Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Shine Light on the Standards Committee

John Mann has used his urgent question to not unreasonably request that all recordings of Standards Committee meetings are made public. How did the Committee come to the decision to give Miller such soft censure? Which members of the troughers’ union fought her corner? Shining the light on the processes of the Standards Committee is the very least that can be done to improve transparency. Worth noting that Leader of the House Andrew Lansley warns there could be more pre-2010 expenses scandals still to come…

Zac Goldsmith, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Peter Bone are also using Miller to raise the issue of recall once again. Which begs the question what do Basingstoke residents think of the claim by Miller’s former constituency campaign manager Phil Heath: “whenever we had a meeting there was no family so that was definitely her second home.”

Two Thirds Say Standards Committee Should Be Abolished

69% of the public agree with Guido that MPs should not be allowed to sit on the committee that judges whether politicians are guilty of fiddling their expenses, according to a Survation poll for Breitbart London. 47% say Maria Miller makes them less likely to vote Tory in 2015, 55% say Dave has handled it badly and the same number say Miller is the worst expenses cheat since 2009. But you keep on fighting for her, Prime Minister…

Monday, April 7, 2014

Where is Harman?

It’s not just Maria Miller that has gone to ground – where is her Shadow? Who, Guido hears you ask, even is the Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport? Harriet Harman has not really been seen since that brutal outing on Newsnight over her PIE past…

Having been through the mill with Dromey, it would appear Harman is lying low, leaving Labour attacks to that big hitting Eagle. Some Labour MPs have a different theory though, with one wearily confiding to Guido that this probably has more to do with Harman’s inverted logic that Miller is one of the sisterhood so should not be touched. Either way, her silence has not gone unnoticed…

 

Troughers’ Union: Standards Committee Stuffed with Piggies

It is not just the chairman of the Standards Committee who is a trougher of the highest order. Sir Kevin Pork Barrel is aided and abetted on the troughers’ union by nine other MPs including Tory Christopher Chope, who was exposed during the expenses scandal for charging the taxpayer £881.25 to transport a sofa 85 miles from his second home to his constituency in order to have it reupholstered. Expenses piggy Chope also repaired the roof of his house on the taxpayer at a cost of £10,377, and installed a £2,600 bathroom paid for by us. Not satisfied with his fill, Chope also tops up the family income by employing his wife as his secretary.

Shamed former LibDem armed forces minster Nick Harvey is another member of the committee. Harvey stuck two fingers up at servicemen when he claimed £7 on expenses to attend a Remembrance Service. A furious Royal Navy officer marched up to Harvey and gave him the cash in an envelope in disgustHe only lasted a few more months in the job.

Also on the homework marking committee is Labour MP Alan Whitehead. Whitehead was found by the fees office to have overclaimed for his mortage interest in 2009, submitting a bill for £380 when should have claimed £198.66. Caught with his hand in the till, Whitehead was ordered to make a reduced claim the following month. Not only that, he then made a £89,400 profit when he sold his taxpayer-subsidised London home.

Then there is Tory Paul Beresford, who doubles as a dentist when he isn’t hard at work representing his constituents in Mole Valley. Beresford designated his surgery as his second home, putting three-quarters of the running costs of the property on the taxpayer, a total of £25,627.

Last but not least, Labour MP and people’s champion Tom Clarke designated the posh Sloane Club in Chelsea as his second home, claiming £1,500 a month while in London. Also on the committee is Geoffrey Cox who is not averse to being “overly legalistic” when he banks legal fees of almost £400,000 in outside earnings.

The PM has changed his tune this morning, he now says he is “very open to suggestions” for reforming the Standards Committee. Firing these troughers and bringing in properly independent arbiters to make judgements on allegations against MPs would be a start…

Miller Goes to Ground

Where’s Maria?

On Thursday she was a no show at the £75 a head Hendon Conservatives Gala Dinner and today she’s pulled out of public appearances:

And cancelled interviews:

Come on Maria, just come out and say sorry on camera. It could hardly make things worse…

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?


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Labour Cllr: Cops Shouldn’t Stop Petrol Thieves | HandF Forum
Creeping Cultural Acceptance of Anti-Semitism | Eric Pickles
Time For Greece to Leave Eurozone | Allister Heath


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