterns which are reasonable. And it also highlights those which are a bit more surprising, such as Margaret Moran, Labour MP for Luton South who has claimed £80,000 more in expenses than another Labour MP living in the same street. She is the green blob in a sea of blue and purple just north of London.

"The other one that particularly caught my eye was Conservative MP Chris Grayling, a frequent Conservative Party attack dog, who also stands out as a green blob in a sea of blue and purple - in his case, just south west of London.

"The map doesn’t reveal everything by any means. For example, it doesn’t pick up the issue of Malcolm Rifkind (constituency: in London, location of Parliament: in London) claiming regular travel expenses for going back and forth between London and Scotland. But it is a useful extra perspective on what is and isn’t reasonable to claim."

One might also point out the abstemiousness of Labour's Alan Williams (Swansea West, £3711) compared with some fellow Labour Privy Councillors further east, and therefore closer to London. However, Liberal Democrat member for Cardiff Central, Jenny Willott, must take a prize for not claiming any travel expenses for 2007/8.

*Warning - it's not so useful if you have only a dial-up or other slow internet connection.

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