IPSO Throws Out Baroness Scotland’s Complaints

What remained of Baroness Scotland’s credibility lies in tatters after the IPSO press regulator threw out a litany of complaints she made about stories exposing her expenses shame. Last year the Mail titles, as well as Guido and other outlets, published a series of shocking revelations about Scotland’s expenses based on documents leaked by concerned whistleblowers. The Baroness denied everything and filed a vast number of complaints to IPSO about the stories. Today, after a nine month IPSO investigation, Scotland is left humiliated… 

  1. Baroness Scotland claimed she was the victim of a “partisan campaign” by the Daily Mail, that the paper’s articles about her were “distorted“, inaccurate and that the Mail had published knowingly false allegations against her. IPSO rejected all of this and threw out every single one of Scotland’s complaints against the Mail. 
  2. Baroness Scotland claimed reports recruitment rules had been bypassed to hire her friend Lord Patel’s company were untrue. IPSO found the standard recruitment process had been waived – the reports were true. 
  3. Baroness Scotland denied reports her spending figures, published every three months, had not been released on time. IPSO found they were not released on time, the reports were true. 
  4. Baroness Scotland claimed reports she had “brought in” interior designer Nicky Haslam were untrue. IPSO found Haslam had indeed been brought in by Scotland, the reports were true.
  5. Baroness Scotland denied Haslam had “partly overseen” the planned renovations. IPSO found this was an accurate description.
  6. Baroness Scotland denied that her advisers were “left-wing political fixers”. IPSO found they worked closely with the Labour Party and Labour figures and the reports were accurate. 
  7. Baroness Scotland denied reports of plans for a “swanky new dining area” in her Mayfair residence. IPSO found there were plans to relocate a chandelier to the dining room so this report was accurate.
  8. Baroness Scotland denied reports staff had received a “sinister” notification from her office warning their communications were being monitored. IPSO found the reports were accurate.
  9. Baroness Scotland claimed it was misleading to refer to Lord Patel as her “partner in crime”. IPSO found Scotland had herself referred to him using those words.
  10. Baroness Scotland denied she had been “dubbed Baroness Brazen”. IPSO found that a Conservative MP had indeed dubbed her Baroness Brazen.
  11. Baroness Scotland claimed newspaper reports suggested she had paid her sister for advice. IPSO found the reports made clear she hadn’t paid her sister.
  12. Baroness Scotland claimed there was no evidence to suggest the Queen was “embarrassed” by her. IPSO found a well-placed Royal source said the Queen was embarrassed.
  13. Baroness Scotland claimed there was no whistleblower, as there was nothing to blow the whistle on. IPSO found it was accurate to call the concerned source a whistleblower.
  14. Baroness Scotland claimed it was misleading to say Downing Street had refused to give its confidence in her. IPSO found Downing Street would only give confidence in the role of Secretary-General, the reports were accurate. 

IPSO ordered one minor correction, changing a headline in the Mail on Sunday about the sums paid to Lord Patel. This was the only breach found out of all the complaints made by Baroness Scotland against three titles. Her claims of inaccuracies, media lies and a vendetta against her have been exposed as fantasy – after such an unequivocal humiliation it is laughable that she can continue to hold public office… 

Welsh Politicians Spend Thousands Chartering Planes to Watch Football

Welsh government politicians, special advisers, private secretaries and press officers have billed the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds to fly around the world on more than 30 foreign junkets in the last year. Welsh Labour leader Carwyn Jones blew more than £10,000 chartering a plane for him and his private secretary to France to watch the football last summer. Why are taxpayers paying for this?

The itinerary of the Welsh cabinet and their flunkies would put globe-trotting A-listers to shame. Expenses documents show Jones spent nearly £50,000 on another two trips to the US, taking in Atlanta, Chicago, New York and Washington DC at a total cost to the taxpayer of £47,992. Economy Secretary Ken Skates and his private secretary also went to the Euro football: they attended matches in Toulouse and Paris over five days, total cost £3,232. How did they manage to spend that much?

He and an official also went to Chongqing and Shanghai at a cost of £17,842. Health Secretary Vaughan Gething was also accompanied by an official on a trip to Enetbbe, Uganda, charging £16,582, to mark the “10th Anniversary of Wales for Africa“. Environment Secretary Lesley Griffiths and policy official enjoyed sunny Dubai at a cost of £6,563. Who are these people are why are spending our money?

Welsh politicians have long been on the take and get away with it because no one in the English media cares about what are essentially local stories. At a time when Welsh Labour are breaking their tuition fees promise, their politicians and staff are flying around the world on jollies. How can they justify spending this much on going to watch the football?

Mackinlay in Court Today

Appearing at Westminster Magistrates Court today:

Craig Mackinlay, 50, of St George’s Square, Pimlico, central London, charged with two counts of making a false election expenses declaration.

Marion Little, 62, of New Road, Ware, Hertfordshire, and Nathan Gray, 28, of Red Oak, Hawkhurst, Kent, each face three counts and one count respectively of making a false election expenses declaration.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Mackinlay pleads not guilty.

Crackdown on MPs Shagging Secretaries

MPs will be banned from hiring their wives and husbands at the taxpayer’s expense after the next election. Taxpayers will however be disappointed to learn that the rule change only affects new hires, meaning the 150 “connected parties” currently paid by the taxpayer at a cost of £4 million a year will be allowed to keep their jobs. Good news for the likes of £45,000-a-year Mrs Bone.

Guido has found one other amusing rule in the new code. MPs who shack up with their secretaries – and there have been a few in this parliament already – will only be allowed to employ them for two years “after the point at which they become connected parties”.

Guido dreads to think how they determine at which point the MP and his secretary become “connected”…

Taxi For Baroness D’Souza

Interesting timing for the new BBC documentary on the House of Lords. The choice quote is from Baroness D’Souza:

“There is a core of peers who work incredibly hard, who do that work, and there are, sad to say, many, many, many peers who contribute absolutely nothing but who claim the full allowance. I can remember one occasion when I was leaving the House quite late and there was a peer – who shall be utterly nameless – who jumped out of a taxi just outside the peers’ entrance, left the engine running. He ran in, presumably to show that he’d attended, and then ran out again while the taxi was still running. So I mean that’s not normal, but it is something that does happen and I think that we have lost the sense of honour that used to pertain, and that is a great, great shame.”

That would be the same Baroness D’Souza who infamously billed the taxpayer £230 to keep a chauffeur-driven car waiting for four hours while she watched an opera a mile from Parliament. As well as another £270 bill to keep the meter running while she had lunch with the Japanese ambassador. And another £738 to keep a Mercedes parked while she attended an event at Windsor Castle. D’Souza also spent £4,000 of taxpayer cash on flowers for her office and £1,120 for drinks and a trip to the ballet with a delegation from Russia. “We have lost the sense of honour and that is a great shame…”

Bercow Hosted North Korea and Vietnam For Tea in Parliament

John Bercow had representatives from the authoritarian regimes of North Korea and Vietnam round for tea and charged the bill to the taxpayer, Guido can reveal. On 16 July 2009, the Speaker hosted a reception on the parliamentary estate for the vice chairman of Vietnam’s national assembly, at a cost of £81 to the taxpayer. At the time the Vietnamese press reported:

“Vice Chairman Luu held a separate meeting with the newly appointed Speaker of the U.K. House of Commons John Bercow in which he delivered Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong’s congratulations on Bercow’s election and an invitation for him to visit Vietnam soon.”

Vietnam is a communist one party state. Human Rights Watch says “Vietnam’s human rights record remains dire in all areas”, with no democracy and routine use of torture by the police. Bercow charged the taxpayer to have them round for tea.

On 28 March 2011, the Speaker had representatives from the North Korean regime round for tea in the Speaker’s House. A Freedom of Information response shows Bercow hosted a party of four including the “Speaker of North Korea”. Human Rights Watch says “North Korea remains among the world’s most repressive countries. All basic freedoms have been severely restricted”. Bercow’s team insist they met “to tell him candidly what they thought of the conduct of his regime”. Yet he won’t extend an invite to the leader of the free world…

Denis MacShane Condemns Expenses Cheats

You might want to sit down before you read this. Denis MacShane has written an opinion piece for CityAM laying into politicians who fiddle their expenses. Yes, that’s the convicted expenses fraudster Denis MacShane. Criticising politicians who cheat the taxpayer. You couldn’t make this up.

“The revelations that Francois Fillon has been using parliamentary funds to pay his wife and family are now getting so strong and so reeking that it is hard to see how he can continue. Fillon portrayed himself as Monsieur Irréprochable, France’s Mr Clean, and now he has been infected by the English MPs’ disease of putting wives, sons and daughters on the parliamentary payroll.

But Marine Le Pen has similar problems. Yesterday, the European Parliament demanded she pay back €300,000 she took in parliamentary expenses and used to pay two associates who did party political work. She is up to her ears in dodgy loans from Kremlin controlled banks and any spotlight on exotic political money changing hands catches her in its beam.”

“Reeking” misuse of parliamentary funds? “Infected by the English MPs’ disease“? “Dodgy” deals and “exotic political money changing hands”? Is MacShane on a wind up?

The disgraced crook was jailed for making £13,000 of bogus expenses claims – he got away with fiddling even more. He was guilty of filing a total of 19 fake expenses receipts. At the Old Bailey Mr Justice Sweeney said of MacShane’s crimes:

“The dishonesty involved was considerable and was repeated many times over a long period. The deception used was calculated and designed to avoid suspicion falling on your claims.”

And now this convicted fraudster is shamelessly writing lofty newspaper columns lambasting expense fiddlers?  Next week – Rolf Harris on childcare…

Millionaire Chancellor Put £90 Phone Screen Repair on Taxpayer

Millionaire Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond claimed £90 from the taxpayer for “smashed phone screen repair”, his expenses reveal. Hammond is one of the wealthiest members of the cabinet with a fortune estimated at more than £8 million. The claim was made under “office costs” on 26 September last year. It is not clear if the phone is Hammond’s or belongs to one of his staff. At least it was dropped rather than thrown…

Ruffley Refuses to Pay Back Wrongly Claimed Expenses

ruffley51

Shamed former Tory MP David Ruffley, who was forced to quit parliament in disgrace at the election, has failed to pay back wrongly claimed expenses almost a year and a half after he stopped being an MP. IPSA say Ruffley double claimed a £144 house removals bill – they have tried again and again to get Ruffley to reimburse the taxpayer but have now given up. Guido sees Ruffley walking through Westminster every now and then, he still lives in SW1 and it’s a five minute walk from his flat to the Commons to hand in a cheque. Ruffers has an ex-members’ pass allowing him access to the corridors of power, the authorities should suspend it until he pays up.

Baroness Scotland’s New Loo Seat Cost £307

haslam

Baroness Scotland charged the taxpayer £307 for a new loo seat in a bathroom in her Mayfair home which cost £24,000 to refurbish. She has also admitted spending thousands to paint six rooms with top-of-the-range Farrow & Ball paint, despite previously dismissing reports as “outright lies, half-truths and innuendo”. Scotland spins in today’s Times that she was “furious about some of the money spent”, yet leaked emails show it was her staff who complained to her about the costs and pleaded with her to reduce her demands. In the email below the most senior Commonwealth official notes it is Scotland who “wants her bathroom completely done” and says the paint was her priority:

bathroom

Makes a complete mockery of Scotland’s previous statements. Remember her promise: “There has been no extravagance…”

Guy News Visits Baroness Scotland’s Mayfair Mansion

During her Today programme interview last week, Baroness Scotland invited listeners into her Mayfair home to show she was telling the truth that there is “no extravagance”. Guy News took her up on her offer…

Baroness Scotland Does Not Deny Claiming Phantom School Fees

fees

Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded school fees allowance for her adult children. The astonishing claim was made by a senior Commonwealth official in an internal complaint about Baroness Scotland’s “revised salary package”. According to Ram Venuprasad’s complaint, published below, Baroness Scotland demanded she was paid an “educational allowance” for her children. Guido has tracked down Baroness Scotland’s children – they are both grown up. There is no conceivable justification for either of them needing an “educational allowance” – unlike her predecessors who had school age children. 

allowance

Over the course of the last week, Guido has repeatedly asked Baroness Scotland’s press office if they deny she is being paid an educational allowance. They refuse to deny it and do not contest the claim. This is the most shocking revelation so far – Baroness Scotland does not deny claiming a taxpayer-funded educational allowance despite her adult children having finished their education. Was she claiming to send them to Hogwarts?

£1,200 to Move Baroness Scotland’s Chandelier

haslam

Baroness Scotland’s taxpayer-funded refurbishment of her Mayfair home included a £1,200 demand to relocate her chandelier. Scotland asked for the opulent decorative lighting be moved from her sitting room to her dining room, at a provisional four figure cost to the taxpayer. Here is the listing in the cost plan obtained by Guido:

chand

Leaked emails show senior officials criticised this as “extremely expensive”, and noted that it “was not part of the tender or funds put aside”. The civil servant below warned “we do not have the funds”.

chand2

Taxpayers were asked to pay £1,200 to move Baroness Scotland’s chandelier from one room to another. Now a light has been shone on her expenses scandal level extravagance… 

Baroness Scotland Asked Taxpayer For £33,000 For Posh Paint

haslam

Baroness Scotland demanded the taxpayer pay an astonishing £33,000 for the most expensive paint on the market for her Mayfair home, despite objections from her senior staff. The cost plan for the grace-and-favour residence obtained by Guido shows that the “additional paint specification” ordered by Baroness Scotland was budgeted at £33,000:

paint

A senior official complained that the Baroness wanted paint from Farrow & Ball, a high-end manufacturer which the official described as “top of the range of commercially available paint”. The official then complains: “The contract allowed for Dulux”.

paint2

Here another senior official emails colleagues explaining that “additional funds” were found to pay for the “more expensive paint”. Additional funds billed to you…

paint3

The original agreement was that the Commonwealth residence in Mayfair would be painted with Dulux paint, Baroness Scotland then insisted they use Farrow & Ball at an additional cost of £33,000 to the taxpayer – ignoring the complaints of her senior officials. Only the best for the Baroness, paid for by the Commonwealth taxpayer…

£4,020 For Baroness Scotland’s New Cupboard

haslam

Baroness Scotland demanded the taxpayer stump up £4,020 for her new cupboard, Guido can reveal. The cost plan for renovations to her grace-and-favour Mayfair home, which cost taxpayers up to £450,000 overall, includes a £4,020 cupboard with “mirror clad interior”, as well as a Trompe style door for another £4,000. Only the best for the Baroness.

cupboard

Baroness Scotland could have easily bought a perfectly suitable cupboard and door for a few hundred quid. Instead she insisted the Commonwealth taxpayer pay over £8,000 for the highest of high-end furnishings. Not to mention a £5,000 vanity unit in her powder room. Her press office have declined to justify the spending. Stay tuned, this is the tip of the iceberg of Baroness Scotland’s Mayfair expenses splurge… 

Baroness Scotland Billed Taxpayer £5,000 For New Bathroom Vanity Unit

haslam

Guido has obtained the cost plan for the renovation of Baroness Scotland’s grace-and-favour Mayfair home, revealing that she billed the taxpayer £5,000 for a new vanity unit in her bathroom. Her extravagant spending is reminiscent of the duck islands and moats of the expenses scandal. The cost plan shows how the taxpayer was provisionally billed £5,000 for Baroness Scotland’s vanity unit, £2,000 to tile her bathroom, £1,750 for new wallpaper in that room alone and £2,500 to fill in a window. Another £4,000 was spent on maintaining the decorative drapery over a window on the landing. This was all additional spending beyond the original budget, ordered by Baroness Scotland.

vanity

When senior officials queried whether all this spending was really necessary, Baroness Scotland’s fixer Gary Dunn told them: “The SG [Secretary-General, Baroness Scotland] wants her bathroom completely done”. What the Baroness wants, the Baroness gets.

bathroom

Over the last 24 hours Guido has repeatedly asked Baroness Scotland’s press office to justify this spending. They have declined to do so. She demanded her bathroom was “completely done” and ordered a new £5,000 vanity unit – all paid for by the Commonwealth taxpayer. Back in 2009 MPs were forced to resign for similar scandalous expenses troughing…

Scotland Wanted £450,000 to Do Up Mayfair Home

haslam

Baroness Scotland provoked outcry among senior Commonwealth officials after she billed £450,000 of taxpayers’ money to do up her grace-and-favour home in Mayfair – double the original budget. Below Guido publishes leaked memos in which officials complain about the huge amount of money being spent. The first memo shows celebrity interior designer Nicky Haslam was brought in to do up the property. A high-ranking official warns that Baroness Scotland’s additional renovations “will increase the total cost for the refurbishment from the original £230k to near £450k”.

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A second memo sees a senior official complain that Baroness Scotland’s demands have caused “a significant increase in cost” to “around double the price of the original specification”.

hill2

And a third memo sees another official warn that “there are no spare funds in the budget”, so Baroness Scotland’s renovations mean “going further into reserves or cutting programme expenditure”.

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Just weeks into her job as Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Baroness Scotland doubled the budget for the refurbishment of her Mayfair residence. This is a huge amount of money and a significant portion of the whole Commonwealth budget, funded by Commonwealth taxpayers. Guido has asked the Baroness’ spin doctor how they justify doubling the budget. We have not received a reply…

Flynn’s Expenses Plan Would Have Covered Up Own Troughing

flynn

Paul Flynn’s crackpot plan to abolish MPs’ expenses receipts has been met with the contempt it deserves. He is one of Corbyn’s top allies but even the Labour leader’s team are slapping down his ridiculous proposal. Flynn wants it so MPs don’t have to reveal what they’ve spent your money on. Under his opaque scheme, taxpayers would have been unaware that during the expenses scandal Flynn wrongly claimed over £2,000 in mortgage interest and had to pay it back. Nor would you have known that he blew £7,000 of your cash on a new kitchen. Or another £1,100 on new carpets. Or another £1,200 on decoration. Flynn wants it so MPs can claim expenses with impunity without filing receipts because it’s a “chore“. Clearly having two Shadow Cabinet jobs is too much of a strain on the old fool…

Labour Plan to Abolish MPs’ Expenses Receipts Because Filing Them is a “Chore”

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Labour have drawn up plans to end the requirement for MPs to provide receipts for expenses claims. The staggeringly opaque proposals have been made by Shadow Leader of the House Paul Flynn, who is responsible for his party’s policy on MPs’ expenses. Flynn admits his plan is “provocative“, but claims it is necessary to abolish the expenses watchdog and implement an unreceipted allowance for MPs, because filing expenses is a “chore“. The text of the plan, seen by Guido, states:

“A monthly 30 minute chore was complicated by IPSA into hours of tedious frustrating trawling through a bureaucratic morass of rules that are complex and tedious. IPSA robs MPs and our staff of much of their most precious possession – time. There is continuing resentment against unnecessary chores that diminish MPs ability to do their numberless essential tasks.”

Hundreds of thousands of workers across the country take the time to file expenses claims, but Flynn says that’s too much effort for MPs…

He argues the current system, which allows the public to hold MPs to account on each expenses claim they make, should be abolished and replaced by a new “automatic” allowance with no receipts and no transparency whatsoever:

“MPs would embrace a new system without claims or the expensive IPSA. It could be based on an allowance calculated on average expenses based on distance from Westminster and paid automatically.”

So he wants the taxpayer to write MPs a cheque for tens of thousands of pounds and never know how the money is spent. Opaque, unaccountable and ripe for corruption, this is Labour’s new policy on expenses…

UPDATE: A Labour spokesman says “What Paul Flynn has suggested is not Labour Party policy”. But as Shadow Leader of the House Flynn is responsible for their policy on MPs’ expenses…

£1,800 on ‘Social Media Strategy’, But SNP MP Has Just 6 YouTube Subscribers

anne mclaucghlin

Have you ever heard of SNP MP Anne McLaughlin? Guido hadn’t either. So it’s perhaps forgiveable that she’d want to boost her profile by claiming £1,800 on expenses for “Social Media Consultancy” as part of an attempt to build a “Social Media Strategy”.[…] Read the rest

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