Saturday, 26 January 2013

One Law for Them (Chapter 302)

Expenses ride again!

“We have moved on,” “lessons have been learned,” and “everything is so much different now,” are the kind of comments made by our elected representatives when the question of MPs Expenses is raised. It is true there is more transparency and most MPs publish some details of their expenses on their websites. But, and it is a HUGE BUT, there are still plenty of skeletons a lurking and malpractice a thriving. Take just a few examples mentioned by Private Eye in its latest edition. In an article bemoaning the incompetence/ineptness and general waste of space of the outgoing ‘parliamentary commissioner for standards’ (John Lyon) it said the following: –––

“Consistency was not his catchphrase. He was keen to take up complaints from the BNP, including one against Denis MacShane. But he let off lucky David Laws, who gave £50k of taxpayers’ money to his live-in partner in the form of ‘rent’  –– a fiddle no other member had been bright enough to think of.

Lyon refused to investigate some of the biggest examples of MPs’ boot-filling, such as the thousands claimed in so-called petty cash. Oddly enough, one of the most regular exploiters of the petty cash wheeze, which allowed MPs to trouser up to £250 a month, was Kevin Barron MP - who just happens to chair the standards and privileges committee that oversees the commissioner’s work, now better known at Westminster as the double-standards committee. Since we described Lyon in 2009 as ‘feeble’ and ‘an establishment stooge’ (Eye 1241), he has done nothing to prove us wrong. 

Well, almost nothing. In his last act before retiring, Lyon belatedly woke up to the worst abuse of the expenses system –– the massive claims for mortgage interest payments. He opened an inquiry into Maria Miller MP, who claimed £90,000 over four years for a house she already owned where her parents lived. The new commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, now has the delicate task of deciding whether to ask the culture secretary o repay the money and how long Miller might be suspended for claiming seven times the amount that forced MacShane to resign. 

If Hudson does take Miller to task, other MPs who made a fortune from the London property market before 2010 –– step forward again, Kevin Barron, who sold his taxpayer-funded flat for a profit of almost £500,000 –– will begin to tremble. Dare she antagonise the chairman of her own double standards committee, a challenge her predecessor conspicuously ducked? Watch this space!” P.Eye 25/1/13

Then there is Tory MP Peter Luff who rents a flat off Frank Lampard (which we pay for) while renting out a flat he owns in London..... 

All those who are about to suffer the loss of between £40 and £60 per week, who also happen to be on very low incomes, and who are worried sick about how they are going to get by, and put food on the table, should look no further than our MPs for an example of how to cope with austerity Britain. 

Cheat, fiddle, lie and defraud, but remember at all times to talk and act with the utmost sincerity. It works for them

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