The moral authority of Parliament is at its “lowest ebb in living memory” because of the expenses scandal, according to the former Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey.
The public’s trust in politics has been shaken by leaked stories of MPs’ expenses, Lord Carey, told the News of the World newspaper.
He highlighted the contrast between constituents suffering as a result of the recession while ministers were “cringingly” trying to justify their lengthy list of expenses.
The Daily Telegraph, the newspaper which obtained the expenses record, continues to reveal details of claims made by MPs ranging from the Prime Minister and Government ministers down to junior members across both the Labour and Conservative parties.
Some MPs have questioned the accuracy of the leaked stories and many have denied any wrongdoing, claiming they were acting within the rules.
But a poll, conducted by polling group ICM and published in the News of the World this week, revealed that 89 per cent of those surveyed believed the reputation of Parliament had been tarnished.
The former Archbishop of Canterbury questioned whether public trust in politicians could ever be restored after the “systematic abuse” of the expenses system.
Lord Carey said: “What’s most worrying about this sad, sordid and scandalous affair is that it reveals an ambiguity amongst our politicians in their attitudes to public service.”
House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin was criticised for his handling of the situation, and allegedly told another MP: “I didn’t come into politics not to take what’s owed to me.”
Lord Carey warned that politicians can never restore public confidence and trust unless the heart of democracy is restored, which, he said, is a vision of sacrificial love and putting the needs of others before your own.
He said it is not just the “clawing greed of painstaking claims” for minor items, but also the “egregious way some have transferred allowances from one second property to another – enabling them to refurbish homes at public expense, then sell them for profit”.
He added: “Coming at a time of financial crisis and political betrayal of the Gurkhas, this threatens to be the straw that finally breaks the camel’s back.”
Lord Carey acknowledged that many MPs do have honour and integrity but he said the expenses scandal had shown that MPs cannot police themselves.
He called for an independent body to oversee recommendations to reform the expenses system.