Sunday, 19 April 2009

I am not breaking any rules

On the 14th April I wrote about a Labour MP who has claimed over £400 per month on expenses for groceries. My comments were very restrained but this sort of thing should not be going on. There was a defence given that the claims were 'within Commons guidelines'. Well done for keeping part of your tax-free expenses so low (they were lowered to the limit because he asked too much). Of much greater concern is that one of his supporters said 'we have no intention of commenting on leaked documents'. The more you look, the more it seems that the only check on government is leaked documents. Long may they continue.

For the sake of balance I will write about ex-Conservative MEP Den Dover. He too has vigorously denied any wrongdoing as he claimed over £750 000 in seven years to pay for office staff which happened to be a family firm employing his wife and daughter. He was thrown out of the Conservative Party last year, however his website has not been updated, and it still looks like he is a member. Perhaps he needs to pay his office staff more to keep his website updated, but he has been ordered to pay back half a million pounds. There is no clear enforcer for this punishment. It is also not clear why he does not have to give it all back plus a fine for flagrant misuse of public funds. Let's see if he gives any of it back. His comment prior to this ruling was 'everyone agrees that I am not breaking any of the parliament's rules'. Where have I heard this defence before? Everywhere.

You will hear at election time that MPs and MEPs must uphold the highest standards. They are only human and may be prone to mistakes. We can do two things to stop this happening. Firstly the system for expenses must be reformed, which are wide open to ridicule. Secondly improve our electoral system so that the voters can react more readily to any abuse of power.

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