Tuesday, February 24, 2009

+++ Source : Spelman Report Not Officially Released Today +++

The Standards and Privileges Committee has received the report this morning from John Lyon, but is not expected to issue anything official until later this week.

UPDATE : Jonathan Isaby is reporting over on ConservativeHome that the committee could not come to a consensus conclusion and that the chairman, “Sir George Young, intends using the next week to take soundings from among the committee with the aim of forging a consensus by the time the committee meets again next Tuesday.”

UPDATE II : The feeling is that Spelman is in trouble. If she was only going to get a slap on the wrist, why the delay?

Spelman Should Pay Back the Nanny Cash

Whatever the Standards and Privileges Committee rule today (Guido has the whitewash removing solvents ready) Spelman should have to pay back the cash she fiddled from her parliamentary expenses to pay the nanny.

If, as Spelman has been spinning, the Lyon inquiry reports that there is no evidence of deliberate wrongdoing or a breach of Commons rules, this will infuriate many parents like Mr & Mrs Fawkes, who have to pay for childcare out of post-tax income. To pay a nanny costs middle-class parents some £40,000 a year in pre-tax income. We are expected to believe that Spelman’s nanny was actually her constituency secretary* thus paid for by the taxpayer and that in return for her childcare duties her only compensation was room and board. Who really believes that the money was not payment for her childcare duties? Unbelievable, it simply does not wash.

If anyone knows of a nanny willing to work for only room and board can you please let Mrs Fawkes know, because we have never heard of such a deal. This was a complete and utter p*ss-take out of the taxpayer. Here is the acid test – if it really was completely above board and as she claims – why did she stop the arrangement? This benefits fiddle was too much, Spelman should pay back the cash even if the Committee rules it was “not deliberate”.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sunday Sleaze Round-Up

The Sunday Herald reports that Chancellor Alistair Darling claimed tens of thousands of taxpayers money for his designated “second home” at the same time as renting out a flat in London. He actually has some five homes to choose from.

John Reid, the former home secretary, Charles Kennedy and government whip Tommy McAvoy exploited the same perk to build their own personal property portfolio.

You the taxpayer subsidised them building up a property portfolio. This scam is rife.

Gordon Brown faces censure by the Standards Commissioner, for failing to declare £1,600 in rent from subletting his constituency office to Labour Party allies. He claims from the taxpayer for the cost of the offices that he sublet.

David Miliband has been indulging in more creative accounting to avoid inheritance taxes – he should just wait for Osborne to become chancellor. How does the son of a Marxist professor end up living in a £1.3 million home without ever having a proper job outside politics?

Even some Labour MPs think Jacqui Smith is troughing it too much with her second home fiddle and they stay for three nights a week in London hotels for less than a £100 a night. Costing taxpayers much less than she claims to stay at her sisters…

Who Wants to be a Millionaire MEP?

No one is really surprised by MEP’s expense fiddles. The Taxpayers’ Alliance has got a leaked copy of the confidential Galvin Report into Euro-fiddles. The Galvin Report, named after Robert Galvin, the EU Internal Audit Official whose name is on its front cover, was written at the end of 2006 as an audit of the expenses and allowances claimed by a sample of more than 160 MEPs.. Some of the brazen fiddles are just complete p*ss-takes. The Taxpayers’ Alliance shows how it is possible to become a millionaire in a single term as an MEP with shrewd claiming of expenses and allowances. See the summary here [pdf]. British MEPs will be taking home 47% more after June 2009, nice work if you can get it…

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Standards Commissioner Asks Jacqui to Explain Herself

Paul Waugh has the scoop – John Lyon has finally written to Jacqui Smith asking her to explain her £116,000 fiddle.

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?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lord Moonie’s Backers Arrested Alistair Darling "Did a Jacqui"

When the man in charge of the nation’s finances, Alistair Darling, has been caught fiddling his expenses, and Jacqui Smith, the woman who is in charge of crime prevention is accused of corruption, you have a government which is a kleptocracy. The New Labour promise to be “whiter than white” is like a sick joke now.

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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Cameron Criticises Jacqui Smith

Dave has just told LBC Radio: “I think it is also important that the arrangements that we go into, we can explain them in a reasonable way to a reasonable person, and they would think that we were being reasonable. I don’t think her arrangements really pass that test.” On the subject of her claiming her main residence is her spare room Dave said: “I do think it is a little bit hard to believe, but she has now got to defend it in the court of public opinion.” She may have trousered £116,000 but Guido thinks it will cost her the parliamentary seat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Second Complaint Over Jacqui Smith to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner told the Centre for Open Politics he can’t accept the evidence of a newspaper article alone. Well how about Jacqui’s own words?

It ain’t over till the fat lady sings…

Jacqui Says

From Jacqui’s own website (www.jacquismithmp.labour.co.uk/biography):

Can the taxpayers have their £116,000 back please?

Hat-tip : Old Holborn

Michael Trend Precedent is Worrying for Jacqui Smith

Sir Michael White reckons that Jacqui Snith will get away with it. Guido, ever the optimist, is not so sure. The atmosphere currently is very unsympathetic to expense fiddles by politicians, particularly fiddles on this scale. The Michael Trend precedent is not encouraging for Jacqui, nor is is the precedent established by Mr & Mrs Balls.

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.


Seen Elsewhere

Government Needs 10.6% Spending Cuts To Meet Target | IFS
What We Learned From the Referendum | FT
Scottish Crisis Moves South | Nick Wood
English Democrats Accidentally Celebrate Yes Victory | Pink News
Union In Its Current Form is Dead | Janan Ganesh
Labour Could Be Split in Two | Sun
Ashcroft Poll: Why Scotland Voted No | Buzzfeed
Boris: Change Barnett Formula | Sun
Cameron is Back | Dan Hodges
What Happens Now | James Kirkup
Cairo of the North | Quentin Letts


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Diane Abbott on the Daily Politics:

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cynic says:

Can anyone help me? I went on holiday a week ago and returned to find someone has pulled out the stake and Gordon Brown is back and acting as Prime Minister. What did I miss? Has there been a snap election?


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