UPDATE : Rumour is that Chris Grayling has claimed over
She is going with the “it was all approved” line. Guido very much doubts she told the Fees Office she was going to spend most nights of the year with her family rather than at the “main home” (actually her sister’s spare bedroom).
On the basis of the Trend ruling, where the Tory MP in parallel circumstances had to pay back £90,000 and the precedent established ironically by Mr & Mrs Balls, she has a prima facie case to answer. (The Balls’ argued successfully that in the recess and school holidays they spent the majority of the time away from London at their constitutency home, therefore on the basis that they spend more nights there, that was their main home). The Standards Committee needs to take a hard look into the evidence of where she spent most nights.
UPDATE : Isn’t there a huge conflict of interest here? The best independent source of evidence for where Jacqui spent her nights will be the records of the police protection unit. Who oversees the police?
Lord Moonie’s money grubbing ways are a disgrace to the House of Lords, he also aided and abetted another expenses fiddle by facilitating Alistair Darling lodging with him and claiming expenses based on Moonie’s flat being Darling’s “main home”, in just the same way that Jacqui claims her sister’s house is her “main home”. Already under investigation for Cash for Amendments, Lord Moonie is mired in fresh sleaze after his business associates were arrested in a police probe into alleged fraud in the NHS.
The Sunday Herald has the scoop:
Richard Nawrot and George Henderson, who run Fife-based Americium Developments, were arrested in London last month on “suspicion of conspiracy to commit fraud and misconduct in a public office”.
Americium currently pays Moonie, a close ally of Gordon Brown, up to £40,000 a year in consultancy fees. The peer’s relationship with the company dates back to October 2006.
Two of Americium’s US clients have told the Sunday Herald they had lunch with Moonie and Nawrot at Westminster and that the peer later gave a tour of the parliament.
One client said he discussed a potential NHS contract with Moonie at the lunch.
Moonie was close to Gordon and at the heart of the Scottish Raj. He knows where the bodies are buried. This could potentially get very messy for Brown.
It ain’t over till the fat lady sings…
You may wonder how that is so – after all Ed and Yvette got away with their fiddle. Yes they did, but only after arguing that their constituency home was their main residence. They claimed that they spent more time at the constituency home and therefore that was their primary residence, allowing them to claim expenses for their more expensive London home. That argument was accepted by the authorities.
Jacqui wants us to accept the opposite. That her main home is her sister’s London home where she lodges, so she can claim for her more expensive constituency home. She will have to show that she spends more time at the London flat than seeing her own kids. Crucially, is it three or is it four days a week that she spends away from her kids? The Balls’ argued successfully that in the recess and school holidays they spent the majority of the time away from London, it is hard to believe that Jacqui would stay in London when parliament is in recess and remain away from her family. Why would she do that when she was previously a whip? There would be no reason to stay away from her family and constituency.
That recent Balls precedent is going to be a difficult obstacle. However the Michael Trend precedent is even more worrying for Jacqui. In 2003 the Tory MP was found guilty of abusing the allowances system and ordered to repay £90,277, he was also suspended from parliament and stood down in disgrace at the following election. His crime was to claim the same allowance as Jacqui has when he was staying with a friend in London. Trend claimed he “believed that I could properly continue to designate London as ‘home’ for the purposes of ACA, even though, in domestic terms, Windsor had become my “main residence”.” This is apparently Jacqui’s position. It was not accepted. There was no doubt in the Standard’s Committee’s minds that there was no “real scope for doubt that the words “main residence” were intended to have other than their natural meaning.”
The Committee ruled that “Mr Trend should have recognised that, by claiming Additional Costs Allowance in relation to his Windsor home, the taxpayer was meeting some of the core running costs of what was in reality his main residence. He should have realised that this was wrong. Accordingly, we agree with the Commissioner that Mr Trend was negligent and has breached the Code of Conduct by making improper use of the Additional Costs Allowance and by failing strictly to observe the administrative rules relating to the Allowance.”
It is hard to see how, in these parallel circumstances, Jacqui Smith should not suffer the same fate. Ordered to repay the fiddled £116,000 and suspended from parliament. In which case she will have to resign as Home Secretary.
The sleazy Lord has however now been caught out asking Questions for Cash:
23 of the 46 written questions Moonie has had answered by the government in the Lords relate to defence work connected to Northrop Grumman Corp. These include the F35 joint strike fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon, the Airbus A400M cargo plane, the Navy’s Type 45 destroyer programme, and unmanned aerial drones for spying and bombing.
Moonie also asked a question about the Sentry Awacs early-warning aircraft. In 2005 Northrop Grumman won a £665 million contract to maintain and support the Royal Air Force’s Awacs fleet over 20 years.
Moonie was ennobled in 2005 but did not ask any parliamentary questions in his first three years as a peer, according to Hansard. But since mid-2008 he has asked almost 50, all on defence issues.
Angus MacNeil, the Nationalist MP for the Western Isles, said “The coincidences do not look good. I would like to think there was no motivation when Lord Moonie asked these questions, and I am sure he will be able to tell us why he didn’t ask any questions before he worked for this company.”
If, as sources claim, the Lyon inquiry reports that there is no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing or a breach of Commons rules, Cameron will not sack her from the Shadow Cabinet.[…]
CPS decides no charges for Peter Hain MP
5 December 2008
The Crown Prosecution Service has today advised all concerned parties that there is insufficient evidence to charge Peter Hain MP with any offences in relation to donations made to Mr Hain’s campaign to support his bid to become Deputy Leader of the Labour Party in mid 2007.[…]