Business as Usual: Bercow Shreds the Evidence

Ask the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner to investigate an MP’s pre-2010 expenses and here is the answer you get:

“All records relating to expenses claims before 2010 have now been destroyed. No unredacted information is now available here…”

A committee headed by the Bercow has authorised the shredding of all the evidence. Another win for the ‘reforming Speaker’.

What happened to the ‘reforming Speaker’ who said in 2009, upon his election:

‘The public perception of the way we operate is so negative that it is necessary to accept a wholesale, fundamental and irrevocable change. There has to be some short-term pain in order to achieve the long-term gain of a recovery in the standing of the Commons.’

It’s business as usual.

Labour Expenses Piggy’s Wikipedia Edited From Parliament

Back in 2012 the Bureau of Investigative Journalism exposed former Labour MP Joan Ryan for deleting references to her expenses scandal shame from her Wikipedia page. She was caught red-handed and ‘fessed up, and details of her flipping her second home were returned to her entry. This week they mysteriously went missing again. 

Wikipedia’s “revisions” analysis shows that yesterday the section “Involvement in the expenses scandal” was removed from Ryan’s page. Curiously, the changes were made anonymously from an IP address located within the Houses of Parliament. This is what the mystery deleter didn’t want you to see:

“In May 2009, it was reported that Ryan had claimed more than £4,500 under the Additional Costs Allowance for work on a house she had designated as her second home. In February 2010, based on an audit report looking into the United Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal, Ryan was asked to repay £5,121 mortgage interest.”

Whoever they are, they certainly seem to have a strong opinion on the subject:

Could an old friend of Joan be trying to clean up her record ahead of her ambitious attempt to stand for parliament again?

H/T @parliamentedits

UPDATE: A parliamentary source gets in touch to report that none other than Joan Ryan visited the Commons yesterday, the day her page was edited from a parliament computer. Curiouser and curiouser…

NOTICE OF INVESTIGATION – BOB BLACKMAN MP

Over the weekend this statement went up on the IPSA website:

The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has today opened an investigation into claims made under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses by Mr Bob Blackman MP.

In accordance with the legislation and the procedures for investigation made thereunder, no further information shall be published until the investigation has been concluded.

Upon conclusion of the investigation, a report including details of the case made against the MP, evidence, findings and any sanctions will be published.

Under new guidelines, investigations into MPs’ expenses are to be kept secret

Help Stop New MPs’ Expenses Cover Up

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

EXCLUSIVE:
Minister Funnels Expenses Cash to Firm Run By Former Agent

Energy minister Amber Rudd has channelled thousands of pounds of taxpayer cash to a Tory-linked company run by her former agent. Over the last two years Rudd has claimed £6,000 on expenses for “professional services” to organise several local jobs fairs in her constituency. The jobs fairs were organised by Events Office, a company run by Terri Lock, who is a Rudd’s former agent and a Tory council candidate in Hastings. Terri is married to Matthew Lock, former leader of Hastings Conservative group. Events Office seem to get a lot of business from the Tories, having organised a number of jobs fairs in the constituencies of other Tory MPs including Defence Secretary Michael Fallon and Charities minister Brooks Newmark.

Guido’s favourite Labour MP Karl Turner says:

“Amber Rudd has serious questions to answer about whether the rules have been upheld. There can be no question of funnelling taxpayers’ cash to cronies against the rules. I hope David Cameron will investigate the behaviour of his new Minister.”

Fishy…

The Expenses Claims Parliament Doesn’t Want You to See

Flamboyantly-named IPSA chief Marcial Boo is plotting to shroud MPs’ expenses claims in secrecy once again. Boo has told John Bercow that politicians’ claims for small stationery items should be kept hidden from the public because the delicate flowers are facing ridicule in the press. In the interests of openness, accountability and transparency – principles IPSA clearly have no interest in – Guido is publishing some recent claims that they want to keep secret:

  • David Cameron – bulldog clip, 7p
  • Austin Mitchell – pencil sharpener, 2p
  • Cheryl Gillan – calender, 4p
  • Jeremy Hunt – paper clips, 5p
  • Emma Lewell Buck – pencil sharpener, 5p
  • Liz Kendall – pencil sharpener, 7p
  • Harriet Harman – drawing pins, 10p
  • Ken Clarke – ruler, 11p
  • Andrew Mitchell – Tipp-ex, 13p
  • Sarah Teather – staples, 17p
  • Chi Onwurah – mouse mat, 18p
  • Alan Johnson – fold back clips, 34p
  • Vince Cable – scissors, 43p
  • Nadhim Zahawi – hole punch, 53p
  • Alistair Darling – glue stick, 64p
  • Vera Baird – dustpan, 69p
  • Gordon Browncalculator, £1

It goes without saying IPSA should be acting in the interests of the taxpayer and not simply sparing MPs’ blushes, but there is also a wider point here. Jim Devine submitted false invoices for printing costs, an expenses claim he was eventually jailed for. Keeping this seemingly trivial claim secret might have meant he got away with it. That alone shows why every expenses claim, however small, must face the disinfecting glare of sunlight…

£173,000 Simmonds Quits Saying Expenses Are Too Low

Mark Simmonds has told the BBC that his decision to quit parliament was due to the “intolerable” impact of expenses rules on his family, saying his allowances don’t allow him to rent a big enough house in London to bring up his children. Last year Simmonds was named by his local paper as the most expensive MP in his county after they found he had claimed £173,436.96 in expenses for 2013. He cost the taxpayer:

  • £137,426.92 payroll
  • £13,005.38 office costs
  • £5,910.00 staffing expenses
  • £25,000 employing his wife Lizbeth as his office manager

Simmonds and his wife directly took home over £160,000 from the taxpayer last year, as well as claiming for tens of thousands more in other expenses. On top of that, IPSA rules allow MPs to claim £27,875 a year for rent. He says that is not enough to bring up his family in London. Guido imagines his missus told him he wasn’t going anywhere so he might as well start on getting a proper job and making some proper money…

Bercow’s £1,300 MP Funeral Bill on Expenses

Guido couldn’t help but feel the taxpayer had been short-changed when he read in today’s Sun that John Bercow claimed £1,300 on expenses to go to Paul Goggins’ funeral. A worthwhile trip perhaps, but could he not have done it cheaper? Guido decided to find out.

The Speaker charged us £45 for a car from parliament to Euston station and £67.50 for the return journey the following day. A quick browse of Guido’s Uber app (other free market-supporting smartphone-friendly cheap car travel services are also available) shows we could do the journey for a tenner each way.

Bercow did much better on his train journey. He billed £239.10 for him and two staffers to get up to Manchester, the standard fare. Though when he got to Manchester, the Speaker inexplicably blew £500 on cars across the city. Since the trip was only meant to be for a church service and then the funeral, Guido struggles to see why he spent so much on taxis. We reckon we’d have spent £50 at the absolute maximum.

Finally, Bercow put himself and his staffers up at the posh Park Inn by Radisson hotel at a cost to the taxpayer of a cool £364. There are plenty of budget hotels well situated in Manchester. Guido chose the Ibis Budget, which would have given us three rooms for £96.

Bercow total: £1,290

Guido total: £405

Every little helps…

MacShame on Christmas Behind Bars

No Guardian column for ex-con Denis MacShane, so he’s publishing his prison diaries instead. Readers will have nothing but sympathy for the crook who spent Christmas Day in the clink:

Christmas Day

9.50am: My door opens and a screw barks,

[…]

+ READ MORE +

MPs Moan as IPSA Boss Wants Second Term

Sir Ian Kennedy, Chairman of their expenses watchdog IPSA, will be seeking another term as chief defender against the piggy-fiddlers, Despite being widely disliked by both MPs and officials, Sir Ian has told friends he has ‘thrown his hat in […]

+ READ MORE +

Finally a Politician Begs for Expenses Forgiveness

Japanese politician Ryutaro Nonomura has committed career harakiri, spectacularly bursting into tears at a press conference over questions about him fiddling his expenses:

Guido would like to see this level of remorse a little closer to home…

UPDATE: In […]

+ READ MORE +

Stella’s Munchies

Still reeling from #BiscuitGate, Stella Creasy is using recess to escape […]

+ READ MORE +



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