Monday, April 7, 2014

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…

Rich’s Monday Morning View

miller's tale480

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.

Pickles Orders PwC to Investigate Lutfur Rahman

Following Monday’s Panorama investigation Eric Pickles has appointed professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers to look into the allegations made about how Tower Hamlets is run. A file is being passed onto the Metropolitan Police for consideration. Pickles says:

“It is a matter of public record that I have long been concerned about a worrying pattern of divisive community politics and alleged mismanagement of public money by the mayoral administration in Tower Hamlets.

Following the receipt of a number of documents, I am now taking legal steps, in the public interest, to appoint inspectors to look into the allegations in respect of Tower Hamlets.

I hope this sends a strong signal that robust processes are in place to investigate allegations of failures in financial management and governance in local government, under the new regime introduced by the Local Audit and Accountability Act which replaces the Audit Commission.

This central action is not undertaken lightly, but localism requires local transparency, scrutiny and accountability, and these vital checks and balances must be upheld.”

Presumably Lutfur reckons Pickles and PwC are a bunch of racists too…

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Chantler Ducks Miller ‘Smokescreen’ Allegation

Sir Cyril Chantler told the press conference at the Department of Health that he only found out at 5pm last night that his plain packaging review would be released today. Guido, and Lobby hacks, were told yesterday afternoon that it would not be published for sometime. Then suddenly it was rushed forward. Asked whether he thought he was a ‘smokescreen’ for Maria Miller, Chantler pointedly replied: “I am a paediatrician”. But, of course…

Maria Miller’s Plain Packs Smokescreen

Guido has constructed a news art-ifact to summarise the news flow today. How fortunate that the report into Maria Miller was published just as the government was about to make its big plain packs announcement.

WATCH: Maria Miller’s 31 Second Apology

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

FLASHBACK: Tories Slam McNulty for Miller Style Expenses
“Brown has to get a grip on what his ministers are up to…”

David Cameron is said to have offered Maria Miller his ‘warm support’ this morning. Rewind to 2009 and the Tories were piling the pressure on Labour Minister Tony McNulty for claiming £60,000 for a home that his parents lived in. Bob Blackman, now an MP, said:

“It is extraordinary. I cannot see that it’s right to provide a home for your parents and ask the taxpayer to pay for it. I think he has badly let down the residents that he represents and I welcome them taking their revenge at the ballot box.”

Maria Miller has been moaning that her own investigation was political motivated because Labour grassed her; yet it was Tory MP Greg Hands (now a whip) who reported McNulty to John Lyon, then the Commissioner for Standards, saying arrangements must be “above reproach”. Look how cross he was then:

“I think Gordon Brown has to get a grip on what his ministers are up to. Sixty thousand pounds of taxpayers’ money has been claimed in expenses on Mr McNulty’s parents’ home in Harrow – clearly something has gone wrong here.”

McNulty lost his job and his seat. Miller has claimed £30,000 more than him and gets a slap on the wrist. “I have accepted the committee’s report in full and I will apologise”, she chuckled.

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?


Seen Elsewhere

Cocaine Conservatives | Standard
Jezza Browne Responds to LibDem Haters | LibDem Voice
Why Britain Needs to Leave the EU | Douglas Carswell
Literally No One is Watching London Live | MediaGuido
Who Tells Ed When He’s Wrong? | Speccie
Hands Off Our Cojones, Mr Clegg | Laura Perrins
London Live Averaging Just 2,400 Viewers | Forbes
Ed’s Constitutional Failure | ConHome
UKIP Poster Girl’s Naked Photos | Sun
Miliband’s Radical Old Labour Agenda | Fraser Nelson
Meet Team Miliband | Dan Hodges


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A confused Nick Griffin says Nigel Farage is a shill for the City, forgetting that City banks want to stay in the EU:

“Farage is a snake oil salesman, but a very good one. His supposed anti-immigration stance is all smoke and mirrors, as is his carefully cultivated image as a ‘man of the people’. The truth is that UKIP is a pro-immigration party that exists to lobby for the interests of the City of London.”



Nick Clegg says:

Do you want lies with that?


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