Monday, January 19, 2009

How You Can Help Persuade MPs to Do The Right Thing

On Thursday MPs will vote to against the very transparency they impose on the rest of us. If, in the course of my work, I spend money which I then reclaim from my company I am expected to provide a receipt. For some reason, MPs feel they should be above that sort of thing and not be obligated to prove to the taxpayer what they are claiming back from that very same taxpayer. They are, after all, honourable gentlemen and ladies. But let me not fall into the trap that many journalists all too readily fall into. They do provide receipts for some expenditure for many items, but not all. Some MPs, like Ben Wallace and Douglas Carswell, have voluntarily published the entirety of their expenses.

On Thursday MPs will in effect vote to overturn a High Court ruling which said that all receipts had to be published retrospectively. LibDem MP Jo Swinson has tabled a motion urging "ministers to block or repeal the order in the interest of MPs' and peers' accountability to members of the public". It is endorsed by Tory MP Richard Shepard and Labour's David Winnick. And quite right too. This vote is happening because Harriet Harman did a volte face. The vote is scheduled on a Thursday because she thinks MPs won't bother to turn up. The Guardian says that some MPs are changing their diaries in order to be present and vote down Harman's order.

The My Society Website TheyWorkForYou has started an online campaign to put pressure on MPs to turn up and vote against the order. You can join a Facebook Group to protest, or you can email your own MP and give them your opinion. Alternatively visit They Work For You and follow the suggestions.

The Government will try to whip its MPs into line to support this measure. And there will no doubt be some Tories who go along with them. Each MP who votes for this order will be named and shamed. Not only on this blog, but I hope a lot of others too.

PS If you have a blog, no matter what your political allegiances, please do highlight this issue.

33 comments:

Cicero said...

There really are no limits to this government's cynicism. This sort of thing beggars belief... good to see a cross-party challenge against it.

Diablo said...

Small point - this post is timed as 8.00am! Any articular reason?

Anyway - agree with all you say! Will follow your instructions to the letter, oh masterful one!

electro-kevin said...

The political class makes me want to puke.

West Ham Shirt said...

"How You Can Help Persuade MPs to Do The Right Thing."

A bottle of Scotch and a revolver.

Rob UK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob UK said...

Thanks for highlighting this Iain. I've sent a letter to my MP through TheyWorkForYou... I hope it helps.

Public disclosure of the full list of those who abstained and those who voted for the draft Order after Thursday may be the best way to "encourage" MPs to do the right thing.

I look forward to seeing the list later this week.

Lady Finchley said...

The Conservatives will be voting against the Government - except for the Wintertons of course.

David Boothroyd said...

I'm glad you believe that MPs should be subject to the same laws they impose on other people. Now will you apply that to Damian Green? Or do MPs sometimes get legal privileges not available to the rest of us?

Iain Dale said...

unbelievable. so you support Harman's order?

cartermagna said...

I've posted your entreaty on my blog Iain, I hope you don't mind as I did say they were your words. I shall be writing to Rob Marris now but I won't be holding my breath for a satisfactory response given an outrageous waste of taxpayers cash, my enquiry to him and the "don't bother me prole" response I got

Still. Worth a shot.

dmc said...

Boothroyd,im thinking of brown here too.Whats good for the goose.....

David Boothroyd said...

Don't believe I've commented on Harman's order. Haven't read it yet. Now answer my question.

cartermagna said...

Hang fire David, if you apply the Damien Green issue to every single MP, which should be the case if it's applied to Damien Green, then wouldn't that see even our beloved Prime Mentalist in schtook too?

Francis Dobbs said...

Iain,
Delighted to support this. I have shown my support as requested in blog form at The Francis Dobbs Blog at www.francisdobbsblog.blogspot.com (forgive the plug).

I am relatively new to the world of blogging but not to the world of Westminster sleaze. It is sad that this kind of underhand tactic does not surprise me in the least. This also highlights the need in my view to look again at the so-dubbed ‘family friendly hours’ which should, in my view read, ‘after-dinner speech friendly hours’.

If I may address David briefly. Sir, no one is suggesting that Damien Green be accorded any special rights as an individual but that his Constituents be accorded the rights of any mature democracy and be assured that when they consult with their Parliamentarian that they are not, in fact consulting with the Metropolitan Police. Further, I guarantee you that the practice of Civil Servants leaking to politicians is an age-old tradition partaken by Members of all political parties.

At no point has the Damien Green affair been about additional rights for Members. I respectfully suggest sir that you remove those rose-tinted spectacles and start to accept that this is about respecting you.

Francis

cartermagna said...

Not a great start, this taken from the Facebook group, member by the name of Chris Bunting:

I wrote to my MP, David Curry (Conservative, Skipton and Ripon), and got this reply: "I am sorry but I believe you are wrong. No-one is trying to conceal expenses. It is a question as to what is a sensible level of detail. As for EDM I cannot see the earthly point of signing an EDM when the issue has to be voted on in the Commons itself. It has the whiff of sanctimoniousness about it. DC"

Where will we find the results once the vote has been taken Iain? I'd certainly like to publish them on my blog despite it being less effective than a high vis jacket in an earthquake.

Hapi said...

Hi there... want to change your favicon? find out how.. Have a nice tuesday!

Lady Finchley said...

Cartermagna, may I explain to you what an EDM is? A wank, paid by the taxpayer. It is the way MPs show voters they 'care' about an issue or getting publicity for some hobby horse. Most consitutents get all hopped up about them but they have no influence on legislation and cost you, the taxpayer, every time one of these useless motions are tabled, a few hundred pounds.

Events dear boy, events said...

Happy to do this. Any chance of linking to my blog?

http://howarddenton.blogspot.com

Raedwald said...

@ David Boothroyd 12.15

You seriously don't get it, do you?

We support the privacy of the confessional for the benefit of penitents, but this doesn't extend to protecting priests from prosecution for sexual offences.

We support the right of journalists to protect their sources for the benefit of those sources, but this doesn't extend to protecting journalists from prosecution for drunk driving.

And we support the absolute privileged status of an MP's dealings with his constituents and the sovereignty of Parliament for the benefit of our citizens, but this doesn't extend to protecting MPs from exposure for stealing taxes.

cherami said...

The government is going to whip its members? Mad, quite mad.

I sometimes think (often, as a matter of fact) that Harman, Balls and Cooper do this government more harm than anyone apart from Brown himself.

I would say 'long may it continue' except that bankruptcy is painful.

John Moss said...

ID-S has been written to!

Link on my blog - http://johnmossblog.blogspot.com/

David B - Parliamentary priviledge is there to protect MPs and Peers from having to disclose confidential discussions between them and their constituents, or, in the case of ministers and shadows, information they hold in order to do their job, or in holding the Government to account.

£300 for Mark Oaten's new bed and mattress doesn't come into that category, however much we might not have wanted to know about that particular use of taxpayer's cash - or the reasons behind it!

Mike said...

Blogged as requested:

http://www.mkingscott.co.uk/action-required-for-transparency-on-mps-expenses/

Next, I'll be contacting my MP, Liz Blackman. Unfortunately, she toes the party line, but it's worth a shot.

Dual Citizen said...

I earn more than an MP (basic salary), and frankly I have a better job. So to those who say they're all totally screwing the people ..... and aren't entitled to REASONABLE allowances .... rubbish!

But ....

.... I've just spent three hours filling my company expense reports ..... converting Hungarain Florints and Romanain whatevers into US Dollars, sellotaping every receipt to sheets of 11.5x8, and then accounting for every business call on my mobile phone bill.

Because .... if I don't do it, I'm thousands of dollars out of pocket, and it's the only way I (and we in the private sector) can do our jobs and are allowed to travel and claim or expenses.

They have secretaries, wives, daughters, lovers who can file theirs and be paid to do it ... as along as they declare that on their expenses .... so whats' the problem?

cartermagna said...

Lady Finchley, I understand what an EDM is but I was under the impression there would be an actual vote on Thursday? Granted the EDM is a waste of money and about as much use as tits on a fish but at least, and I grant you it's a very small 'at least', an EDM does show some intent as to how an MP will vote on a particular issue. I know an EDM can's be used to hold an MP to account but at least you can point to it and say "So what *actually* changed your mind then?"

Lady Finchley said...

Cartermagna

The vote is on Thursday but believe me EDMs are a joke and it is usually the most ineffectual MPS who habitually sign them. EDM is an example of 'gesture' poliics at its worst. Do you really wanting to be paying for a wank?

cartermagna said...

Lady Finchley; Well I suppose the old adage is "if you want a job doing properly..." You're right. EDMs are a waste of time and money given that they achieve and mean next to nothing. I still think David Curry's comment "No-one is trying to conceal expenses." is either naive or downright dishonest.

miggles said...

Wrote to my local tory mp requestin him to vote against the motion on Thursday. He has replied that they do not know the full details of the motion but that in principal it is his intention to vote against. I urge you all to write to your mps. My own view is that if this goes through Cameron should insist that if he becomes PM every Tory MP will have to publish their expenses from the tax payer. Could hen do this?

Plato said...

Absolutely agree and Charles Hendrey MP has an email winging its way to him through the interweb.

EDMs are the last word in empty gestures but at least it's another way to object. I sincerely hope that our elected Honorables will do the right thing and restore some faith in their honesty after the Conways et al.

miggles said...

I wrote to my local tory mp requesting him to vote against the motion on Thursday. I have had a reply that he does not yet know the details of the motion but in principal he is against. My own view is that if this motion gets passed, Cameron on the day he becomes PM should insist that all tory mps ppublish their annual expenses. Could he do this?

Wallenstein said...

I have emailed my MP, first time I have ever done so. The early day motion is useful as it highlights the key points in the Order, for those MPs who've not seen it yet.

I have asked my MP (conservative) to confirm that even if the Order passes into law he will voluntarily publish his expenses.

The Loudmouthman said...

No one seems to be asking if suppliers involved in those expenses will be happy to have those receipts on public record ?

weggis said...

I emailed my MP at 14:13, asking if he would be there for the vote.

I received a reply at 14:16 saying "you bet"!

Wallenstein said...

My MP replied to say he will be voting against the Order tomorrow.