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Tuesday, 12 May 2009

By Command of Her Majesty

MPs and their ‘expenses’ have come under unprecedented public scrutiny. Perhaps we should remind ourselves of the bad old days, when you couldn’t afford to be an MP unless you were a man (certainly not a woman) of considerable means. It wasn’t until 1911 that MPs received an allowance to help with their living costs. Now it seems the pendulum has swung too far the other way. The creativity and ingenuity exercised by some ‘black sheep’ in the House of Commons to maximise their expenses would have been put to far better use solving some of the nation’s dire problems.

Parliamentary papers are an often overlooked and underused resource for family historians; there’s a vast wealth of material available on how our ancestors lived. You can find out more in my latest feature for the May issue of Ancestors magazine.

Image: Interior of the House of Commons, 1834. Engraving from Old and New London, Vol. III, (Cassell, Petter & Galpin, c.1894.)


Kahiu Muchoki said...

Are you writing about British or Kenyan MPs? Civil rights groups are advocating for at their consideration to at pay taxes. It is the least they can do for Kenyan tax payers. They have allocated hefty pay packages for themselves from the tax payers' money.

Sue Wilkes said...

Hello Kahiu, thank you for your comment. I was writing about British MPs, some of whom have been claiming expenses which aren't really directly related to their constituency work. It looks as if the arguments here will rumble on for a while now, possibly even until the next election.