Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tory MEPs Must Obey the Same Expenses Rules as MPs

The thorny issue of expenses has again reared its ugly head today, as Giles Chichester has resigned as leader of Tory MEPs, following allegations that he has channelled £400,000 of public money into a limited company which his family owns. He maintains he has done nothing wrong and hasn't contravened any rules. Guido has been making the running on this one and has the story HERE. ConservativeHome outlines what ought to happen now to Mr Chichester. I agree with the three points they make.

  1. Giles Chichester is innocent until proven otherwise and deserves the time to prove that his expenses have been used properly. Mr Chichester has properly stood down as Leader so that the party is not compromised during this investigative period. If he is not cleared of wrongdoing in the coming weeks then he should lose the Conservative whip in the same way that Derek Conway lost the Tory whip but that is an issue for another day.
  2. It is not sufficient for Mr Chichester to pass the standards of the European Parliament. The Parliament has been very slow to pass ethics rules and many of its members will fear that any harsh judgment of one of their members may compromise their own position. Mr Cameron must make it clear that the Conservative Party will be making its own judgment on Mr Chichester's account of his use of expenses.
  3. The Conservative Party must proactively order all MEPs to be transparent. The party cannot wait for newspapers and blogs to uncover other examples of alleged wrongdoing. It should start (but only start) by requiring all Conservative MEPs to answer Open Europe's questions on transparency:
  • All Conservative MEPs must answer basic questions as to how they handle their expenses and name their service providers.
  • They need to state the nature of these “service providers” and who they employ.
  • There is a particular need to establish whether MEPs and their relatives been paid directly or indirectly by the service providers.
David Cameron has rightly imposed these rules on MPs. He must now extend them to cover MEPs too. Any MEP not willing to accept them should not be a candidate at the 2009 Euro elections.



30 comments:

Anonymous said...

And which second hand car salesman put Chichester there?

Weygand said...

Strangely, this and the Conway story show how much things have changed for the better for the Tories.

Not so long ago, people would have said typical Tories, just proves they are unfit to govern. The media would have gone for the leader and accused him of being weak and ineffective and contrasted him with his Labour counterpart.

How times have changed and roles reversed. Now Brown is official paraia, the media will praise DC for swift and decisive leadership and miscreants dismissed as rogue elements being weeded out.

There can be little better proof that the Conservatives are on their way to victory at the next general election.

johnny euromillions said...

I prefer Guido's version of events.

"Giles Chichester deliberately and disgracefully used a front-company to profiteer from his own expense claims. That is unethical, dishonest and a resignation matter."

Your version is partisan drivel. If a Lib Dem had behaved like this you would be all over the story like a nasty rash.

But Chichester is a Tory, so you trot out the innocent-until-proven-guilty line, even though Guido quotes him admitting that he has made a "mistake".

The ony surprise is that Chichester is not another one of your precious Tory chums.

Raedwald said...

The 'Innocent until proven guilty' principle is vital to criminal justice; if Chichester were facing the prospect of criminal charges, this would undoubtedly apply.

However, he doesn't face the prospect of jail in reality. The worst that can happen to him is that he's out of a very well paid job in 2009. Criminal standards of proof don't apply here, because criminal penalties don't apply, and if his behaviour could be considered in the mind of a reasonable person to be gross misconduct if, for example, a civil servant did the same, that enough is sufficient to warrant his dismissal.

Chris Paul said...

Great to see the same rules you use on opposing parties coming out like this.

Anonymous said...

And you still defend Conway Ian?

Oscar Miller said...

While C4 and ITV are leading (as they should) with Zimbabwe and the diplomatic crisis, BBC 6 o'clock News led with "embarrassment for Cameron" and proceeded to do as much damage for the Conservatives as they could over Chichester. Considering CCHQs zero tolerance on this one, the headline should have been "Cameron gets tough on Conservative MEP expenses - Chichester resigns". And it should not have been their top headline. The only time the BBC give the Conservatives a headline is when it can be spun as negative. They ignore all the policy announcements. Surely it's time that something was done about this naked bias?

Iain Dale said...

Anonymus 7.29. It is a myth that I defended Derek Conway. I said I would say to his face anything I had to say on the subject. That's what friends do.

judith said...

Chichester should be resigning as an MEP, full stop.

Forget the 'I haven't broken any rules, I've just made a mistake' tosh, even if it's true - he's been offensively greedy and has dishonoured his name and my Party.

Anonymous said...

Dave needs to sense this as an opportunity not problem, but he needs to move quickly. Another "outing" by Guido will make Dave look like he's reacting to events.

Some toughness on this would enhance his reputation and demonstrate his strength of character - something many people wonder about if he came to office.

Anonymous said...

"... innocent until proven guilty ... "

mmmm - Steady the Ship, Iain

This is really not good enough - this is not just small change - apparently, £445,000 of taxpayers' money has been paid over

1. It is neither appropriate nor right, that in these circumstances an MP or an MEP can sit back and demand proof of his Guilt, before he can be subject to criticism

2. Here an MEP is claiming payment of vast expenses by the taxpayer

3. If an MEP is claiming payment, then the onus of justifying the payment is on the MEP, particularly as his expenses are matters within his exclusive knowledge

4. In the absence of such justification, then we are entitled to assume Guilt and the expenses should be disallowed

Anonymous said...

Why does it take so long for comments to appear on this blog - do you read & censor every one of them?

Iain Dale said...

Your comment took precisely 15 minutes to appear. I have a job (and a life) and approve comments as soon as I can. Yes, in common with m ost people, I moderate because experience has taught me it's the only way. I only delete about 2 or 3 comments a day, usually because they are abusive.

Nick R Thomas said...

He describes it as a 'whoops-a-daisy moment'. Unfortunately it sounds more like a Father Ted moment:

'Dougal, that money was just resting in my account before being moved on'...

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know what sort of secretarial services were provided by the map company and how many employees were involved?

Tory Dipper said...

Tory MEPs lapping up all that lovely Euro lolly. Makes you proud to be British!

auntie Flo' said...

Well said, Iain, and well done David Cameron

tory boys never grow up said...

I think that many are missing the point here. Why are these MEPs paying the expenses into companies rather than directly to their wives/children/mistresses or whatever, especially given that the company route has all the hassle and expense of forming and running a company? The companies even have to be audited - so presumably their auditors were asking the basis question as to whether the income received from the EU was being spent in the manner intended.

I suspect the answer lies in that the companies were being used a device to reduce income tax paid by the wives/children/mistresses on their earnings (and increase the taxes paid by everyone else). Strangely enough whenever the Government has made proposals to stop such abuse the Conservative Party has nearly always opposed them without fail.

It might also be very interesting to look at the Companies VAT returns - but not sure of the VAT status of payments received from the EU.

Why are they using corporate structures which in theory are more transparent than direct payments??

Anonymous said...

It does the conservatives no favours to be dilly dallying on this matter. Cameron needs to be decisive, he shoudl give all MEP's 48 hours to get their accounts on his desk, and once he has read them , anything remotely dodgy and they shoudl be asked to fall on their swords ASAP.
Nothing less will do if Conservatives have any pretensions to be the next government. Public are really hacked off by the blatant thieving by politicians and the endless justification that it is within the rules , when it is obvious that if it was in public then prosecution would follow.
Come on Dave set an example and put your money where your mouth is.

Anonymous said...

"Giles Chichester is innocent until proven otherwise..."

You can't even bring yourself to use the word 'guilty', can you Iain? You are too partisan to be taken seriously as a political commentator.

Letters From A Tory said...

Get them all to sign a piece of paper which says that expenses will only ever be used in the taxpayers' interests on penalty of immediate expulsion - anyone could slipping a few grand to their family firm should be out automatically, why the need for this ridiculous media fanfare and meetings with Cameron?

Desperate Dan said...

The Labour Party could teach the Tories a thing or two about how to cover up sleaze. Haven't they got a shredder like Blair?

Jonathan M said...

Good old Tories...

Dead against the European Union, but more than happy to embezzle money from it.

Anonymous said...

Naturally I agree with the "innocent until proven guilty" mantra - BUT - why is it that when an MP or MEP appears to have behaved in a manner which in any other walk of life would be regarded as fraud, or gross misconduct at best, they always say they've "made a mistake" or "it's in the rules" - sometimes both?

How can completing an expense form claiming to have spent money which you haven't or to which you aren't entitled be a mistake? What is the mistake? Getting caught?

In the dim and distant, when David Blunkett claimed several hundred pounds from the taxpayer to fund his then girlfriend's train tickets, an allowance available only to a spouse, he said it was a mistake ..............

When it was revealed John Prescott had been getting the taxpayer to pay his council tax on both his own house in Hull AND the flat in Admiralty Arch in which he lived rent-free - he said that was a mistake..............

Should anyone else working for the public services or private companies make "mistakes" of this kind they would most definitely be sacked, and very likely prosecuted.

Yet these are the actual lawmakers we are talking about, who seem to want different rules to apply to them.

David Cameron is dead right to be extremely tough on any such behaviour - it must be zero tolerance, which no wimping about "mistakes" or "in the rules".

Anonymous said...

"Your comment took precisely 15 minutes to appear"

No need to get snotty, dear.

Besides, at the time of writing, it is almost 12 hours since the last published comment (11:43 PM)

Anonymous said...

Oscar...When the YouGov results were carried in most mainstream newspapers on 31st March they were not on the BBC news front page website. They were in fact buried in the politics section at the end of an article headed 42 Day detention.. I fired off a complaint and recieved a reply within 2 days...They said..The results were not of national interest so little prominance was given to them. I still have the e mail response from BeeB. Martin

Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

"this is not just small change - apparently, £445,000 of taxpayers' money has been paid over"

That has got to be small change for most of these eu-parasites. Surely this man could do much better than that?

tory boys never grow up said...

While Mr Cameron is in his whiter than white mode perhaps he should have a word with the Tatton Conservatives who according to page 2 of their latest accounts (see link below)appear to think that handing out little George's tax payer funded Westminster Report is part of their campaigning activities - so much so that they even volunteered to do so. I presume the Tatton Conservatives will now be paying for the report and all their campaigning costs.

http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/files/dms/Conservative-Party-Tatton-Statement-of-Accounts-2007_29680-22126__E__N__S__W__.pdf

Oscar Miller said...

While so many here are cheerfully wallowing in Conservative misdemeanors, can I ask whatever happened to the police enquiry into the David Abrahams affair? The BBC did their best to gloss over it when it was a live story - and since the cops were brought in it has gone as quiet as the grave. This was supposed to be a quick inquiry. What happened - and what is happening? Does anyone know?

Malcolm Redfellow said...

The basic premise is incontrovertible. All elected representatives must be accountable: Westminster, Strasbourg, Stormont, the devolved Assemblies, local government, the entire shebang.

I am currently posting this on conservativehome:
No, it's not the fault of "Europe" that individuals are self-serving greedy wallet-fillers.

No, it's not a great achievement by the Leader that he has finally, after repeated warnings in the media, decided to slam the stable-door shut.

Now can somebody explain why Derek Conway was shown the door, Bob Spink was booted, Andrew Pelling was suspended, and Giles Chichester was circumnavigated ... but James Gray stays inside the stable?

It used to be that Labour had financial scandals, and the Tories had sexual shenanigans. It now seems that the only way to keep a job is to have both simultaneously (unless your name is Spink, of course).


I am currently taking bets on how long it survives before being taken down there, and whether it passes moderation here.