Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Flaws of the Standards Committee

The David Wilshire case, which the Telegraph reports today, is a great example of one which may well expose a major flaw in the system of scrutiny of public standards.

Mr Wilshire has rightly referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, Sir John Lyon. Sir John will decide if there is a case to answer, then conduct an investigation. He will then issue his findings and the Standards Committee will decide on Wilshire's punishment if he is found guilty. This is the same Committee which decided Jacqui Smith should issue an apology on the floor of the House but need not pay any money back. When it decided that punishment I believe 6 Labour MPs were present but only one Conservative was there.

Most people will find it odd, to say the least, that Mr Wilshire was paying his own company for services provided to his office, and no doubt the full details will emerge. His defence is that the arrangement was wholly approved by the House of Commons Fees Office. If this case had arisen two years ago that may well have been the end of the matter. But we all know now that the Fees Office hasn't been fit for purpose for a very long time.

But the Fees Office approval presents Sir John Lyon with a dilemma. He, like them, is a servant of the House. If he finds against Wilshire he will be emulating Sir Thomas Legg and changing the rules retrospectively. Essentially, he will be saying that Wilshire should have used his judgment better, and known that his office arrangement would not stand up to public scrutiny. Fair enough, you might say, but would this really stand up in a court of law? We may well find out.

The Committee itself then has a dilemma. Can it really force Wilshire to pay money back when they let off Jacqui Smith with a mere tap on the knuckles?

So it's not just the Fees Office which isn't fit for purpose, it may well be that we have to make the same judgment about the Parliamentary Standards Committee.

In my view the days of MPs sitting in judgment over each other must draw to a close. The Standards Committee has, over the years, proved itself incapable of ignoring narrow partisan politics and I see little prospect of that changing. The Parliamentary Standards Committee needs replacing by something which is transparently not open to party political game playing.


Anonymous said...


Why waste your time writing about what does not work well in our political and start by writing about what does work well.

Oh I see, there will be nothing to put in your Blog.


Anonymous said...


Hawkeye said...

It seems to me that people like Derek Conway have been booted out for lesser offences so how can Wilshare survive? According to The Telegraph the company being paid did not exist on the records at Companies House, so that makes it look like a partnership or sole trader. In other words Mr Wilshare was paying himself.

Is that not fraud? I am not a lawyer, but it looks fishy to me.

I think he should go and that he should be subjected to a proper legal investigation.

Tony Williams said...

Anyone referring themselves to the PSC from now on also gives their local party members a huge headache.

If the PSC take their normal 3-5 months to report, this could take us up to the general election - and even a slap on the wrist with a Jacqui Smith style apology will have a devastating effect on even the safest of seats.

If a report is negative and the MP stands down after Jan 1st, central office will parachute in a candidate without the chance for members of the association to vote, or the public to vote in an open primary for their next candidate.

For the good of local associations, from now on, anyone with even the slightest appearance of using expenses to their own advantage has to step down immediately to give members the small chance of getting a candidate they want, even from a restricted list.

Mick Anderson said...

All of the politicians should be tested against the rules they impose on us. If I can't claim for something in my self-employed life, an MP should not be allowed to claim for it. The rules I have to conform to have been reasonably stable for a long time.

That's what the "wholly, exclusively and necessary" clause is all about. The fact that they invented a load of loose "rules" to allow them effective carte blanche to rob the tax payer does not make what these MPs have done morally right.

So, no food, cleaners, Council Tax, fuel bills, mortgage interest (especially "flipping"!), gardening, house maintenance or furniture is permissable. I have to pay for these things out of my taxed income, and so should the MPs. It's not as though they are on a bad salary, especially for a mere 110 days work a year.

If they want or need to stay in London during the week, they can rent a modest hotel room for those nights. I can claim for that, and so can they.

Anonymous said...

Dear Iain,
I am trying to get my head around what you are saying. I think I may have worked it out:
Here we have two brazen, bare-faced, shameless, out-and-out thieves.
One had got away with a petulant, graceless, smirking apology and kept all the stolen money. The other has not yet been "punished". Can we not wait until he is?
The rest is bullshit.

Anonymous said...

How can you defend the rat, Oh I know why he's a Tory. Pay it back or you shan't be able to stand as a Tory MP.

This company wasn't even registered, its deception surely?

Still as a sponsor of clause 28, are you that sorry?

Anonymous said...

David Wilshire - oh happy days. (For those of us od enough to remember we know it was his Private members bill - which led to section 28 on the "promotion of homosexuality").

Andy said...

Well said Iain. I'd create a new code of conduct, have an independent standards board to enforce the code and a new law giving voters the power to recall their MP.

Donut Hinge Party said...

They don't get it.

This is not a private sector, or even public sector job.

There's no "performance management", there's no appeal to HR, there's no contract, there's no ACAS to moderate disputes between employer and employee.

The only court they have to answer to is the electorate, and they can protest that something was in the rules all the damn hell they like, but at the end of the day if they can't convince the electorate that they're the best candidate for the job, then scrrrcchhhh!! *draws finger across throat*

Not that the parachute payment won't be fine consolation, especially for those who are retiring or standing down to be made peers to clear the way for younger PPCs.

Lady Finchley said...

The Fees Office is not fit for purpose because they are mercilessly bullied into submission by MPs - they also have very weak leadership.

Doug said...

No problem Iain. There is literally no public sector quango/institution/committee/etc. formed or meddled with by Labour that doesn't deal in double standards.

Unsworth said...

'Will this stand up in a court of law?'

That is exactly the problem. It's the failure by so many MPs to recognise the difference between what they can get away with, and what they ought to do. The chasm between moral obligation and legal necessity is nowhere greater than in Parliament.

Wilshire is but another example of this, and his action in self-referring is one of breathtaking cynicism.

I posted here many months ago about the failures of the Fees Office, but I'd go much further than that. The Fees Office has shown itself to be entirely complicit - to the extent of direct encouragement of this wholesale rip-off of the taxpayer. When questioned as to its performance and actions it has, naturally, run for cover and attempted to gag all enquiry and comment.

However, MPs cannot finger the collusion of the Fees Office as the reason for their own profound moral inadequacies. They are obliged to consider and submit their expenses under a set of guidelines which are crystal clear. That the Fees Office then turns a blind eye to their deliberate fraudulent claims does not absolve these MPs from their responsibilities. Indeed if MPs had any ethical standards at all they would have raised these concerns long before public spirited whistle-blowers had to fight their way through the courts to expose this massive wrong-doing.

It is quite clear that the whole culture of Parliament is one of cosy conspiracy, theft of our moneys, moral degeneracy and relentless turpitude. That is simply not good enough. There a huge gulf between the wishes, hopes and aspirations of the voting public and the day-to-day behaviour of MPs. There is no honour, honesty or even dignity in Westminster.

Anonymous said...

This is rather a mild and tepid post iain then again he is a conservative.

I'm sure other people within the HOC must have known he was doing this.

Will DC really wait 3-5 months or should he do something now.

Malcolm Redfellow said...

Your essential point -- that so far we have had no consistency -- remains totally valid. The Times was right, as Legg seems to be saying, a house can be too clean, but not too big.

It also seems to this mere observer, that we are faced with a couple too many referees. While Mr Wilshire may be playing within the rules, we mere onlookers can never quite be sure whose rules, under what code, the game is played. Why am I reminded of a Rag Week game played by the University women's LaCrosse team versus the Rugby 1st XV: two halves under the different rules? Laugh? well, more painful travesty than comedy (even if enjoyable bodily contact was had by a few).

Anonymous said...

For the good of local associations, from now on, anyone with even the slightest appearance of using expenses to their own advantage has to step down immediately

oh Lord, the cry from the public has been "they still don't get it!" but there is one thing that most people don't seem to have 'got' which is far more damaging.

Ok, yes, it looks like a lot of MPs acted against the spirit of the rules and some against the letter. Yes, let's find a way to punish them. But I, for one, do not want the next parliament to be over half full of new MPs who haven't the faintest idea how to negotiate their way round Westminster. They will either be fish in a barrel for the whips, opening the way for presidential government a la Blair, or easy meat for lobbyists, meaning who knows what?

And no-one seems to have 'got' that at all.

Roger Dodger said...

Yeah that's right. Change the system and not the MPs.

The benefit of a Gentlemen's club approach is that it presupposes that its members conduct themselves as gentlemen.

Maybe we have to give up on the notion of honourable representatives now and form a new unelected technocratic body.

Then again, maybe one day there will be people to vote for that think otherwise, that consider a professional body overlooking their honour an affront.

I'm not holding my breath.

Wish the supine bastards would stick up for themselves a bit.

Anonymous said...

"This is the same Committee which decided Jacqui Smith should issue an apology on the floor of the House but need not pay any money back."

Have you read the report? Surely it would be hard to make her pay any money back given:

"we do not believe it can be established with any certainty whether the tax payer is any worse off as a result of Mrs Smith's nomination oof her main home..."

The report also states that, in accordance with the Green Book, Jacqui Smith in fact spent more time in her London home, however the 'overnight test' was 'implicit' within the Green Book.

I'm not saying she made the right choice, but I'd argue it's not as black and white as the media try to make out.

Raedwald said...

There is another scandal that none of the incumbent big parties are understandably keen to have investigated; the extent to which tax funds provided solely for an MP to execute their office are siphoned off unlawfully to local party associations.

Many MPs share their constituency offices with the local party office; in such cases the rules require that running costs (rent, rates, heat, light, power, water, photocopiers and office equipment and supplies)are apportioned reasonably between the MP and the local party. The MP's costs are met by the taxpayer, the party's by party funds.

Yet it takes no great digging through the Telegraph's data to find cases in which the MP is picking up the entire costs of shared premises with no evidence of any contribution from the local party going back to the fees office - in effect illegally siphoning tax funds to local parties (contact me for details).

The sums involved may only be £10k - £20k a year, but it's funding that local parties in opposition would die for. Fair? No, it stinks.

Anonymous said...

I fervently disagree with what Wilshere has done, but the Telegraph is either being disingenuous or displaying a surprising lack of knowledge about Company Law. A partnership cannot be registered as it is not a Limited Company, nor is it required to file accounts.

Alcuin said...

I hope Elizabeth Filkin has a smile on her lips over all this, even if a wry one. If the venal Blair and Gorbals Mick had not forced her out, none of this would ever have happened. These two are the real culprits, and laughing all the way to the fees office.

bewick said...

Yes Iain it must stop. Judge and Jury in their own cause is corrupt and against the principles of natural justice - and much else.
and I totally agree with another poster that Legg hasn't changed the rules - just tried to apply them in part only. He should have gone much further because it seems that much of what MPs bought could not possibly match the "wholly exclusively ...... for the performance of their duties" rule.

Won't hold my breath though.

BrianSJ said...

No, if parliament is to have supremacy in any sense, then it has to be capable of self-regulation. If the current herd of troughers can't do that, then they need to go. This is a good test of a parliament.

Obviously, MPs need to follow the same 'rules' as everyone else, and end all their special 'guidance'. Then any breaches can be dealt with by HMRC or the police as appropriate. MPs who break the law (Baroness Scotland, the Duchess of Peckham for example) need to be removed immediately by their local party while blind justice does its work.

"You still don't get it, do you?" maybe applies to your good self, Iain.

mark said...

I find the argument "Would it stand up in a court of law" to be completely null in this respect, and largely insulting. In terms of the scandalous abuse of our money to line their own pockets, the law has obviously failed us taxpayers and the MPs have helped themselves along.

If we are to listen to the legal opinions of these people, we should apply the proper law to their own rules instead of asking why the rules are wrong. The fraudulent behaviour, which may have been permitted by the Fees Office, is still illegal in any court of law for regular people. If my company tried to get away with as much as these people have, I would be facing a large bill and I imagine some time in prison.

So when MPs moan that rules are being applied differently and that it is illegal, they should think very carefully about what their position might be outside of the commons, in a legal world of their creation that they seem to think they are above.

DominicJ said...

"The Parliamentary Standards Committee needs replacing by something which is transparently not open to party political game playing."

Informed voters are all that can do that.
All expenses claimed should be shown online, with any backup the MP chooses to provide, it will then be up to voters to decide if thats enough or not.

And Legg has not changed the rules, the fees office was never empowered to judge what was and was not acceptable, that was the job of the MP in quetion.
Admin assistants dont explain laws to legislators.

The rules were
Wholly, exclusively and necessarily
If that was the case, then he has nothing to worry about, except of course voter anger, which may or may not be reasonable.

If he's invoiced parliament for the time he spent emptying his office bin, then I wouldnt vote for him, but then, I wouldnt vote for someone who hired a cleaner to do it either.

eeyore said...

Iain, aren't there profound constitutional dangers in giving anyone but MPs jurisdiction over themselves? Ancient and essential liberties are at stake. Commons independence is our only bulwark against rampant Executive tyranny.

What we need, I suggest, is MORE Commons independence, and to make it work MPs have to be (funny old-fashioned word) honourable. How do we get honourable MPs? Ah, that's down to us, the electorate. It's our job to elect suitable people, and use our judgement to weed out the rascals. We just haven't been doing our job.

It may be, of course, that we're a degenerate nation now, and not up to it any more.

As Dr Heinz Kiosk used to say in the Telegraph, "We are all guilty."

Anonymous said...

Ian, you know very well that service companies are often used for convenience and cost no more than providing the services another way and make no profit. Wouldn't it be better to see what has happened in this case before sounding off. I have no time for troughing, but shouldn't we be sure Mr Wilshire has troughed before condemning him. The actual amount involved seems about par for the course for MP's office costs.

DominicJ said...

"All of the politicians should be tested against the rules they impose on us. If I can't claim for something in my self-employed life, an MP should not be allowed to claim for it. The rules I have to conform to have been reasonably stable for a long time."
"If they want or need to stay in London during the week, they can rent a modest hotel room for those nights. I can claim for that, and so can they."

I'm not sure many companies would last long if they expected their staff to spend 110 nights a year in a travel lodge, forever.
MP's have abused the rules and deserve to be voted out, but I have no real aversion to the idea of an MP buying or renting a modest abode in London, and furnishing it to modest standards.

It is a cost related to being an MP, if you werent, you wouldnt need a house there, you wouldnt need to pay council tax or water rates, you would however, still produce the same amount of mess that would need cleaning, and eat the same amount of food ect.

If you want to spend £20k on luxary furniture, that fact should be published, and your voters allowed to take that into consideration when ticking boxes in elections.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10.18.
A limited liability partnership can and must

Ian H said...

This quotation in the Guardian sums up everything we need to know about most of our MPs:

"I have never known a prime minister to be heckled at a meeting of the parliamentary party as he (Gordon Brown) was on Monday. Not even Tony during the Iraq war got such a rough ride."

Yes, never mind thousand of innocent lives lost, what about our wallets!
Why you want to join them I do not know.

John K said...


I fear that for once you are among those that "still don't get it".

Whether there is a flaw in the Standards Committee is a red herring in the case of Mr Wilshire. it should never have got near the Committe because the expenditure should NEVER HAVE BEEN MADE OR APPROVED IN THE FIRST PLACE as it was clearly impermissible under even the lax rules of tihe time; it did not even clear the first hurdle.

As Mick Anderson has already pointed out on this thread:

"That's what the "wholly, exclusively and necessary" clause is all about."

So quite apart from the question of whether what Mr Wilshire did is legally fraudlent, the claim should never have been made or passed by the Fees Office because there was no evidence provided by the MP that the spending met the "wholly, exclusively and necessary" test. And his excuse that it was approved by the Fees Office won't wash. He either knew or should have known that was not sufficient.

I now suspect that over half of sitting MPS are going to find themselves unemployed come 6th May. What they have either done themselves or connived to perpetuate has been nothing less than a conspiracy to defraud the public, on the amoral assumption that no-one would find out or challenge them.

Mr Wilshire and his ilk are (or at least should be) toast, and if you want to join those replacing him you are going to have to stop defending or excusing ANY PART of the current fraud.

Anonymous said...

For once i find myself in agreement with Lady Finchley - at least in part. We have no real idea of what exact role the fees office played in all of this. There are only three basic options
* they were complicit in abuse by ignoring or even encouraging abuse
* they were bullied by MPs, the speaker whips whoever and forced to comply, or
* they are incompetent idiots

In either event we need to know which it was. I have sympathy with bullied Civil Servants - but if that is what they were let them tell us. in the other two scenarios they deserve exposure and to take their share of the blame. Why have we not heard from them? Who can arrange it or at least ask the question?

Rosscoe said...

Legg hasnlt changed the rules retrospectivly he is just ensuring that they are (belatedly) applied.

The rules state that any expensce claim had to be necessary and exclusively for the discharge of parlimentry duties (or some such wording) however all the fees office did was take the word of the MP that this was the case, they didn't as a make judgements about the suitablity of the claim (though they would soimetime query the amount)as they were obliged to trust that the Honourable member was Honourable and to assume that as the MP had said the claim was appropriate and within the rules it was.

All Legg is doing is comparing the claims made to the rules as they existed at the time and demanding those claims that shouldnlt have been made are repaid.

A charitable explanaition for this retrospective claim might be that legg is doing the job that the MPs thought the fees office should have been doing, however its more likley a ploy to pull one over the press adn the public to try and wiggle out of repaying their ill gotten gains..

Anonymous said...

The Parliamentary Standards Committe needs to be replaced by what? Another bunch of freeloaders who are 'independent'?

I don't beleive one single word from any poltiican currently sitting int he House of COmmons or, for that matter, the House of Lords. The whole institution is corrupt to banana republic standards.

I don't trust anyone appointed by any politican to be 'independent'. Just ask Filkin (and for that matter Legg) on what happens when you do make independent decisions.

This really is, to my mind, a constitutional crisis. No one can be trusted - they all have to toe the Party line - no one can actually tell us anything other than the 'official' line.

The political elite is rotten to core. In the name of God, go!!

Anonymous said...

The same proble exists in local authorities where elected members sit on Standards committees and judge their peers sometimes in a party political fashion

Lord Snooty said...

Why no mention of the Wintertons, Iain? Didn't they get let off by this committee for troughery far worse than Smith's?

Anonymous said...

The Parliamentary Standards Committee has been neutered since Elizabeth Filkin was hounded out of office. The Cowardly Lyon isn't going to risk the same thing happening to him - result: whitewash.

Anonymous said...

There is one solution, to MPs' who just don't get it!

Just Vote them Out!

Gordon Kennedy

Anonymous said...

Cameron needs to move fast and tell him to step down,please go Mr Wilshire.

Mike Law said...

Legg didn't change the rules retrospectively. Furthermore, MPs cannot keep whipping up that old chestnut "the fees office okayed it"... AGAIN, it is public money and they had a duty, in so many words (as written in the rules that they agreed), that there should be no claims that could be seen as abusing the allowances system.

What Wilshire did was wrong and he SHOULD have used his own judgement... he's a f%#king MP for pete's sake! If MPs have no notion of probity they shouldn't be at the legislative heart of the nation.

Hamish said...

As well as the "wholly, exclusively, and necessarily" requirement, the Green Book also states:
"You must ensure that arrangements for your ACA
claims are above reproach and that there can be no
grounds for a suggestion of misuse of public money."
"You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise
to an accusation that you are, or someone close to
you is, obtaining an immediate benefit or subsidy from
public funds".
These were the rules.
Legg is not making retrospective changes.

Guthrum said...

I stopped believing that the House of Commons was capable of redemption years ago. It is the rotten carcass of a once great institution.

When somebody's word and honour was a valuable commodity and meant something, you could run institutions like this. However it is full of chancers, thieves and liars and will go down in History as 'The Rotten Parliament'.

Return all functions other than Defence and Foreign affairs back to the Counties were we can keep an eye on our money. Reduce MP's to a rump of 100, who are elected by PR.

Lets wash our hands of this stain on our national life.

Ed the Shred said...

And in this whole debate there are bunch of London MPs who have stuck their snouts in the trough and are getting clean away with enriching themselves at our expense.

For example in the 1997 new Labour intake there are some MPs who had their primary residence as their London houses (with no or minimal mortgages). Upon becoming an MP they take a new fat mortgage on their London house, the proceeds of which finances a new property in the country/seaside. They declare the new property as their primary residence (even though they continue mainly living in London, their children continue going to a London school, etc), and charge all the interest expense to us via the Fees Office.

Neat huh?!

David Mackintosh said...

But the Fees Office approval presents Sir John Lyon with a dilemma. He, like them, is a servant of the House. If he finds against Wilshire he will be emulating Sir Thomas Legg and changing the rules retrospectively.

FFS Iain which planet are you on?

Sir John Legg confirmed that payment of the second homes allowance under the Green Book rules was subject to “fundamental principles of propriety”

FURTHER {just in case you seem to be having the same problem understanding THE RULES as the wee piggies in the zoo we call Westmonster had}

The fundamental principles required MPs personally to ensure that their use of the ACA was:
(a) necessary for the performance of their parliamentary duties;

(b) not extravagant or luxurious;

(c) in accordance with the Nolan principles of selflessness, accountability, honesty and leadership;

(d) strictly in accordance with the rules governing the allowance;

(e) above reproach;

(f) took account of the need to obtain value for money; and

(g) avoided any appearance of benefit, or a subsidy from public funds, or diversion of public money for the benefit of a political organisation.

ALL Sir John did was set a sensible limit on SOME things that the wee piggies had not done themselves so they could get their snouts deeply/deeper into the trough.

I understand that you want to become an MP - WELL Dear Iain are you just another Wee Piggie keen to get your snout deep into the trough yourself and here today vainly trying to defend the indefensible? OR are you going to be one of the NEW (please GOD)breed of pollyticians that we the public your masters can have some real and lasting respect for????

Enquiring minds would love to know.

Got the balls to approve this???

MichaelJ said...

Well done Iain,
As simply a voter (unlike a lot you your contributors) I applaud the fact that you are getting the point out there in the open.
Reading most of your replies I still see a lot of people who for what ever reason are protecting themselves or do not get it. From what I ask? ( as if we did not know)

Anonymous 10.18 has a point
Also if referring himself is seen as tactic to avoid "justice" then that is also wrong. He needs to be honest - is that possible?

Perhaps DC will act quickly and be seen as a leader.

Beware of Geeks bearing GIFs said...

It has to be said, and said once again:

Legg has not changed the rules retrospectively, he is enforcing the rule that SHOULD have been applied by the either complicit in the scandal or downright useless Fees Office of the following:

Expenses can only be claimed if "wholly, exclusively and necessary" for the MP's business.

They must pay everything back that fails the first test.

If it's fraud, then they should be prosecuted in the normal way.

They just don't get it.

Just look at Bill Etherington Labour MP saying pretty much: "do what I say, not what I do".

Anonymous said...

It'll be interesting to hear Iain's take on Andrew Mackay.

Bardirect said...

But what will be left of the sovereignty of Parliament if MP's are subject to scrutiny by an unelected politically appointee?. Doesn't this also dilute the right and role of the electorate?

Indeed how will it be any different from the claism that "I'm squeaky clean me the fees office said so?"

Any reality consistent with the notion that Parliament is the final "High Court" is that MP's need to come up with a better system of regulating themselves, perhaps taking advice to get there.

We have already seen a litany of mistakes in Legg's review, asking for details of claims not made, for periods when an MP was not in fact an MP, which demoinstrates Legg's seal but lack of competence.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

Is somebody else writing your blog?

Little Red Riding Hood said...

Let me get this straight. When it comes to Tories, you're quite happy to run the 'it was within the rules' line? And 'will this stand up in a court of law'?

What absolute crap! Anyone with a passing acquaintance with morality would know that what this Tory did was absolutely wrong and borderline fraud. Why don't you just come out and say that, Iain, rather than all this mealy-mouthed nonsense about process? It seems to me that you're quite happy to stick the boot into people like Jacqui Smith but rather more squeamish when it comes to your own side.

Scary Biscuits said...

Iain, Every time you write ambivalently about standards I think you lower your chances to being selected for Bracknell, or anywhere else.

1. Stop repeating the Mandy-spin that the rules were applied retrospectively. They were not. Legg has just enforced the rules. The fact that this is an innovation is no defence for breaking them.

2. You're supposed to be a Conservative. Therefore stop arguing for yet more quangoes. We don't want our MPs to be answerable to an elected body; we want them answerable to us. It is fine that Labour have given Jacqui Smith a clean bill of health. She can now face her electors on that basis and good luck to her. It's become increasingly clear than many MPs think the old system of expenses was fair and reasonable: let them too stand on this platform and we can all look forward to the election.

3. Anymore than we don't want another quango, we don't want this decided in the courts either. MPs are accountable to us, the electorate, not to judges. It is fine for MPs to ignore Legg. He has merely expressed his opinion as requested. As democratically accountable representatives they are free to defy him and that is a matter solely between them and their local constituents. If they re-elect them then it can be said that their expenses have been approved. Again, we can all look forward to them making these arguments to their local voters. All we need is for Legg to make his findings public so the people can decide.

A said...

If is "company" is a partnership or if he is a sole proprietor a basic summary of the "company" accouts will have been submitted with his self-assessment to the inland revenue.

So at the lates all the evidence will be available to the public by 31st January. (though it his likely his comapny's accountant will have already calculated his tax liabilities for 08-09 by now.

Wilshire just needs to make available his self-assesssment submitted to Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue can assess if fraud has taken place not a political coterie.

Anonymous said...

Can we blame the EU for this debacle?

A said...

If the Wilshire "company" is a partnership or if he is a sole proprietor a basic summary of the "company" accounts will have been submitted with his self-assessment to the inland revenue.

So at the latest all the evidence will be available to the public by 31st January. (though it his likely his company's accountant will have already calculated his tax liabilities for 08-09 by now.

Wilshire just needs to make available his self-assessment submitted to the Inland Revenue. The Inland Revenue can assess if fraud has taken place not a political coterie.

Moral Majority said...

A lack of moral fibre should really be enough to have him removed from the Party surely?

There does come a point, in all this, when the MPs will have to realise that this whole issue isn't about laws or rules but about morality.

Twig said...

If Jacqui Smith now accepts what everyone else already knew, i.e. that her main home is the detached property Redditch and not her sisters spare bedroom in Putney, then on what grounds does she believe she should keep the cash?

I demand that she returns the over-claimed amount to the long suffering taxpaying public with interest.

The Lakelander said...

When I read my Daily Telegraph this morning, I saw photos of David Wilshire and his "girlfriend" Ann Palmer on the front page.

I couldn't help but think she is the image of Corporal Jones' girlfriend Mrs Fox in "Dad's Army."

How appropriate that Corporal Jones' favourite catchphrase was "nobody panic!"

I wonder if David Wilshire is beginning to panic?

Nick said...

It depends on how much information he gave the Fees Office about the company he was paying money to. If Wilshire was open and honest with the Fees Office about the fact that he owned the company, and so would trouser the money, then it's the Office's fault. If not, it's his.

iain said...

Iain, please stop using the dreadful phrase 'fit for purpose'.

Management consultant gobbledygook parroted by John Reid who clearly gets a lot more excited than I do about management consultants and their output.

Blackburn Rovers 10 - Burnley 0 said...


You seem to skirt over the part where you note that "only 1 Tory MP" was at the Standards Committee meeting which decided on Ms Smith's behaviour. You also make implicit assumptions that the missing Members would have voted against Ms Smith.

Shouldn't you be finding out why the other Tories weren't there?

Maybe they didn't think it important enough to attend? (Surely not.) Or maybe it is because the missing Tories would have been just as likely to let Ms Smith off the hook, and so "absented themselves"?

Never underestimate just how cosy this club is. This might be a helpful thought as you traverse the mean streets of Bracknell...

Anonymous said...

@Nick 2:56pm What?! That comment's just a wind up to provoke responses, isn't it?

Elby the Beserk said...

Old Holborn has pointed out that whilst MPs are squawking blue murder about retrospective repayments, they made no fuss about Darling's retrospective car tax in the budget.

Short memories? Or yet another case of one rule for the little people, another for the ruling elite?

Elby the Beserk said...

@Anon 8:33am

Um. This is Mr. Dale's blog. He can write about whatever he wants to. Why don't YOU do what you want HIM to do?

Carl Gardner, Head of Legal said...

I agree with those who say Legg has changed nothing retrospectively - he is enforcing the rules that applied at the time, and should have been enforced. The fact that there were no quantified limits to what could be spent under certain headings does not mean any claim, of any amount, was "within the rules".

As auditor, he has two options if he believes money was wrongly claimed - outside the rules - and should be repaid.

Either he simply says "I can't say how much exactly should be repaid, so must recommend none be repaid at all"; which would arguably be a total failure to apply the rules.

Or he devises a method for quantifying repayments. The most reasonable way of doing this is obviously to adopt a policy involving figures that should apply equally to all MPs.

For any MP to call that retrospectively amending the rules is an extreme, self-serving way of looking at it. It's like corporate fraudsters complaining about being prosecuted for fraud "retrospectively" when their accountants let them get away with it for ages. If there's any MP or prospective MP who fails to realise this, they certainly won't get my vote.

As for whether Legg will stand up in a court of law: I don't see how Legg can be legally challenged. For once, I think MPs would be right to say Parliamentary privilege applies. Funny if some of them don't want it to apply in this case.

Anonymous said...

When Court of Appeal and House of Lord's judges use their discretion, under case law, to change the law, it acts retrospectively. Such an action is justified because it is argued that the act, which is now criminal, was so obviously criminal that the defendants should have known that at the time. This was particularly relevant when the Law Lords changed the law in 1992 with regard to marital rape. The defendants argued in that case that it was unfair that the law acted retrospectively but the Courts accepted the argument stated above.

Whilst it is doubtful that rules Sir Thomas Legg is applying are acting retrospectively, even if they are I cannot see why the justification the Courts use cannot be applied here. In fact, were it to ever go to Court, this justification may well be used to uphold the decisions of Sir Thomas Legg.

Anonymous said...

Re anonymous at 11.02 and Nick at 2.56 can anyone tell me why the fees office have not been asked to account for their role in this? Or if they have what have they said? I find it incredible that they have not been asked/allowed to set out their position. If it is because of the Official Secrets Act - surely it is in the natural interest that they should be granted immunity?soleate

Any Colour but Brown said...

"Anonymous @10:13 AM
The report also states that, in accordance with the Green Book, Jacqui Smith in fact spent more time in her London home, however the 'overnight test' was 'implicit' within the Green Book."

The Green Book is not "implicit", it is explicit:
"The location of your main home will normally be a matter of fact. If you have more than one home, your main home will normally be the one where you spend more nights than any other."
It does not specify more time, it specifies more nights. That is a quote from the 2006 edition of the Green Book. It begs the question as to whether you have read the Green Book............

Any Colour but Brown said...

"David Mackintosh @12:03
FURTHER {just in case you seem to be having the same problem understanding THE RULES as the wee piggies in the zoo we call Westmonster had}

The fundamental principles required MPs personally to ensure that their use of the ACA was:
(c) in accordance with the Nolan principles of selflessness, accountability, honesty and leadership;"

Why have you quoted the Green Book for all of the other points, but slipped in c), which doesn't appear anywhere in Chapter 3 of the Green Book, that I can see?

Mrs Clayton said...

And lo and behold the man will resign! So the repayment will still be made?

Things have got so far out of hand that MP's who have been cleared are offering to pay money anyway. Frankly this has become in some areas, an exercise in who can wear the hair shirt the best.

What next? A fashion show of sackcloth and ashes? I never thought I would hear myself say on this issue - ENOUGH.

Unsworth said...

Well, 9.00 PM and Wilshire has decided he'll not be standing again. Now, there are some who would say that this is the honourable thing, that he has shown some decency. But isn't it the case that actually he had no other option - except for the really honourable thing which is to resign immediately? All that has happened is that he has managed to cling onto his substantial stipend for another few months, which will then be followed by the customary payoff, pension etc etc.

Frankly, most MPs are now lame ducks, some more obviously discredited than others, and all facing the prospect of a vengeful electorate.

Oh, and nice to see your comments on the BBC. Perhaps you could use such opportunities to express the clear and increasing rage out here in the blogosphere.

True Belle said...

Is this the same Standards Board that was devised by Parliament to flay good people in local government alive causing the growth of vexatious complaints against hard working poorly recompensed councillors, parish district and county, and other sections of the public sector?

Serves every self serving greedy MP damned well right!

The worm turned.

killemallletgodsortemout said...

According to Guido, wilshire is now toast.

byron9 said...

If anyone doubted it before all this stuff this has just confirmed what most people thought. This is that the UK is a sewer with all the shit bobbing along above us with the newly ennobled ex-Speaker as TOP TURD.

Joe Public said...

"Mr Wilshire has rightly referred himself to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner"

Iain, I have to say that's BOLLOX, and proven to be BOLLOX.

48 hrs ago Wilshire was on nobody's radar except the Torygraph's.

They rightly contacted him for his 'defence'; he realised the game was up, so tried to bluff it.

He spent most of today attempting to defend the indefensible.

Tonight he's history.

I thought you had your 'finger on the pulse of politics'. Please don't press too hard, it's nearly comatose.

Anonymous said...

The Standards committee should be replaced you say, I agree lets replace them with The Police.

Putin said...

I think most of us can understand the odd fiver being misclaimed.But serial long term high value claims based not on the rules but an 'agreement' with the Fees Office which appears to be outside those rules is something most reasonable people cannot understand. This is fraud.I would go to prison for it probably and lose my job. What's the difference here?

My anger is made worse by Harman's pronouncement that Parliament will be the judge and jury and nothing will be referred to the police.

The Standards committee has failed -matters of a criminal nature should not be dealt with by that group

Twig said...

Bring back Elizabeth Filkin.

Anonymous said...

John Lyon, not Sir John -no knighthood quite yet

Anonymous said...

Every week a new scandal, a new politcian with a new scam!

These benefit claimants sound very suspect indeed, I think they need the full rigour of the law to scrutinise their past actions.

They seem to have claimed for upgrading their life style instead of necessities; claiming for stamp duty mortgage, & plasma TV, instead of just the required rents or interest.

I think the British public wants investigations to see if their actions are tax evasion or tax avoidance, before any election.

We would like to know who we may be asked to vote for, and as many of these law makers have set up a system where even councils can tap phones or snoop in our bins for less serious offences, I have no problem with every financial record of these suspects being investigated.

What do you think Iain, do you the level of suspected fraudsters here, needs scrutiny by the police?

Gordon Kennedy