Readers will be aware that shadow minister Ian Lavery has been mired in a scandal over how he benefited from a miners’ benevolent fund – catch up here if not. The Labour union man has dodged questions on this for weeks and lost the support of many colleagues, who’ve been angered by the revelations involving a £250,000 loan, £60,000 of redundancy pay and £85,426 in additional redundancy costs. Guido is amused by another sum of money: the £283.50 Lavery recently claimed on expenses for services from Shred-It, a company which “provides the most secure and efficient confidential information destruction service in the industry.” If only he’d used them back in the day he wouldn’t have all this grief…
The Electoral Commission is taking the Tories to the High Court to force them to disclose documents pertaining to the electoral expenses scandal:
“The Commission issued the Conservative and Unionist Party with two statutory notices requiring the provision of material relevant to its investigation. However, the Party has only provided limited disclosure of material in response to the first notice (issued on 18 February 2016) and no material in response to the second notice (issued on 23 March 2016). That follows the Commission granting extensions of time to comply… We are today asking the court to require the Party to fully disclose the documents and information we regard as necessary to effectively progress our investigation into the Party’s campaign spending returns.”
Revenge of the Clarke…
UPDATE: A Tory spokesman says the Electoral Commission have jumped the gun:
“We advised the Electoral Commission on 29th April that we would comply with their notices by 1pm today – and we will do so. There was no need for them to make this application to the High Court.”
The outrageous expense fiddling in South Thanet revealed by Channel 4 earlier this year led to a full blown Electoral Commission investigation. While previously the Tories have denied any knowledge of wrongdoing, a new investigation by Channel 4 has prompted the party to come clean over the £38,000 cost of accommodation for Battlebus activists:
” As is apparent from our National Return, the Party declared expenditure related to our CCHQ-organised Battlebus.
However, due to administrative error it omitted to declare the accommodation costs of those using the vehicles. This is something we have already brought to the attention of the Electoral Commission in order to amend the return.
The Party always took the view that our national Battlebus, a highly-publicised campaign activity, was part of the National Return – and we would have no reason not to declare it as such, given that the Party was some millions below the national spending threshold. Other political parties ran similar vehicles which visited different Parliamentary constituencies as part of their national campaigning.”
If the Conservatives are found to have paid the hotel bills for Battlebus campaigners on locally focussed campaigns, then not declaring the accommodation could constitute a criminal offence. Channel 4’s investigation is set to air on the news tonight. Guido will be watching…
Cameron has imposed strict rules on the campaign activities of ministers and SpAds during the referendum, and CCHQ have banned Tory associations from using party resources to campaign for Leave. So Eurosceptic MPs are delighted with a ruling by IPSA last night allowing them to use their office and business costs to campaign on the referendum. The expenses watchdog says MPs’ staff, office resources, websites and casework capacity may be used for campaigning:
“Our approach to MPs’ claims for costs and expenses relating to the EU referendum will be, in essence, no different to claims relating to MPs expressing their views or attending events relating to, for example, the environment. It is a cross-party matter of great importance to the future of the United Kingdom, and, therefore MPs will be expected by their constituents to have a view on the matter and to be making arguments either for remaining or for leaving.”
The only exception will be leaflet production, which remains prohibited. In light of the strict rules imposed on them by their government and party, Eurosceptic Tory MPs are delighted with the ruling. They see it as “game on”. It does of course also mean yet more taxpayer money will be spent on the Remain campaign too…
Over £1 million of taxpayers’ money has been diverted to offshore property companies through the MPs’ expenses system. In 2012-13, 13 MPs were paying rent expenses for properties in the luxury riverside Dolphin Square complex, made famous as the home of coke-snorting Lords (and worse).
Records show MPs including top Corbyn allies Steve Rotheram, Nic Dakin and Shabana Mahmood paid the expenses cash to subsidiaries of Westbrook Dolphin Square Ltd. This is a network of 612 companies which own two flats each in Dolphin Square. All 612 companies are registered in Jersey…
Tory MP Jonathan Evans meanwhile paid rent expenses to Abal Establishment, a property company with offices in London but which is registered in the tax haven of Lichtenstein:
Overall in 2012-13 MPs sent over £230,000 of taxpayer cash to tax-avoiding offshore property companies. Extrapolating these figures means over the course of the last parliament well over £1 million of your money was sent offshore so MPs could live it up in London…
The report by IPSA’s compliance officer into Simon Danczuk’s expenses finds:
The evidence points overwhelmingly to the conclusion that the MP obtained an increase to his Accommodation Expenditure budget by claiming dependant uplifts for his two oldest children for a period of over three years, when, at no point were either of the children routinely resident. The Compliance Officer must also conclude that this was done knowing that there was no reasonable prospect of the children staying at the accommodation. The total claimed by the MP in breach of the Scheme and which he is required to repay is £11,583.20.
“I hold my hands up and admit that this was an error on my part.”
Walking expenses catastrophe Phil Boswell tried to claim £136.95 worth of luxury shirts on expenses just four days after being elected. The SNP MP attempted to bill the taxpayer £29.95 for items from high-end Jermyn Street tailor TM Lewin, £59 for a single shirt and £48 for clothing from Next. Why? The claims were made due to “lost luggage” and were filed on the 12th and 13th of May. IPSA told him to get lost and refused to accept the claims. Just four days in parliament and he was already on the take…
Of course Boswell already faces two investigations into allegations that he has been abusing expenses and failing to register financial interests. His past form also includes an £450 claim for a series of YouTube videos watched just 650 times. Guido wants to know if he ever got his luggage back…
The impotent Electoral Commission have pleaded for greater authority to investigate election spending fiddles in the wake of the Tory overspend exposed by Michael Crick:
“The Electoral Commission has called again today for greater fairness and clarity around the current regulatory framework for candidates at elections. The law currently stops short of giving the Commission the power to enforce candidates’ spending rules and only the police can investigate if there’s a problem. It’s time to end that anomaly and give us the power to investigate and sanction.”
So they are effectively saying they can do nothing as the current rules stand. Does this mean the Tories have got away with it?
Channel 4 News last night exposed more allegations about Tory overspending in South Thanet. Michael Crick’s investigation revealed:
- More hotels booked that were not declared.
- CCHQ Campaign Specialist Marion Little personally booked hotel rooms in her name, registered to her home adress in Hertfordshire.
- Allegedly over 770 nights of hotel room bookings made, covering all three by-elections, were linked to Little.
- An email in which Little coordinated moving equipment and activists between undeclared hotels.
- The Tories legal agent for the whole campaign, Victoria Goff, signed off on an election declaration that omitted hotel overspends. This is despite her staying in a room at one of the undeclared hotels.
- Local Conservatives working for the Tories in Clacton have now demanded an inquiry into potentially illegal by-election spending.
That’s plenty for the Electoral Commission to investigate then…
IPSA say they are investigating loud mouth SNP MP Phil Boswell over expenses irregularities:
The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has opened an investigation to determine whether Mr Phil Boswell MP has been paid an amount under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) that should not have been allowed. An investigation will be conducted into claims submitted under the following areas of the Scheme:
Office Costs Expenditure
In accordance with the legislation and the procedures for investigation made thereunder, no further information will be published until the investigation has been concluded.
Boswell is the third MP to face an expenses investigation in the first two months of 2016, following Jim Shannon and Simon Danczuk. Two MPs have also been referred to the police, yet their constituents are barred from knowing their identities. They still don’t get it.
Guido can shed some more light on how the Tories hid their by-election hotel bills in Newark. On 31 May 2014, over 350 young Tories boarded coaches and minibuses up to Newark for a day of campaigning. At the end of the day’s door-knocking, they needed something to eat and somewhere to stay. Paying for travel and hotels for that many people would rack up thousands in by-election expenses. So, the Tories ferried their activists to the Crowne Plaza hotel in Nottingham, outside of the constituency. There, Tory donors treated them to curry at an event named the “first annual RoadTrip dinner” – pictured above – where Rob Halfon and Eric Pickles gave speeches. After that they boozed at the Coco Lounge and NG1 bars, before returning to the hotel, where they made contributions to their room bills. The transport costs of ferrying the activists up to Newark and around Nottingham were apparently undeclared.
A source present says the meal and hotel were deliberately booked outside of the constituency, under the pretence of an “annual RoadTrip dinner”, to avoid appearing on the Newark by-election expenditure. They say this was by no means the only time this happened. A nifty little way of dodging the rules…
The expenses watchdog IPSA say in a statement:
“The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has opened an investigation to determine whether Mr Simon Danczuk MP has been paid an amount under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses (‘the Scheme’) that should not have been allowed. An investigation will be conducted into claims submitted under the following areas of the Scheme: Accommodation.
In accordance with the legislation and the procedures for investigation made thereunder, no further information will be published until the investigation has been concluded.”
Usually IPSA try to cover up the specific allegations against MPs. Though there are so many people out to get Danczuk – in his own party and in the local LibDems – that the accusations have already been aired very publicly…
Who would have thought SNP MP George Kerevan’s crusade against expenses abuses would turn out to be complete pish? Kerevan was elected last year on a ticket to clean up Westminster and fight greedy MPs:
“I don’t think Westminster MPs are uniquely venal. Many work hard for their constituents. But I believe Westminster is too remote from the people. I think that the deliberate lack of a written constitution and the doctrine of the sovereignty of the Parliament create an insidious political culture at Westminster that leads some MPs to think they are superior to common mortals. I also think the gentleman’s club rules by which the Commons still operates, and which many male Labour backbenchers succumb to, engender an arrogance among MPs you don’t find at Holyrood. All this adds up to a world view in which MPs think they are not only justified in their financial dealings but deserve their patio heaters.”
Such is Kerevan’s moral integrity that he even pledged to only take the Scottish average wage of £27,000, and use the rest of his salary to fund the running of his office and local charities:
So what does he mean by “funding his office”?
Kerevan this month began employing his wife Angela as a “Personal Assistant”, a post which usually fetches some £25,000 a year. His declarations make clear she is “employed and paid from parliamentary expenses”. A neat way of keeping that taxpayer cash in the family. What was that about “a world view in which MPs think they are justified in their financial dealings”?
Corbynista MP Dawn Butler indulged us with the “new, kinder politics” at PMQs:
Dawn would know all about “sh***ing all over the working class”.
Back in 2009, she was exposed in the expenses scandal for over-claiming £2,600 in rent for her constituency home.
She claimed claimed twice for the rent, deposit and charges relating to her second home.
Shamed Butler charged the taxpayer a whirlpool bath in a suite that cost £2,308.
She also claimed the full £23,000 second home allowance, despite her first home in Stratford being the same distance from Parliament.
Go on, Dawn, tell us more about “sh***ing all over the working class…”
The parliamentary expenses watchdog is investigating DUP MP Jim Shannon over irregularities with his expenses:
“The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority has today opened an investigation into claims made under the MPs’ Scheme of Business Costs and Expenses by Jim Shannon MP. The claims in question relate to travel and subsistence expenditure.”
As with the case of Tory MP Bob Blackman in 2014, IPSA are refusing to disclose any information about what the actual allegations against Shannon are. The case against him will be heard in secret to prevent “reputational damage to MPs”. Shannon submitted the highest expenses claims of any MP in both 2013-14 and 2014-15, claiming £235,000 and £264,500 each year. At the time he blamed the huge bill on his staffers being ill. Surely his constituents have a right to know what is he supposed to have done wrong?
The expenses watchdog IPSA reveals they have referred two MPs to the Met because they believe a criminal offence may have been committed in relation to their expenses:
During the course of the reporting period I have felt it necessary for the first time during my term of office to refer requests for investigation received from IPSA to the Police. As I referred to previously, the Compliance Officer has a joint working agreement with the Metropolitan Police which states:
“Where, in the exercise of their duties, either IPSA or the Compliance Officer is given a reason to suspect that a criminal offence may have been committed by an MP or a member of an MP’s staff, they shall seek advice from the Commissioner and notify the Metropolitan Police of their suspicions, and hand over any relevant documentation upon request.”
Three cases have been forwarded to the Metropolitan Police for assessment; one has been finalised and two remain with the police.
They won’t say who the two MPs are, and buried the revelation on page 74 of their annual report. Surely constituents have a right to know if their Member of Parliament is being investigated for fiddling their expenses?
Outgoing MPs billed the taxpayer almost £700,000 in office wind up costs when they stood down or were booted out by voters in May. By Guido’s calculation, new figures released by IPSA today show the 182 MPs who left their seats claimed £691,000 in “winding up” expenses. Most of the claims were submitted in June and July, and Guido is told by IPSA that they are still expecting further claims from tardy ex-MPs. Meaning former MPs are still claiming expenses several months after losing their jobs, and the final total will be considerably higher.
Disgraced LibDem David “The Jews” Ward was still claiming for shredding well into July, while Tim Yeo was still charging us for his stationery four months after vacating his seat. Troughing ’til the bitter end…
How to deal with the 26 MPs who refused to pay back money owed to the taxpayer despite being asked “several times” by IPSA? The Taxpayers’ Alliance say dock their pay:
“If sitting MPs are unwilling to pay what is due, the simple solution would be for the amount to be docked from their next salary payment. Those former MPs who have been named and shamed should also do the honourable thing and pay up – and if they are unwilling to do so, then the obvious sanction would be to remove the parliamentary pass they enjoy as a former member until such as time as their debts to the taxpayer are paid up.”
IPSA have flown the white flag because it isn’t “cost effective” to chase up debts under £500. What do you think they should do?
Take Guido’s poll…
The expenses watchdog has decided not to pursue the recovery of debts owed by 26 shameless MPs, who owe the taxpayer amounts up to £500 but are refusing to pay up. The cost of recovering the debts means it is “not cost-effective” to force the MPs to pay the money back, though IPSA insist: “All MPs have been contacted several times about these outstanding sums”. These are the names of the piggies cheating the taxpayer…
Guido would like to buy their debts. And send round the heavies…
UPDATE: Caroline Dinenage says she was on the list erroneously and has receoved an apology from IPSA, though Guido hasn’t seen it.
UPDATE II: David Mowat gets in touch: “The bill was in respect of a £35 invoice (to the information commissioner) which was correctly claimed. IPSA have removed me from their list and apologised for their error.” IPSA would have more credibility if they got things like this right…
UPDATE III: Barry Gardiner was also falsely accused by IPSA.
UPDATE IV: Sources close to Edward Timpson get in touch to say he has also received an apology from IPSA. They have had a ‘mare…
Douglas Hogg, the disgraced Tory minister who infamously had his moat cleaned on expenses, has been made a Lord. Hogg charged the taxpayer for having his moat cleared, piano tuned and stable lights fixed at his country manor house. He’ll fit in well in our second chamber.[…] Read the rest