Monday, 1 June 2009

She's doing a good job...

"She's doing a good job", "she must be left to get on with her work" and other similar platitudes have characterised Gordon Brown's response to the relatively long-running saga of Jacqui Smith's Parliamentary expenses, as if that somehow justifies his failure to hold her to account for her actions. Similarly with Hazel Blears. Of Geoff Hoon's disgusting acquisition of a minor property empire (this is the arsehole who under-equipped our troops for service in Iraq we're talking about here) not a word. Nor on Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper. Or Tony McNulty. Or Alastair Darling. Or Jack Straw.

A seat round the cabinet table does not absolve MPs from personal responsibility for their own conduct when it comes to deriving financial benefit via the public purse. Nor does the fact that Gordon Brown long since ceased to have any credible reputation as an effective and honest leader left to damage excuse his woeful inertia over the whole affair, an inertia that has simply handed the moral high ground to David Cameron.


Political Umpire said...


Good to see you back on form. I am resisting a comeback as my duties in real life are ever-increasing.

I do hope you give this piece of information the prominence it deserves, however. I posted it on Jane Henry's blog though I know she's preoccupied with other things at the moment. It is from a letter to the Times by Francis Bennion (a very eminent public lawyer). He says that the House of Commons Green Book sets out the rules: "It contains a large number of detailed rules, which perhaps were not broken. But these are expressly made subject to specified overriding principles, which in many cases were broken.

The Green Book expressly says: ‘When making claims against parliamentary allowances, Members must adhere to these principles’. The main overriding principles are:

 Claims should be above reproach.

 Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for an MP to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties.

 MPs must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.

 MPs are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.

 MPs should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious."

At a stroke this destroys all claims that MPs have been "within the rules". Given the above guiding principles, we know that the impugned claims have NOT been. And we might add that it is NOT acceptable to say, as some have, that this is their private business. The relevant rule above proves the opposite. Never mind all those games of Monopoly MPs have blatantly been playing at our expense. We need it all paid back, now.

As an aside, one might reasonably wonder why it is that the Inland Revenue will consider any expenses received as income (therefore subject to 40% tax in the MPs' cases) unless it can be shown that they were absolutely necessary for business, which of course duck islands and bath plugs are not, but MPs have escaped this?

My solution: (i) scrap all expenses and bung a few more quid on MPs' salaries instead. Then they can spend it on what they like and the public would know how much they cost to the last penny.

(ii) Build a hall of residence for MPs who live outside the M25 (or whatever). It would cost a tiny fraction of the amount spent on second homes, the security costs would be far lower as you'd only have one building to protect, and they'd have no more or less than they needed. Big law firms like Clifford Chance have dormitories on their premises together with a few ancillary services such as a canteen and laundry service, for partners working overtime on large deals. If it's good enough for millionaire city lawyers, it's good enough for MPs. If it was walking distance from Westminster (perhaps with an underground tunnel to knock off security costs and provide disabled access) it would slash travelling expenses too.

(iii) as to the money already wrongly claimed, it should be paid back. Moreover, all second homes aren't needed once an MP ceases to be an MP. They should therefore be sold, and the capital gain paid to the taxpayer in the appropriate share according to how much we coughed up for them.

(iv) The f***wit Labour MP who claimed five quid for a donation to WWII veterans should be sent to Colditz and sodomised by someone in a Nazi uniform. He now says it was an unnamed 'member of staff'. (a) liar, (b) which member of staff (he's now seriously defamed all of them, and needs to come clean), (c) who is responsible for staff anyway? (this is the point the unlamented former speaker just couldn't grasph).

Stephen said...


Good to know you're still about; it is difficult to disagree with the points either yourself or Francis Bennion make on this. Helpfully, the Telegraph have a pdf of the 'Green Book' downloadable here. It's not written in any sort of legalese, and is easily understandable by anyone with half as much intelligence as is required to put in an inflated expenses claim, well worth a look.