At the Court of Appeal today, Chris Huhne lost his challenge to a court order requiring him to pay £77,750 costs from his trial. A very expensive lie…
This summer the Speaker of the House of Commons netted £7,510 in donations from the Lawn Tennis Association. It’s a nice perk of the job for John Bercow to sit in the Royal Box at Wimbledon and attend two other tennis matches with no expense spared. It was equally nice of the impartial and above reproach Speaker to return the favour…
“I think the record shows that as Speaker I have taken the lead in cleaning up politics”, said Bercow in 2010. Yet, eleven days ago he took the extraordinary step of intervening in a Commons debate in order to encourage the building of more tennis courts, and promote – by name – the LTA. His donor:
Oliver Colvile: The Government passed the Localism Act more than two years ago and Plymouth city council, which is controlled by the Labour party, has identified Collins park tennis courts as surplus to requirements and might well seek to build on them. It claims that it has not made a decision, but has published a planning brief. Please may we have a debate on the progress that local communities and neighbourhoods have made in protecting green inner-city areas such as mine in Plymouth?
Mr Hague: I think a debate on these issues would be most welcome to illustrate the opportunities that are now open. The Localism Act 2011 gives communities the opportunity to list valuable local assets and so far some 1,500 assets of community value have been listed. Green spaces are the second most popular listing, along with parks, village greens, open land and even, in one case, a mountain. I encourage my hon. Friend to pursue a debate on these matters.
Mr Speaker: Of course, we cannot get involved in individual planning applications, but I hope that I can be forgiven for saying that we need more tennis courts in this country and not fewer. That is a matter about which I feel very strongly, as does the Lawn Tennis Association and a great many other people besides.
The Speaker is meant to be above the fray, whiter than white and a shining example to all MPs. Any other MP caught pushing the cause of a donor without at least giving a nod to their register of interests would be hauled up to give a grovelling apology to the House.
Should Bercow be allowed to swerve the rules like this?
The EU this morning orders Britain to pay a £1.7 billion “prosperity tax” within weeks, while France and Germany receive massive rebates. A continental source gloats to the Telegraph: “there is nothing Britain can do about it”. That isn’t true: Dave can refuse to pay, tell Brussels to deal with it and then see what they do. It’s our money, the PM has to say “no, no, no”.
Nigel Farage is already on the case: “The EU is like a thirsty vampire feasting on UK taxpayers’ blood. We need to protect the innocent victims, who are us”. If the PM fails to make a stand immediately he can kiss goodbye to Rochester. Judging by the mood among Eurosceptic Tory MPs this morning that could be the least of his problems if Downing Street gives in and pays up…
The Guardian have done a run down of the MPs with the biggest declared outside earnings. There could only be one man at the top of the list. How much of Gordon’s £492,331 income declared in the last Register of Members’ Interests has gone to charity?
The tiresome PCS union is on strike again tomorrow, moaning that the 1% pay rise for public sector workers is unfair and demanding a 5% increase for their members instead. Since Guido enjoys nothing more than spending his afternoons reading through trade union financial reports, he thought he would share PCS’s plans for pay increases for their own staff. Lo and behold, PCS plan on awarding their staff, you guessed it, 1% pay increases for the years 2013-15:
Looks like PCS staff should join a trade union and go on strike!
Following Guido’s story yesterday about the Speaker’s spokesman abandoning her impartiality and attacking the Tories:
The spokesman needed a spokesman, and now she’s gone…
UPDATE: Here is the statement from the Commons:
“After a year in post Justine McGuinness has offered her resignation to the Speaker, which has been accepted. The Speaker thanks Ms McGuinness for her hard work and commitment over the last 12 months. She has contributed considerably to the running of the Speaker’s Office but now wishes to pursue other interests.”
Quietly announced during the noise of Tory conference were new proposals from the parliamentary expenses watchdog to keep secret the names of MPs facing investigation for fiddling their expenses. IPSA chair Ian Kennedy has decreed that “an MP could suffer unfair reputational damage” if the public knew they were facing an expenses investigation, ruling that the “publication of an allegation” should be prevented. The sinister document claims “public interest in transparency must be balanced with operational needs and fairness”, concluding: “we believe that the operational and reputational damage to MPs which could be caused by the publication of allegations in advance of a substantive investigation outweighs the benefits of release.” This is a flagrant attack on transparency and and clear attempt to cover up and keep secret the names of MPs accused of wrongdoing.
The good news is you can stop it from happening. IPSA has launched a public consultation on the insidious proposals, inviting the thoughts of voters on whether or not they should be allowed to know if their MP is suspected of being a crook. They have already been condemned by Alistair Graham, former chairman of the Committee on Standards and Public Life, as “retrograde, foolish and perverse”. You can read the document here and email a submission to the consultation here…
Guido hasn’t seen this reported anywhere else in the news, the PM’s forward promise to move the 40% threshold up to £50,000 means that the rate will kick in at the boundary level last seen in 2009/10 under Gordon Brown. In 2009 the 40% rate kicked in after £37,400 of taxable income and under a Conservative government in 2020 after a decade in office it would kick in at £37,500 (£50,000 – £12,500). A move in the right direction of £100…
Confused? Well the threshold drag has been a hard-to-headline stealthy massive tax hike by this government. With no other deductions and no change in the N.I. rate – which Guido suspects will be abolished in a final Lawsonian type reform towards which Osborne is ideologically inclined – the net take home figure would only be improved by some £2,100 for a £50,000 earner in 2020 compared to 2010 – a 4.2% relief. Whereas someone on minimum wages making £12,500 in 2020 compared to 2010 will see nearly a 100% improvement in their net take home pay…
(Thanks to bean-counting co-conspirator Q97 for help with the sums.)
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