While the French Parliament extraordinary session is ending up and the MPs are going to holidays, I would like to deal with a recent controversy regarding them and passed through the national borders, referring to a BBC article.
Some days ago, Charles de Courson, centre-right MP put an amendment on a reform of their expense accounts, proposing an audit on their use. This amendment was quickly thrown out by the opposition but also by the socialists.
Named IFRM, this 6,400 euro special allowance allows to any MP to be reimbursed of some expenses related to their mandate as the publication of a newspaper or the renting of a parliamentary office. With this, French MPs also get a monthly allowance of 7,100 euro and 9,000 euro per month to hire staff, as parliamentary assistant or secretaries for instance.
Nonetheless, the IFRM use is not controlled which causes some abuses and non-justified expenses. Recently, Pascal Terrasse, a socialist MP, was accused to have used his special allowance for a private use. This one rejected the accusation, considering he was genuine.
The Charles de Courson’s proposal aims at clarifying some parliamentary behaviour in a context of politics mistrust. The initiative is very interesting and useful all the more so as other similar situations took place in the past in France. In 2010, Christian Blanc, state Secretary for the Paris region (“Le Grand Paris”) was forced to quit the François Fillon’s government after buying 12,000 euro-Cuban cigars and using public funds.
It is needed to point out most of French MPs uses their special allowance honestly and makes expenses with transparency. In other words, it would be a mistake to deal with this issue in a demagogic way. Nonetheless, the crisis and the efforts made by Frenchs to tackle the debt “oblige” the MPs to be exemplar to not be questioned after. It is in this logic the Charles de Courson’s proposal should be analysed, the centre-right MP considering this lack of transparency may be a prejudice for the French National Assembly, as the British MPs expense accounts scandal in showed in 2010.
That is why, the socialist and conservative MPs position is quite strange and hard to justify all the more so as there is a special opportunity to re-launch the debate and rethink the IFRM. Indeed, such an attitude reinforces the mistrust of citizens vis-à-vis politics, which is quite dangerous in a democratic system. Moreover, it would be an important political signal sent to the population as the 30% cutting down of the French president and the members of government allowance adopted just after the election of François Hollande. In other words, the debate on the MPs special allowance has just begun in France and we are quite far from the Scandinavian case where nobody jokes the use of public money as in Sweden in 1995 when Mona Shalin, a social-democratic minister was forced to resign after a journalist revealed she used her professional credit card for private purposes. The French MPs should take into account this story to prevent any scandal and harshly disowned by the opinion.
 IFRM : Indemnités de frais de représentation