Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘MPs' expenses’

British MPs in the Dock

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 6th February, 2010

Three British members of the House of Commons (all Labour) and one Conservative peer are to be charged with offences under the Theft Act, relating to allegations of false accounting for personal gain. They strongly deny the charges and intend to fight cases that are expected to come to court next month. The specifics range from claiming for a mortgage that had already been paid off to falsified invoices for cleaning and other services. Prime Minister Gordon Brown has expressed his anger over the alleged abuses by his three MPs, former Minister Elliot Morley, Jim Devine and David Chaytor, and Lord Hanningfield has had the Tory whip withdrawn in the House of Lords. One must not prejudge the outcome of the trials, nor should one gloat over the fact that there are no Liberal Democrats involved. Scores of other MPs and peers must be breathing a sigh of relief that they have not had criminal charges brought against them, despite being reprimanded and in many cases obliged to return thousands of pounds of allowances. The system that was exposed in last year’s expenses’ scandal was wide open to abuse, and abuse it many parliamentarians did, sometimes with the encouragement of the parliament’s own Fees Office. The charging of the three MPs and Lord Hanningfield will not bring closure to the affair, however. It is a running sore which will fester right into the forthcoming general election campaign.

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Why Are So Many MPs Still in a State of Denial?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 13th October, 2009

Sir Thomas LeggMPs were clustering round their pigeon holes at the Houses of Parliament in Westminster today and yesterday, waiting to collect their letters from Sir Thomas Legg, who has been looking into the parliamentary expenses scandal. Some were relieved to be given clean reports, others were from pleased to be asked to clarify a number of awkward questions, which may or may not lead to them being asked to pay money back. There is considerable controversy, even anger, among back-benchers, many of whom protest their innocence, in the sense that the claims they made were within the rules. But Gordon Brown has said he will repay over £12,000 in gardening and cleaning expenses if asked to and David Cameron has said he will withdraw the Tory whip from any Conservative MPs who refuse to acceed to Sir Thomas’s demands. Nonetheless, a number of MPs, from both major parties, are calling the whole business reprehensible, because some of it is retrospective. In other words, Sir Thomas is saying in some cases that things have been unacceptable, even if they were thought at the time to be within the rules, not just by the MPs but often by the fees office as well. Of course, some MPs (even Ministers, it would appear) have played the system to such an extent that it virtually amounted to fraud. In my view, they should actually be prosecuted in the worst cases. But in the meantime, the whole reputation of parliament will continue to be dragged along in the gutter so long as there are MPs who have failed to grasp the public mood on this matter and insist that they got their lavish subsidies for second homes etc fair and square.

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Questions for Cash

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 29th May, 2009

Bill Cash‘Cash for Questions’  tarnished the reputation of the last Conservative government in Britain, but this morning, it is Questions for Cash that must be putting party leader David Cameron off his cornflakes, in the latest epsiode of the seemingly endless Daily Telegraph saga of expenses abuse in the House of Commons. According to the newspaper’s newest revelations, the Stafforshire MP and arch Euro-sceptic, Bill Cash, paid his daughter £15,000 in rent for a flat, as a supposed ‘second home’, despite owning one himself nearer Parliament. Mr Cash is a wealthy man in his own right, but this didn’t stop him apparently milking the system. He says he broke no rules, and I believe him; it is abundantly clear by now that the rules, put in place during Mrs Thatcher’s reign, are a licence to top up one’s salary and — as we have seen from the whole sorry soap opera, from Derek Conway onwards — to help one’s family out at the same time.

When such things happen in Africa — admittedly often on a much larger scale — we call this corruption and nepotism. I am not suggesting that this is what Mr Cash and his colleagues — on both sides of the House — have been knowingly involved in, but increasingly that is the impression that the British public is getting. It is indeed an urgent necessity, as Nick Clegg argued in the Guardian yesterday, for MPs to get their house in order, renouncing their long summer recess, if needs be, until things are sorted out through the introduction of sweeping reforms. It is not just the reputation of individual MPs that is at stake, but the very credibility of British democracy. Like a rotting carcass, the Westminster system has exploded, scattering its putrid entrails far and wide.

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