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…

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.

Barron of the Troughers’ Union Should Go Too

Labour are cautiously upping their attacks on Miller because they cannot escape the fact that it was a Labour chaired committee that watered down the Standards Commissioner’s report. Once again the Barron of the Troughers’ Union has ridden to the protection of an MP. Not only has Kevin Barron recently blocked attempts by IPSA to reform the expenses structure, his own history is hardly a shining beacon of purity. Thanks to Sir Kevin, MPs can still claim:

  • A £15 evening meal when Parliament sits after 19:30
  • Hospitality tea and biscuits
  • Hotels before 01:00
  • Taxis home before 23:00
  • Contents insurance for a second home
  • Installing a TV in a second home

He blocked IPSA’s attempts to scrap the lot last year.

Back in 2009, Guido pointed out to Barron’s face that he was not fit to lead the Standards Committee given his own tendency to overclaim:

He called Guido a very rude word after the TV ding-dong but did nothing to change his ways. After selling his taxpayer funded home for for a £500,000 profit, Barron began charging the taxpayer £1,500-a-month to rent a three-bedroom London home (also called “contriving a tenancy” by benefit fraud investigators)  owned by shadow cabinet office minister Jon Trickett. Last week Trickett was trying to clamp down on MPs’ outside earnings, but presumably not income channelled from public money.

To top it all off, Barron also employs his wife Andrea part time in his office. Which is nice little £15,000 boost for the family income.

You can see why Barron did not go public during the threats from Miller and her lawyers – the MP who marks other MPs’ homework is a trougher of the highest order. Labour are struggling with this story because they were in cahoots to undermine Kathryn Hudson. Barron could have blown the whistle at any time during the last year. Guido would never suggest the gong that Sir Kev got during the negotiations had anything to do with his unwillingness to rock the boat.

Rich’s Monday Morning View

miller's tale480

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.

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 […]

+ READ MORE +

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. […]

+ READ MORE +

Chris Bryant’s Horse Anus Treatment

These days our crooked MPs are either promoted to the Cabinet or serve half of their paltry sentences. Back in the day the punishments were a little more fitting for the crimes. According to Chris Bryant’s new book Parliament: The […]

+ READ MORE +

Speaker’s Little Helpers: Bercow’s Bill Hits £2m

When John Bercow was elected Speaker in 2009, his campaign team said:

“The Speaker can either be a road block to reform or an agent of reform and change and there’s no doubt about it that John Bercow will be

[…]

+ READ MORE +



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