Sunday, 11 October 2009

expenses

Readers will have seen that Sir Thomas Legg, entrusted with a review of the Additional Costs Allowance paid to MPs for housing, is to write to all Members affected this week. This will include me, as the first year concerned by this review is 2004-5, and I stood down from Parliament in 2005. I quote the following from a letter I received dated 28th September and signed by someone called Ed Wood:

"The security of the review data is being treated with the utmost care as it is clearly sensitive. Consequently Sir Thomas has decided that it would not be prudent to send the provisional conclusions to private email addresses in all but exceptional cases, since there is a small risk that email communications can be intercepted. If you have provided an email address, this will be used to notify you that the conclusions have been posted. Please let me know if this will cause you any problems."

It causes me no problems at all. Imagine though, they think the conclusions might leak? Surely not!

My own representations following the letter I received have been to say that as far as I am concerned it is perfectly OK to inform me by email of whatever they want to inform me of, and that I request that the inquiry be extended to cover the years 1997-2004. During the first four of those years, as readers will recall, Mr Salter claimed something over 40K for housing costs in respect of a non-existent London property. When the BBC and other media who had been reading this blog and making their own enquiries started asking him questions he told them he was suing me, to shut them up on the subject. It worked. However, it was a lie. No legal letter has reached me. Nor, I suspect, is it likely to.

Because, er, it's true. And the House of Commons has records to show that it is.


7 comments:

Anonymous said...

what about the expenses claims you made for taxis you never used.

your as bad a salter

jane said...

slight difference - those claims were not only authorised but endorsed - all MPs have to sign a declaration that any claims they make are in furtherance of their duties - and it is not possible for MPs not to use any kind of transport in furtherance of their duties

I only present the facts, I am not saying that anyone is "bad" - just that Salter got over 40K and said he got nothing, until this blog pointed out he got that much, at which point he started referring only to items after 2001 - so this blog has played its small part in increasing transparency - hein?

Anonymous said...

They should have, but I don't actually think that they do, Jane.
Obviously it would make the best sense to do one of two things. Either 1: to conduct a proper review of all receipts from 1997 onwards -thus giving a full picture of what went on under a particular Government or 2: confine it neatly to events post May 2005.
The problem they have with 1 ( by far the best option) is that it was only in 2004 that MPs were told that they had to itemise and provide receipts and descriptions to accompany those receipts.
Consequently, many MPs just wrote £1,600 per month on the form and it was therefore impossible to break down their claims.
Of course, some MPs had always included receipts but by no means all. M Salter may well have claimed fraudulently for a flat that he did not, in fact rent - but if he was not required to produce substantive and on-going written proof then who would be the wiser?
He may well have been required to provide a photocopy of a rent book for the initial claim - very easy to get hold of I'm sure. And then NOTHING subsequently.
From 1997-2004 there was never any sense at all that claims in general might be dodgy - no hints or pressure from the media - and therefore, no incentive for rapidly changing clerical staff in the Fees office to retain comprehensive records on each and every MP.And it would have been impossible to provide a full pitcure, even if records were kept because there might be 100% documentation on MP A but only partial info on MP B and MP C might well be one of the £1,600 blank cheque signers.

So I am afraid that it looks as if it will be impossible to catch him and bring him to justice - whereas Margaret Beckett, for example, might well have to repay garden expenditure post 2004.
I would want to ask the person who wrote the letter, precisely when the investigation is going to extend to those members of the Fees Office - from the Head of the Fees office down -who sanctioned claims that now appear to be so unsuitable?
Margaret Moran, for example, is not a wicked and venal woman. She will not have thought 'Oh - how can I decive the taxpayer today? I know! I'll claim £20,000 for dry rot in Southampton! That will be a good wheeze!'
She will have had protracted discussions with senior personnel in the Fees Office who will havae assured her that it was acceptable to claim, scrutinised her claim and then sanctioned it.
What official thought it was fab to allow Peter Viggers to have the money for his duck house - at the other end of the scale?
And who were the officials who looked at photocopies of MPs'mortgage statements when submitted and then blithely sanctioned shelling out for the full repayment mortgage - instead of advising the MPs that only a certain amount would be repayed to cover interest?
And who is going to carry out an investigation into the Whips' offices - thus identifying those Whips who blithely told MPs 'look on it as extra salary - the public won't accept a pay rise'. Or 'You should claim the full amount for such and such. You are entitled to it' etc etc etc.
Of course some MPs have abused the system.
But the investigation itself is deeply flawed - as usual, catching and impaling easy targets and allowing others to go free - like Martin Salter.
The vast majority of MPs thought that they were operating according to the rules - and then, one day - suddenly the rules were completely changed and punishments were doled out. I don't often agree with Nadine Dorries, but I think she speaks some sense on expenses. Unfortunately, the whole saga has just played into the belief that the letters MP stand for 'Moral Pig' - in each and every case.Just you wait - someone will top themselves.

Anonymous said...

anonymous 16:42

"your" = you're John Howarth and I claim my £5!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for brightening up my morning. The thought that John Howarth has been caught being so sad that he trolls your blog fair gave me a good laugh. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Not being involved in politics I don't know what the situation is:but what's the score regarding Party functionaries?Presumably some of these have expense accounts.Do we know if there is anything we should know lurking in Tory and Labour ledgers...?

Anonymous said...

Just the ususal - telephone/petrol incurred in work - hotel accommodation for conferences etc.
As political parties are not funded by the taxpayer at all, as yet, why should we care less?

I'm sure that there will be dubious individuals who are trying to defraud their company ( in this case, the Labour Conservative or Liberal Democrat parties ) - but, so what?
Its up to them to weed them out.

Just as it is up to the NHS/Unilever/ ITN/Vauhxall etc to do so if their employees are being corrupt.
Nothing new there. Wouldn't make a footnote on page twenty of a local rag.