yesterday's story about the trial of former MP Margaret Moran can be read here. She did fiddle expenses, in a calculated and fraudulent manner. Others have gone to prison, but she will not, as it appears she has had a mental and emotional collapse, and was absent because unfit to stand trial. It is possible she will be discharged. Whatever her state of health, it seems to me that if she is to be found guilty she should have a criminal conviction as the others did. Otherwise justice is not served. It will of course never be known how many MPs engaged in fraud over their expenses. It can easily be discovered, and mostly has been since parts of the media got their claws into it, what irregularities took place - although when what was done was within the rules it seems wrong to punish people retrospectively. I am referring to actual fraud here though. Falsificaation of documents for financial gain at the taxpayers' expense. All those who have stood trial and gone to prison have done so as a result of complaints to the police, nearly always made by former members of their staff or associates, within their own party. As you might expect. this is true of Margaret Moran too. It follows that there must be quite a number of others. Mr Salter, who was one of the few who committed fraud by claiming GBP 1000 a month for four years, from 1997 to 2001, for a London property he did not have, has had no complaint made, and so has not been prosecuted. I suppose I should have made the complaint myself. I may still do so. What do readers think? To commit fraud in this way you need to represent a constituency which is reachable on a daily commuting basis. Of that ring of constituencies around London, the MPs I knew all, with the exception of Mr Salter and Michael Trend, the then MP for Windsor, had places in London. Mr Trend was found out - a disgruntled former member of his staff had him followed and saw that he drove back to Windsor every evening - and he had to stand down from parliament. No need to have Mr Salter followed, he boasted that he went back to Reading every night, but I saw him fill in the claim forms for a thousand a month. It was the Michael Trend affair which obliged MPs from 2001 on to provide their mortgage documents or rent agreement before claims for London property could be reimbursed.
Here in France things are rather different. MPs do not have much scrutiny of their expenses. They also do not have the media snapping at their heels every five minutes.
It's a sad business. I'm sorry for those who went to prison, and I'm sorry for Margaret Moran. They are all paying the price for what they have done, as they must. I hope they all, including Margaret, come out the other side of this. Paying your debt to society means just that - once you have had your punishment the debt is settled and you are clean.