Thursday, 4 February 2010

Retribution will follow humiliation of MPs

First the humiliation and next the retribution. One black day follows another at Westminster over the expenses scandal.

Today nearly 400 MPs, past and present, had the details of their overclaimed expenses paraded in public again in the Legg report. Tomorrow six parliamentarians will find out if they are to face fraud or false accounting charges over their expenses claims.

The Crown Prosecution Service, which has been considering police files of evidence against six MPs and members of the House of Lords, will announce its decision.
Among those known to have been investigated by detectives are Labour MPs Elliot Morley and David Chaytor and Labour peer Lady Uddin.

Morley and Chaytor were examined by the police inquiry for claiming thousands of pounds for mortgages which had already been paid off.

Jim Devine, Labour MP for Livingston, was reportedly under investigation for invoices he submitted for electrical work worth more than £2,000 from a company with an allegedly fake address and an invalid VAT number.

Devine, who was banned from standing again by Labour’s ruling body, the National Executive Committee, protests his innocence. The Daily Record revealed last year that the Livingston MP had reported himself to the police investigation to prove his innocence.

If he is vindicated he has promised vengeance and so the whole sorry expenses tale could take on another twist in the Livingston constituency that Devine inherited from the late Robin Cook. Labour has already selected a candidate to stand in Devine’s place.

Scanning the pages of Sir Thomas Legg’s report the most shocking aspect is the scale of the repayments and the numbers involved. Many details of MPs expenses had been leaked or released before, and £800,000 was repaid before his inquiry began. Legg found another £1.12m that they owed the public purse.

Sir Thomas found that MPs did not uphold the principles of selfishness, accountability, honesty and leadership that public office demands and that heaped shame on Westminster and the reputation of MPs, innocent or otherwise.

While Legg was highly critical of how MPs worked the system his review cost £1.16m which is almost the same as MPs have been ordered to repay. The whole process has been just about self-financing.

Many MPs are furious with Legg, claiming he changed the rules on gardening and cleaning expenses for example and ensnared many otherwise innocent MPs.
There isn’t much sympathy for the political class but spare athought for that one third of MPs who Legg has "no issue" with but who find themselves tarred with the same brush as those guilty of the worst exceesses.

Every sordid detail is there for voters to see now. People can make their own minds up on who should represent them.

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