Still not getting it

MPs are still not getting it. Instead of embracing the principal of open government and beginning the slow process of re-building their reputation with the public, they want to give themselves more money by stealth.

MPs set to claim £40,000 perk

Members of parliament could receive a standard allowance of £40,000 a year on top of their salaries to pay for a second home in London, under proposals to be finalised this week. A committee of senior MPs, chaired by Michael Martin, the Commons Speaker, wants to add the payment to MPs’ salaries of £61,820. Under the new arrangement, MPs would be spared the scrutiny that comes with submitting individual receipts for the running costs of their properties….

But this is nothing new as a keen reader of the blog pointed out. As long ago as February 2007, Nick Harvey MP had indicated this strategy for avoiding direct accountability to constituents:

‘Standing Committee’ on Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill – David Maclean’s Bill to exempt Parliament from the FoI Act – 7 February 2007, cols 16-17:

Nick Harvey: “… The problem, however, is that requests under the Freedom of Information Act are becoming increasingly intrusive, particularly on issues such as the additional costs allowance. In that respect, they are getting into very personal realms ­they are going behind the front door and into Members’ homes. I have found myself having to defend Members on the radio against the proposition that the public have the right to know exactly what is spent in each bedroom of their homes if the money is claimed under the additional costs allowance. That is too intrusive and is going too far.

Again, that is perhaps a wider deficiency in the legislation, beyond the way in which it applies to Parliament.

However, I should tell those who press and press such issues that, sooner or later, the allowances will be rolled into our salary, handed out without any claim mechanism or dealt with under some other device, because it is intolerable that this intrusion into Members’ private lives should have to be endured or should be permitted, and something will happen to prevent it from going too far. We can see what will happen: local news reporters and local political opponents will start trying to air these issues in public, which will be demeaning, as well as reducing the stature of Parliament and damaging our democracy. It cannot be right that things should reach such lengths.”

5 Responses to “Still not getting it”

  1. John L. Bell says:

    Does this plonker not realise that the taxpaying citizens of this country are the ones who actually pay for all this
    scamming by MPs?
    Scamming ,which one MP has already hinted in the house, would have lead to immediate punitive action if
    it had been undertaken by any employee in the parliamentary canteen!

    Isn’t it time for the police and court system to be brought to bear on those in parliament who have been syphoning public
    money for their own enrichment?
    I am no legal eagle, but there appears to be a case against at least nine MPs or those connected to them, with another 25
    in the frame……. and they are just the ones we know about!
    Why has no-one examined these cases within the terms of the 2006 Fraud Act? I would suggest looking at the
    following sections of the Act:-

    (1) A person is guilty of fraud if he is in breach of any of the sections listed in subsection (2) (which provide
    for different ways of committing the offence).

    (2) The sections are-

    (a) section 2 (fraud by false representation),
    (b) section 3 (fraud by failing to disclose information), and
    (c) section 4 (fraud by abuse of position).
    (3) A person who is guilty of fraud is liable-

    (a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to a fine not
    exceeding the statutory maximum (or to both);
    (b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 10 years or to a fine (or to both).
    (4) Subsection (3)(a) applies in relation to Northern Ireland as if the reference to 12 months were a
    reference to 6 months.

    2 Fraud by false representation

    (1) A person is in breach of this section if he-

    (a) dishonestly makes a false representation, and
    (b) intends, by making the representation-
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
    (2) A representation is false if-

    (a) it is untrue or misleading, and
    (b) the person making it knows that it is, or might be, untrue or misleading.
    (3) “Representation” means any representation as to fact or law, including a representation
    as to the state of mind of-

    (a) the person making the representation, or
    (b) any other person.
    (4) A representation may be express or implied.

    (5) For the purposes of this section a representation may be regarded as made if it (or anything implying it) is submitted in any form to any system or device designed to receive, convey or respond to communications (with or without human intervention).

    3 Fraud by failing to disclose information

    A person is in breach of this section if he-

    (a) dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is under a legal duty to disclose, and
    (b) intends, by failing to disclose the information-
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
    4 Fraud by abuse of position

    (1) A person is in breach of this section if he-

    (a) occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of another person,
    (b) dishonestly abuses that position, and
    (c) intends, by means of the abuse of that position-
    (i) to make a gain for himself or another, or
    (ii) to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.
    (2) A person may be regarded as having abused his position even though his conduct consisted of an omission rather than an act.

    5 “Gain” and “loss”

    (1) The references to gain and loss in sections 2 to 4 are to be read in accordance with this section.

    (2) “Gain” and “loss”-

    (a) extend only to gain or loss in money or other property;
    (b) include any such gain or loss whether temporary or permanent;
    and “property” means any property whether real or personal (including things in action and other intangible property).

    (3) “Gain” includes a gain by keeping what one has, as well as a gain by getting what one does not have.

    (4) “Loss” includes a loss by not getting what one might get, as well as a loss by parting with what one has.

  2. lordmeldrew says:

    As pointed out above – Nick Harvey bemoans in Feb 2007. “…The problem, however, is that requests under the Freedom of Information Act are becoming increasingly intrusive…”
    And now we know the truth, it proved to be exceedingly embarrassing to all of them too!

    Transparent government should be mandatory and hiding their expenses behind a tax free perk of 40K per year is still extracting the urine out of the electorate. They should be made responsible for their expenses (even down to a petty cash receipt for a first class stamp), like the rest of us in business have to do and also be accountable the Inland Revenue too!

  3. sally says:

    A self employed live in care worker, when i submit my accounts even a £2.50 coffee must have a reciept or a £5.00 taxi otherwise i get zilch.
    The same should apply to all ministers beit a penny or a pound!
    These Fabians have pushed the public too far, they speak about honour what a joke that is!
    Pre 1997 did Blair have millions?

  4. Matt Wardman says:

    Heather.

    Do you know if anything has happened re: the Shredding of the Receipts?

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/politics/article4087705.ece

    I’ve blogged this a couple of times but I have heard nothing.

  5. heather says:

    Matt – I’m not sure what is happening with this apart from the fact that the Commons does have a policy of destroying MPs’ expense records after a meagre three years despite Inland Revenue guidance that states such documentation must be kept for a minimum of six. But hey, I guess when you’re the ones making the laws you can afford to break them. I think this is an important issue and certainly a story. It’s been written about several times by the News of the World and Sunday Times among others. But how to take it further? If you or I were to destroy our tax records than we’d likely get into trouble with the Inland Revenue. MPs don’t seem to need to worry about this.

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