Monday, 2 March 2009

Rods for our own backs

Colleagues who were elected in 1997 tell me that when MPs used to claim expenses for the second home it was common practice to simply take the annual figure of, say, £20,000, divide it by 12 and then claim that much each month. No need to itemise or account for anything, let alone provide receipts.

And in those not so distant times MPs didn't have to bother about declaring donations to the Electoral Commission under the Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act. For the very simple reason that neither the Commission nor the PPERA existed yet.

Complying - or rows about not complying - with Freedom of Information Act requests? Releasing minutes of Cabinet meetings? An Information Commissioner and Information Tribunal ordering the Government to do so? Nope, none of that either.

Just thought I'd mention it... Any chance of any recognition that we've been trying to do the right thing? Nope, thought not.



67 comments:

bevanite said...

I think this links to a comment by Northern lights earlier, the great thing about the controversy surrounding cabinet minutes and expenses etc. is that it is juts that...a controversy. The fact that the media are making a fuss suggests this is newsworthy, the trend of accountability has been set by Labour since 1997. Anything that now bucks that trend is reported - sounds like a record to we can be proud of, which can undoubtedly be improved upon I agree. If the Tories had stayed in power where they believe they belong, this would be happening under the floorboards, to a much greater extent.

Guthrum said...

the trend of accountability has been set by Labour since 1997.

You are kidding yes, post modern humour ???

In the real world HMRC wants everything to be supported by paperwork, and has done for thirty plus years. Goose and Ganders.

If you have done nothing wrong, you have done nothing wrong.

Bevanite, you have made my day, and yes the Tories are just as bad !

Old Holborn said...

Kerry

I'm doing some research on our "coconut" friend

Is it true she lives with her husband in Florida, earns £11K a year as a councillor and only attented TWO council meetings last year?

Love and hugs

OH

cornyborny said...

Planet Earth to bevanite... hello? Is anyone in there? Does anything outwith the realm of the Labour Party - opinions, facts, events - penetrate that thick crust of partisanship?

Labour have set a "trend of accountability", you say. I say that you should win an award for breathtaking credulity.

Forget Bevan and join us in the present. The guy's been dead for 50 years and we've got some problems here.

Kerry said...

OH - that was O/T! Thought it was in response to the earlier post.

The answer is, I don't know although it is widely rumoured to be the case. Last time I tried to find out, she got very cross - hence the confrontation at the fashion show I mentioned in the "Bristol Fashion" post.

bevanite said...

i've missed this.
@cornyborny, you're right- history's in the past isn't it - no need to pay any attention, learning from what happenned: triumphs, errors...whatever who cares, they're all dead. mmmmmmm

Ben said...

I'm not sure politicians who egregiously break rules should get any credit for establishing the rules in the first place. It makes them appear foolish and hypocritical as well as somewhat dishonest.

I'm a labour supporter but the conduct of some politicians frustrates me.

I know that politicians are often talented people who would be far better rewarded in the private sector. I know that everyone plays the system when filling out expense claims or timesheets or so on. But whenever a politician is tempted to bend a rule slightly - or to comply with the letter of a rule rather than its spirit - they should assume that it will be found out, that it will be blown out of proportion, and that it will be a PR fiasco. They're only damaging the party.

Kerry said...

"I'm not sure politicians who egregiously break rules should get any credit for establishing the rules in the first place."

And what about those who don't break the rules? Do they get any credit for doing the right thing?

Katabasis said...

What!? We're supposed to be congratulating you lot for sticking to the rules?

The Filthy Engineer said...

I've had to declare my expenses for the last forty years. I'm a crown servant bye the way, same as you.

I'm amazed that the people(Politicians), who set the rules have only just recently had to obey the rules the rest of us have had to comply with.

Now you see what it is to be in the real world.

Kerry said...

We introduced the rules. We didn't have to do it. We could have hidden behind the same rules that the Tories did for 18 years. It would have been a hell of a lot easier. Why does no-one except Bevanite seem to get that?

Dick the Prick said...

Is it difficult to accept that it was never their money? Am I supposed to be happy that a bit of accountability has seeped in?

Betty Filkin didn't last long.

It's the classic retort - well, everybody does/did it. Well, cool - that's alright then.

As Hattie seems so inclined to interpret the spirit of the law, I fully accept that bending the rules is easy without breaking them but is it rude to ask/expect a higher standard?

Again, not partisan.

Kerry said...

Are people being wilfully dense?

Gen d'Eau said...

Maybe, just a wild crazy thought here, you might have been expected to provide ethical leadership (yeah, weird combination of strange words there)?

To us pond scum outside politics, it looks a little bit poor that even the MPs not gouging the public purse, kept quiet about those that were. Some might say they were complicit in the cover up...

We can understand why; the non-gougers must be massively out numbered.

The tragedy is that the honest politicians are tarred by the same brush as the vast, corrupt, majority.

I remember tory sleaze, but this stuff is worse! The Home Secretary and Chancellor caught with their fingers in the till and they just brazen it out!

UNBELIEVABLE!

No shame, no repayment, no admission of guilt and certainly not any resignations.

Even the evil tories usually paid the price (still waiting on Spelman, though, I grant you).

IT ISN'T ENOUGH TO JUST VOTE THE WAY GORDON TELLS YOU - how about some judgement and ethical behaviour?

I congratulate you on opening up on this issue, please pass what I hope you have learned on to other politicians (red/yellow/blue/MEP/MP/Coucillor etc).

P.s. Please explain why the coconut politician is allowed to get away with that stuff - I mean racism and 11k a year for two visits. How about a little local honesty within the local party for local people (and expatriates)? Local politics stinks too.

Gen d'Eau said...

Dear Mr Bevanite,

I'd hope you'd not have to go back 50 years to find a beacon of truth and honesty in Labour!

The biggest problem at the moment is that people who don't like the Cons very much, will vote for them just to get the HATED labour party out.

If the laba party had been a force in the 80's they might have kerbed Maggie.

If the Cons had been a force for the last 12 years, gordon's catastrophic wall of debt might have been smaller.

Democracy needs two (at least) strong parties. Gordon is going to hand CallMeDave a free pass for the next decade or two - his final legacy

Thanks New Labour, glad I never voted for you (or the tories/bnp/ukip etc) - you have destroyed my country through greed arrogance and incompetence - Cheers, we'll not forget

Gen d'Eau said...

Kerry said...
Are people being wilfully dense?

You might be on to something there.

But some of your last few topics give me some hope for your basic good intentions - I wish I could say something stronger, but that's all the charity I have left at the moment.

The Grim Reaper said...

Kerry said "Are people being wilfully dense?"

Aww, is widdle Kerry having a temper tantrum cos all the big bad people are off message and not trotting out the party line?

I fail to see why MPs should be congratulated or praised for sticking to the rules. I pay my fair share of taxes, but I don't expect the Inland Revenue to constantly send me letters thanking me for that fact.

Kerry said...

Can I just make it very clear that the councillor in question is a Lib Dem? If we had our way there would be a by-election. The other seat in her ward is already up on June 4th; she could, and in my opinion should, go quietly then.

As for Gen D'Eau - does Derek Conway ring any bells? Remind me how much he had to pay back? And the Wintertons?

Kerry said...

"Mr" Bevanite is in fact a lady. Despite her fixation with my boots.

Kerry said...

Sorry, should read all the posts before commenting. Grim Reaper - this post is about who INTRODUCED the rules. Some of us are beginning to wish we hadn't bothered.

The Grim Reaper said...

Kerry said "Grim Reaper - this post is about who INTRODUCED the rules. Some of us are beginning to wish we hadn't bothered."

If the system that you guys had introduced actually worked, I'd be more than happy to praise you for it. I'm no fan of the Tories either, as it happens. But the system clearly isn't working.

Let us take some examples. Derek Conway - had "the court of public opinion" (copyright 2009, Mrs Hagperson) been deciding on this matter, he would have been jailed. Caroline Spelman would have been sacked and forced to repay every single penny. Jacqui Smith would get the same punishment.

Still, I have to give you credit for one thing Kerry - you do try and discuss these issues. All we get over at certain other websites which shall not be named *cough* LabourList *cough* is Labour apparataniks talking down at us whilst ignoring all the feedback.

cornyborny said...

@bevanite: you misunderstand. I agree completely that it is wise to learn from the past; from triumphs and errors. I suspect that we would disagree on what constitutes either of those categories (I would personally file Bevan's singular achievement under 'error') but the general principle is there.

I simply meant to suggest that uncritically adhering to past ideologies, methods or modes of thought regardless of changing circumstances invites the risk of inflexibility and insensitivity to new possibilities.

cornyborny said...

To sneak a point in about Kerry's original post: MPs are public servants in uniquely privileged and important positions. While expecting every single one of them to be a model of virtue is unrealistic, I don't think it is unreasonable for the taxpayer to expect a generally high level of honesty and integrity. Any move to enhance accountability is therefore to be applauded.

Guthrum said...

I know that politicians are often talented people who would be far better rewarded in the private sector

I just love this post modern humour

Guthrum said...

We introduced the rules. We didn't have to do it

Yes you did it is OUR money you are spending !

Northern Lights said...

I think there's no question that some here are being dense...whether it is willful or not is open to interpretation.

bevanite said...

@cornyborny, who is uncritically adhering to past ideology? (ignore my choice of username here if you please, little historical indulgence does no harm)... I am simply suggesting that the present lot who occupy the Commons aren't that bad, there are in fact some pretty decent and honourable chaps and chapettes who shouldn't be tarred with a Daily Mail brush, which would like us to believe they are all crooks. I am also saying that the current situation is a great improvement on the past where the veil of secrecy shrouded any potential dodgy dealings. It was Labour who changed the culture and all parties' mistakes have been exposed.

We definitely don't have to go back 50 years to find truth or honesty in Labour, unlike the Tories, it remains a party which the vast majority of MPs join to improve the lot of the many. We can criticise decisions and governments but to demonise the people with power does little other than sell right wing, lazily produced newspapers.

bevanite said...

@Kerry, while I was obviously concentrating on the intricacies of Mr Prescott's rallying cry for support I admit I was distracted by the boots.

Kerry said...

"Yes you did it is OUR money you are spending !"

I have just lost the will to live... someone else explain to him, please.

Northern Lights said...

What's the point? It's almost impossible to have a sensible argument with someone with such a dogmatic and simplistic view of the world.

Guthrum said...

Please explain this to me because I am obviously a cretin.

Which bit have I got wrong.

You want a round of applause, because you as a party introduced accountability and authorised expense claims twelve years ago that the rest of us great unwashed have been subject to for decades.

You argue that the Tories are corrupt and venal because they did not introduce accountability. Agree the last Conservative Government was corrupt and sleazy.

You have a long long way to convince the electorate that this administration is not corrupt and venal, and a long way to get to normal accounting rules for commercial undertakings.However the main problem in the dying days of this Government is that it has been exposed as incompetent.

I spent Saturday morning, with a Trades Unionist, who was telling me horrifying stories about TU corruption in election of officers, and reflects the anger of the BMW workers threatening their TU reps with violence because of their betrayal of their members.

These are dark days, and the real issues are why 'the Party of the People' is driving people into the arms of the BNP.

Start sacking ALL MP's, Lords and Cabinet Ministers that have their fingers in the till, Kerry.

Until we have a system of recall, for corruption, the current rules are not scratching the abuse of our our money, not Government Money, our money. Governments are just trustees.

Kerry said...

Freedom of Information Act?

Guthrum said...

Government Veto ?

Bristol Dave said...

Freedom Of Information Act?

You might want to have a word with Jack Straw on that one.

Kerry said...

You've just exactly proved my point.

Dick the Prick said...

Simply suggesting something doesn't earn you any house points.

Parliament has been traduced by a litany of characters of all political hues, their greed, weakness, stupidity, arrogance and the redress, the sanction?

Thou shalt be named!!

We'd be sacked immediately from Mrs Miggins pie shop - and to hold the pie shop in greater respect than Parliament?

The history expects Members to have honour - that they serve their constituents and their conscience. That has been broken yet nought has filled that void.

If failure to rely on Members to exercise their duties honourably does not occur then they should be treated like EVERY OTHER EMPLOYEE IN THE WORLD and be given time sheets, core hours, reviews etc.

It is a respectable trade but if treated like the most exclusive country club in the world with blind adherence to whips is to be continued it's hardly surprising.

The requirements of keeping a civil service job have changed dramatically over the last 10 years (as you no doubt know) yet Parliament has gone backwards.

The Tories are as bad. Is scrutiny so offensive?

Old Holborn said...

Hello Kerry

I noticed you voted against your address being made public yesterday

Why?

"Nothing to hide, nothing to fear"?

Kerry said...

With people like you out on the loose?

Dick the Prick said...

Kerry - that's well rude, OH wouldn't do a dam thing near your house - he ain't a nutter.

Guthrum said...

Huh ? You've exactly proved my point.

You pass a Freedom of Information Act, then ensure it never works, by having a veto, and refusing to answer some questions on the grounds of cost. What does that prove ?

On the point of giving my address out, I don't want my address to be given to the Police, HMRC and national Government, where do I vote to stop this happening Kerry ?

Kerry said...

On a serious note, an MP was attacked by a constituent with a machete not too many years ago and his constituency assistant was killed. As MPs we get some very strange letters sometimes, from some very strange people. If an MP feels they are potentially under threat, they should be able to take appropriate steps to protect their security. I'm unlikely to do so at the moment, but I think it's important the option is there.

Kerry said...

Guthrum, how many FOI requests have been granted cf. how many have been refused? Again, you prove my point.

Guthrum said...

No Kerry- that is not the point.

It is not up to the Government to decide whate we can or cannot see what is done in our name.

We do not have open Government as you well know. The veto over the Iraq war cabinet minutes was at the behest of the Courts and the Information Commissioner, because of overriding public interest.

The Government is avoiding a public inquiry into Iraq, and defying the Courts and Commissioner, out of embarrassment.

FOI is a poor example of accountability with a veto.

The MP who was attacked, was attacked in his constituency office not at home, another poor example.

Thousands of people are attacked every day, why can they not have privacy as well ?

Kerry said...

Well it was entirely up to the Government until we introduced the FOI.

Old Holborn said...

Kerry,

A Partial FOI is like being a little bit pregnant.

You either have it or you don't.

We don't. So stop shouting that we do. It doesn't help whatever case you are trying to plead.

My address is out there. It is demanded by the State and anyone can look it up and turn up at my house to take issue with what I write.

What the hell makes you so special?

Guthrum said...

It still is upto Government entirely, they can defy the will of the people, the Courts and Information Commissioner.

I saw Lord Goldsmith on Saturday flatly refusing to even enter the debate at the Convention on Modern Liberty, He just refused to answer- I disagree with you end of story- that was just a crude exercise in power, as a public Law officer at the time, he should be obligated to answer the public.

Robin Cook for all his personal faults, took a principled stance, as did others of the Labour Party, and resigned. After twelve years we are just left with an exhausted Government whose principled members departed years ago.

I will give the Labour Party 5/10 for introducing FOI, but as this is not in any codified Constitution and future Governments of all shades are not bounf by it, FOI could easily be repealed at any time.

After twelve years, you have failed to bring in any Constitutional changes of any real meaning to the citizens of this country.

Kerry said...

That's laughable. You don't even have the guts to use your own name.

Kerry said...

Point of clarification - that was meant for OH. Although how about you all rspecting my right to freedom of information and telling me who you are? Or is it one rule for us, one rule for you?

Old Holborn said...

My name is my business Kerry

When you pay me, you'll have the right to know who I am and where I live.

Nobody pays me a penny to blog (unlike you), I do it for free.

So the very best I can do is offer you a full refund. Care to match it?

Kerry said...

Who pays me to blog? No-one.

What about the 600+ MPs who don't?

Old Holborn said...

Get back to work then

Or is this your "lunch hour"?

Kerry said...

I am trying to do some work but you lot won't leave me alone.

Guthrum said...

Cmon Kerry you are paid by us, as you well know, as are your expenses. You have no Freedom of Information to demand my name and address (Yet)

I am a member of a political party and when I stand for public office I will use my real name and my real address. If somebody chooses to attack me I will use my right of self defence to protect myself and family, irrespective of the amount of force the Government deems fit to do so.

Until such time I will restrict my identity and address.

( I am standing locally Kerry, so I am sure we will cross swords eventually)

Henry Crun said...

Kerry, your comment re that MP attacked with a machete is most disingenuous. He was attacked at hi constiuency office, not his home.

Kerry said...

I was using it to illustrate the general point that MPs are at risk. Many MPs do not publicise their constituency office address for the same reason - they give PO Box numbers.

MisterE said...

Perhaps if some MPs weren't intent on milking the taxpayer for every expense they can think of, they wouldn't be in so much 'danger' of being attacked by their constituents...

Kerry said...

Someone claims legitimate expenses, they get a machete in the head. Yes, I can see the logic in that.

nightjack said...

Dear Kerry,

Thanks for being part of the team that responded to public pressure for reform of secrecy as well as parliamentary and party political expenses in the wake of the Major years. They sure were grim and drew a lot attention to the conduct of our MP's.

Thanks for making part of your campaign platform in that election a cleaning of the stables.

Sadly, what has been done already only suffices to highlight the continuing abuses. Now instead of hearing of brown envelopes, we have influence peddling and creative expense claims. It seems like some politicians of every hue are behaving in ways that make them seem at best cheap and at worst crooked.

Its not enough to pass some laws and some regulations. Its not enough for some of you to walk the walk. We cannot clean up your house for you. We must rely on you and your colleagues to clean up for us. This depends on action being done and clearly done when a member of the house is proved to be (for want of a better phrase) a wrong'un. That is not what we see. The perception, and perception counts for so much, is that no matter what an MP (or a Lord) does in Parliament, not much happens to them. There is no real accountability outside of the ballot box every few years.

I give you and your colleagues points for creating the conditions for a cleaner parliament but not many. The conditions are pointless unless something happens to those who bring shame and discredit to your house or the other place and for some years now nothing of any significance has happened as people have been allowed to brazen it out until the news cycle turns.

Dick the Prick said...

I'm not sure what this home address thing is about - it should be an enforcable condition that you live in the constituency or a bordering one and have done for 3 years say, beforehand, and all through term of office but making it public's a bit rum. There does seem to be an increase of nutters.

On the expenses thing though - you're absolutely on the wrong side of this argument, falling off a cliff, plummeting fast, whoa! Rocks below.

I've got 3 interviews tomorrow (all in public sec!) after having worked in the public sector for 12 years now and it's pretty simple - don't provide receipts - don't get cash. Job done - next!

If it's for a mortgage on 2nd digs - show 'em your bank statement etc. Everyone has to provide receipts.

Are you saying it is beyond the wit & wisdom of a decent accts dept to box off 646 dudes & 1,110 Lordy dudes?? How the hell do you think BP works or RBS?

Err...I'll get me coat.

bevanite said...

This is ridiculous, having gotten to know quite a number of MPs, the ground shattering revelation that I have come to realise is that they are normal, decent people. In fact, many are a hell of a lot more decent than the people who constantly delght in demonising their every move. An unpopular and inconvenient view I know but, I'm sorry to say, one which I hold.

alex24 said...

@Guthrum

So you will publish your full name and address and then use your right of self-defence against anyone who attacks you or your family?

Rather than needlessly endangering yourself and your family, running the risk of a prison sentence for and having Old Holborn standing outside your house all day with his Jimmy HIll mask on, wouldn't it just be easier to NOT PUBLISH YOUR ADDRESS!

There is no legitimate reason why an MP would need to make their address public.

Taxes pay for a lot more than MPs wages, they also pay for Civil Servant's wages and pensions - should we get their names and addresses?

They pay for failing banks and businesses - do we get theirs?

What about everyone in the armed forces - do you need to know their addresses?

I hope its one of your campaign pledges when you run for public office.

Hamish Macbeth said...

Kerry ...

It all comes down to one thing. These expenses come from "taxpayers money". People who go out and work.

Everyone else in the public sector can only claim expenses that a reasonable, additional and supported by a receipt. J Smith and others (including the tories at it) would be, in any other job - committing fraud by false representation.

MPs should abide by the laws they expect others to conform to. Any MP who doesnt agree with that can leave...
There are plenty of people who would be glad to work as an MP and would not rip the backside out of the expenses.
For example - I find it scandalous that MPs have allowed one of their bars to be exempt from the smoking ban!!!
I find it scandalous that they do not want to disclose their expenses which comes from public money - yet they want to record and retain details of my flights abroad/record and retain details of every call and email I have sent for the past two years

Is it too much to expect that MPs abide by the laws they expect us to follow !!!!

Kerry said...

Hamish, they haven't, it's complete nonsense which was rubbished on this blog a while ago by someone - possibly Alex? MPs are not allowed to smoke in the Strangers Bar and the fact that a couple of idiots managed to film themselves for a couple of minutes smoking in there doesn't alter that fact. They're not even allowed to smoke in the outside area below my office window where they all used to congregate; I spotted 'no smoking' signs on the tables from my window today.

Hamish Macbeth said...

Thank you for your comment about the Strangers bar...
I take it you agree with me on Jacqui, the Speaker and his wife, Sir John Bourne and others taking the taxpayer for a ride then

DaveA said...

To be fair I do not expect MPs to publish their home addresses and even I would go as far a saying councillors too. The reason are nutters and security.As long as they return letters and emails and don't hide behind anonymity I am comfortable. Kerry has my email address and knows my real name.

I have nothing to fear, unless I don't shut up about the s..k..g b.n. :)

I believe it is still quite legal to smoke in the Strangers Bar, being a royal palace, it is an agreement in the House.

Kerry said...

You're wrong, no-one is allowed to smoke in there. We've had that debate on here plenty of times before. And before anyone starts - that video clip proves absolutely nothing. It was a set-up.

DaveA said...

Kerry I know the two people featured in the video and you are right to a certain extent about it being a set up. I am not condoning what they did.

However I understand that there is no law which stops people smoking there.