Exclusive: Examiner puts your questions to MPs - video
May 23 2009 by Sam Casey, Huddersfield Daily Examiner
What do you earn?
NB: There is a clarification at the foot of this article
What do you earn?
BS and KM: £64,000
Do you have any additional income?
BS: I’m chairman of the Children, Schools and Families Committee and earn £13,000 for that. I have some outside interests. I’m chairman of an educational trust, I’m chairman of about three things.
But you haven’t asked me what I do with the money. People like you will say: ‘Do you earn any money outside?’ but they don’t say: ‘What do you do with the money Barry?’ I’ve so far, in the last three years, donated nearly £100,000 to charity but the second question is never asked.
All of the money?
BS: Yes. If a private sector organisation asks me to give a lecture and it’s not educational, I charge them anything from £300 to £500 per performance to be given to my favourite charity.
I’m obsessive about education outside the classroom and that goes towards the £2.5m we have raised for the John Clare Trust.
The expenses are published every year and people say: ‘He came higher than her,’ and so on, but people have to bear in mind the level of activity.
Sometimes it’s the level of activity and how well you do your job and how well you service your constituents. People in the media should come and spend a day with us. Put what we do in context.
KM: We are all a little quiet about our charity work. I do things in a slightly different way. I don’t charge, but I give my services for free, mostly for domestic violence.
Barry Sheerman, do you have a London flat that you let?
BS: Yes, to my daughter.
Have you ever lived in it?
BS: Yes. It was bought when my mother was very elderly and my father could no longer look after her.
We bought it just before interest rates went to 15%. We have had it for a very long while, it was let for a while, but now my daughter lives in it.
Have you ever claimed on it?
BS: Absolutely not, it’s nothing to do with that, it’s a tiny little flat that certainly wouldn’t be big enough for me and my wife to live in.
KM: As an MP, if you came to the House without very much, it looks like it’s very extravagant buying all these televisions and sofas. But what are we going to sit on? It’s all very well getting a flat, but if you’ve got nothing in it where are you going to sleep at night?
BS: When I first became an MP I went to London and I lived in pretty awful accommodation.
My family and four children couldn’t come to London to see me because there were no facilities and gradually there has been the allowance system and the ability to have a decent home in London and a decent home in your constituency.
I am going to continue fighting for decent standards in parliament because I’m not going back to the days where you could not afford to have a proper base in both ends of the country. Do you want abnormal people to become MPs? No, we want typical people.
Kali Mountford, you are spending less time in London because of illness but are still claiming for a place there. Why?
KM: I have claimed on one place until the rental agreement expired and recently decided to take new flat because it’s closer and we put some disabled access in so that I can attend more often with the agreement of doctors.
I have been there this week. I can’t do the full range of duties but I wasn’t happy not attending parliament. I want to be there as long as I can be there.
Your attendance, voting record and so on has decreased and people are asking if you can still serve your constituents adequately.
KM: One time I had a higher record than some of the whips.
I liked doing my job and had a reputation for standing committees, legislation and so on. I’d come off one and go to another, but when the pain was getting too bad I couldn’t do it anymore.
I hope that people are generous enough to understand that when people are ill you get support.
I asked if I could have more specialist equipment to carry on and the occupational therapist said no, because it would mean that I would have carried on working even more and she wouldn’t allow it. She told the chief whip to send me home immediately and I got distressed, and it led to me having to resign.