Monday, April 7, 2014

Labour Write to Labour to Complain About Miller

Labour have written to the Labour MP who let Maria Miller off the hook. Labour’s Shelia Gilmore has written to Labour’s Kevin Barron, who Guido covered in some depth earlier, to formally complain about Miller’s apology.

Dear Mr Barron,

I am writing to make a formal complaint over the personal statement given by Mrs Maria Miller to the House of Commons on Thursday 3rd April. This was inadequate to the point of being contemptuous of your Committee’s report and the Members’ Code of Conduct.

You will agree that adherence to the Code of Conduct and due respect for the Committee on Standards are essential to uphold trust in public life. Mrs Miller has demonstrated neither and the subsequent public condemnation of her behaviour highlights the risk to public trust such behaviour creates.

The Code of Conduct states that “Members shall cooperate, at all stages, with any such investigation by or under the authority of the House”. Your report concludes, however, that “Mrs Miller’s exchanges with the Commissioner repeatedly show a failure to provide information asked for, or to respond adequately to the Commissioner’s questions.”

Your report also states that, “Much of the delay and difficulty in this case has arisen from incomplete documentation and fragmentary information. Mrs Miller has to carry significant responsibility for that.”

These specific points were unaddressed and remain unexplained following Mrs Miller’s abrupt 32 second apology to the House last week.

Following the focus on Members’ expenses and subsequent reform to the system in 2009 there is now a higher bar for all Members to demonstrate the integrity of their conduct in public life. We must act at all times within the spirit as well as the letter of existing guidelines. It is clear that Mrs Miller fell foul of this not just in her conduct during the inquiry but in her apology to the House.

Rather than meaningfully address the arrogant and evasive attitude that characterised her behaviour during the inquiry, she chose to reinforce it in the House of Commons, revealing Mrs Miller to not be apologetic at all.

I want to ask whether you consider Mrs Miller’s apology sufficient given the significance of this issue and whether you would consider asking Mrs Miller to return to the House of Commons to address the specific issues raised in your Committee’s report.

Best wishes,

Sheila Gilmore MP

What a sorry mess – this highlights just how bonkers this system is.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Labour Finally Twist Knife Into Miller

Labour have finally found someone beyond John Mann to go on the attack over Maria Miller. Pity that it’s only the perpetually useless Shadow Cabinet Office minister Chi Onwurah, but still:

“Letting Maria Miller off the hook speaks volumes about David Cameron’s leadership. His weakness and double standards on the issue of Maria Miller’s expenses are totally unacceptable and completely out of touch. He should not offer “warm support” to a cabinet minister criticised by a Parliamentary committee, but be making clear she should have cooperated fully with this inquiry. We had a contemptuous 32 second response from a cabinet minister followed by a pat on the back from the prime minister. It is yet another example of how Cameron only looks after his one of his own and always stands up for the wrong people. We must have the very highest standards in public office. There can be no going back to the bad old days of expenses.”

They’ve responded quicker to this than they did to the Budget. Better late than never.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

WATCH: Maria Miller’s 31 Second Apology

There are 1.2 million reasons why she didn’t really mean it…

READ: Standards Committee Report into Maria Miller in Full

report

Click to read.

The Standards Committee report finds “We are concerned that Mrs Miller did not pay as close attention to the rules of the House”. Contrary to the rules Miller “increased the facility on her mortgage on at least two occasions without consulting the House”, and she is also found to have “not only claimed for the entire mortgage interest charged, but appears to have claimed slightly more than that interest.”

The report noted that “Miller’s interactions with House tends to show a pattern in which officials would press her for information”, Miller offered minimal information herself. Tellingly “most of Mrs Miller’s mortgage claims were justified”, but not all. “If the Commissioner had been able swiftly to establish the facts … this might have been a relatively minor matter” – Miller blocked it. Most damningly the Committee found “Mrs Miller has also breached the current Code of Conduct by her attitude to this inquiry.”

They warn that the “system relies” on MPs “responding to Commissioner’s inquiries fully and frankly, rather than trying to argue a case in a legalistic way… It should not have required our intervention to produce the material and explanations required to complete the investigation.”

She will make a personal statement to the House at midday…

It’s Miller Time – But Look Over There at Hunt

The Standards Committee report into Maria Miller is out at 11am, with the Culture Secretary expected to be ordered to repay £5,000 of the £90,000 she claimed in mortgage payments for a second home lived in by her parents. Labour minister Tony McNulty resigned in 2009 over a similar arrangement and Miller has so far offered no explanation for why she suddenly stopped claiming when the MPs expenses scandal broke. If it was legit at the time why stop?

Oh and she is briefing that she simply ‘forgot’ to change the morgage claims when there was a change in rates. Whoopsy daisy.

It’s the cover-up that makes this the real issue: Miller used her role in charge of press regulation to threaten journalists reporting the story. If as a Secretary of State she is also found to have failed to cooperate with the inquiry into her expenses, how does that not cross the line? And how clever to put out the Plain Packaging statement at the same time as the report.

See also: Maria Miller Sells Second Home for £1 Million Profit, Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home, How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?, £90,000 Question for Maria Miller.

UPDATE:

What time was the decision made to rush out the plain packaging announcement to coincide with the Maria Miller report, and why?

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New IPSA Boss Experienced at Dealing With Thieving Crims

Expenses watchdog IPSA has today announced the appointment of an interim chief executive following the retirement of Andrew McDonald on grounds of ill health. Former South East London Probation Service boss Paul Hayes is taking over for six months.

Putting his experience at dealing with lying, cheating, thieving criminals to good use…

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Maria Miller Sells Second Home for £1 Million Profit

how-do-you-solve-a-problem-like-maria[1]

Last month Guido revealed that Maria Miller was making a potential six figure profit on the second home – lived in by her parents – that she had claimed mortgage payments for on expenses, in clear breach of expenses rules. The Telegraph today reports she has sold the home which she bought in 1996 for £234,000 for £1.47 million, trousering a taxpayer-subsidised profit of over £1 million. Despite claiming £90,000 for the second home on expenses she will only have to repay £5,000. This was a case of a Cabinet minister blatantly breaching expenses rules, resulting in significant personal gain, yet the impotent Standards Commissioner is giving her a mere slap on the wrist…

UPDATE: A DCMS source gets in touch:

“Maria has co-operated fully with the inquiry, asked for by the Labour Party, which has now been going on for a year and a half amidst constant unfounded speculation. We hope it will conclude soon. It is not surprising that London houses go up in value well over a decade after they are first bought . It is also not unusual for people to move house.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?

What about releasing the report into her dodgy expenses claims on Budget Day? The Standards and Privileges Committee has taken a very long time to reprimand Miller over those £90,000 second home expenses claims that landed her with a potential six figure profit. A source familiar with the investigation suggests that the delay has been due to gathering more evidence, but why are they taking such a long time to publish a decision? Could it be that Tories on the Committee are looking for a good time to bury bad news? A cynic might think Budget Day might be a good time to get it out…

See also: Maria Miller Makes Six Figure Profit on Second Home £90,000 Question For Maria Miller 

IPSA Good Start

IPSA has today announced its latest proposals for reform of the MPs’ expenses scheme. Some of them are not bad ideas, such as publishing MPs’ landlords’ names and addresses each year, publishing details of contingency payments and further scrutiny of MPs’ mortgage interest subsidy and capital gains repayments. Most of these reforms would not be implemented until after the election however. Even then they do not go far enough.

Guido has said it before that a House of Commons debit card is the best way to regulate legitimate expenses. The transactions would as normal be electronically recorded automatically and could thus be published online automatically, the spending limits would be automatic and bureaucracy would be minimal. The idea was proposed in Disinfecting Parliament, a 2009 report from the Sunlight Centre that recommended a number of measures based on best practice in the private sector that could easily be transferred to IPSA. MPs have called for a fairer and simpler system, what could be easier than the debit card plan?

Monday, March 17, 2014

Stella Faces Parliamentary Standards Investigation
#BiscuitGate Leads to Funding Complaint from Local Opponents 

Following Guido’s story about Stella Creasy’s £31 junk food bill on expenses, the posh Labour MP suggested that the Jammie Dodgers, chocolate fingers and Starburst sweeties were for non-partisan community volunteers in her Walthamstow constituency. It turns out St. Ella wasn’t being entirely truthful…

stella-movement-for-change

Creasy’s #7Days4Stow campaign is advertised on her party website with Labour Party branding, uses Labour Party slogans and is backed by her local Labour Party, the campaign group Movement for Change set up originally by David Miliband – which describes itself as “the home of community organising in the Labour Movement” – is at the centre of Stella’s community volunteering. As if that didn’t make it clear enough that this is a party political operation it is backed by the General Secretary of the Labour Party. After seeing Guido’s report about #Biscuitgate the chairman of the Walthamstow Conservative Association has today written to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards asking her to determine whether taxpayers’ money is being used to support community campaigning at the behest of the Labour Party:

To those who say it isn’t much money, this is just the tip of the iceberg in how political parties abuse taxpayer funding and an important principle is at stake – partisan political campaigning should be paid for out of party funds – not out of funds earmarked for the benefit of all constituents. If only Stella had just ‘fessed up at the beginning and said, “yeah, that probably isn’t a proper use of taxpayers’ money” and straight away paid the money back when it was drawn to her attention she would have avoided a full investigation from the authorities…


Seen Elsewhere

Bookies v Pollsters: What We Learned From IndyRef | Paddy Power
Guido’s Column | Sun
Elite’s Obsession With Climate Change Alarmism | David Keighley
Charities Should Not Demonise Freud | ConHome
Double Standards of Police Leaks to Guardian | Mail
My Year in Court | Charlie Brooks
Legalise Pot | NY Times
Spooks Recruited IRA Paedo | Mirror
How Police Hack Phones and Email | Times
Labour’s Minimum Wage Pledge Not Ambitious | Alan Milburn
Lord Freud’s Comments | Ryan Bourne


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Chris Bryant talks to the Times Diary about a famous gay actor:

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Great to hear Carswell call for inclusive policies and that UKIP must stand for first and second generation immigrants as much as the English.


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