Sunday, February 07, 2010

A Solution to Severance Pay for Guilty MPs

There's a lot in the papers today about the amount of severance pay MPs receive if they stand down from Parliament. Depending on length of service, the sum is anything from £30-£65,000. Naturally there is a lot of disquiet about some MPs receiving such sums. The Speaker, John Bercow, says there's nothing that can be done about it. Rot.

Why not introduce a simple Bill which says that anyone convicted of a criminal offence relating to their service as an MP has to forfeit their severance pay? And if criminal proceedings are ongoing at the time of an election, the money isn't paid over until the MP is found innocent?

Simples.

41 comments:

Josh said...

not entirely sure about the "found innocent" part.

Guido Fawkes said...

Great bloggers think alike.

Fenrir said...

Indeed, surely there is at least one MP who can put such a simple measure before the house.

Philip said...

Simples indeed.

The thought that these men will receive another penny from the public purse whilst facing criminal charges is just plain wrong.

Alan Douglas said...

... and this is the man who is an improvement on Gorbals Mick ? In what way, exactly ?

Alan Douglas

Fenrir said...

A minor point maybe, but surely in this country we still find people guilty, they are presumed to be innocent until proved otherwise; or have I missed something? The money can be held in escrow until such time as they are acquitted or convicted.

IanVisits said...

An alternative would be to make the payment of each severance fee subject to a vote in the House.

An honourable MP stepping down, or being kicked out by the electorate would have little worry about as such a vote would be a mere formality.

A disgraced MP though would find it difficult to persuade their fellow members that they should vote in favour of such a payment, when those same MPs would face their constituents disgust after their voting intentions were made public.

Such a change would enable the House to censure an MP for misconduct leading to a resignation, even where criminal behaviour was not implicated.

I also doubt MPs would vote along party lines, knowing as they would, that the tables could be turned against them at a following General Election.

Ean Craigie said...

To simples for John the idiot to understand and may leave his re-election chances in tatters, to the speaker of course

Scary Biscuits said...

Iain is more right than he realises.

The accused MPs have argued that they should be tried by Parliament not by the courts. Whatever the outcome of this innovative defence, Parliament should welcome their suggestion.

After the next general election, the new members should convene a special court to try people who have brought the house into disrepute. As the highest court in the land it would have the power to cancel their gold plated pensions, impose unlimited fines or prison sentences completely unfettered by any other legislation. There would be no right of appeal. I don't think the MPs who are claiming immunity from ordinary courts quite realise what they are asking for.

ferial ferret said...

Severance pay for MPs is unjustifiable perk - especially when our pensions were raided by GB

Hawkeye said...

You're becoming a socialist Iain.

They are innocent until proven guilty. Don't make me turn up at your Manchester bash to explain it to you!!!

Osama the Nazarene said...

Your "solution" will only affect 3 or 4 MPs. The disquiet is about all troughing MPs especially the flippers who have so far got away scot-free.

By the way, you say ...the money isn't paid over until the MP is found innocent? Surely these MPs ARE INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty!

The Bloke's Cookbook said...

I'm unclear as to why MPs need 'severance pay' anyway. After all, they've been well paid for their time in office, they're either retiring for good or will go on to do other work, and it's not as though the rest of us get massive handouts to 'help us by' when we get laid off.

Scrap it completely.

john in cheshire said...

If I am in any way representative of the ordinary man in the street, then we want to see people punished.
If it was my choice I'd see people hanging from a scaffold, but in our squeamish times, a long prison sentence would have to suffice.
That, and measure to ensure that others, when they dare to steal from us are quickly detected, tried and punished. Not regardless of them being MPs but because they are MPs - they are being given temporary powers, by us the voters, to represent our interests. Fear is the only means to ensure that they do this for us.

Right Hon. said...

Can we also extend the abolition (or reduction) of severance pay to the worst offenders according to Legg. How about subtracting the figure they have been asked to repay from their severance pay so that we have a variable but appropriate penalty for these money-grubbing wretches.

I'd vote for this as it would hurt my troughing MP Andrew Mackay and his double-dipping MP wife right where matters most to them... in their wide, deep pockets.

Pete said...

Bugger the severance pay -it's the PENSIONS which bother me!

Why can't they be treated as others in public service are, such as the police - if convicted as a criminal, forfeit all rights to pension entitlement?

cherami said...

They're going to get pensions aren't they? Severance pay should be scrapped immediately.

And I like the idea of the HoC setting itself up as a tribunal to try its own.

tory boys never grow up said...

Courts don't find people innocent in the UK you dolt! Ir is this the new Tory idea of justice?

Jimmy said...

No if they're Labour they're presumed guilty unless Iain is publishing their book.

The Grim Reaper said...

Can't we just have them burnt, like they did in the old days?

Iain Dale said...

Jimmy, you are being a prat again. Please point out anywhere where I have presumed guilt. I have not.

Lola said...

Why don't they just shoot them? That's what they do in other totalitarian regimes. Surely Darling Brown Balls must have considered this? It's entirely compatible with their particular brand of lefty fascism.

David Boothroyd said...

Can I just point out that as of April, all issues relating to pay and allowances for Members of Parliament will be the responsibility of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority and therefore out of the hands of Parliament? While it might be possible for Parliament to pass a resolution to urge IPSA to make certain changes, or a Bill to order IPSA to make some amendments to the regulations, it would be defeating the whole purpose of setting pay and allowances independently.

Tcheuchter said...

I still have to be convinced that MPs should be paid anything other than genuine expenses.

If they need an income other than what they can provide themselves it should be provided by their supporters (parties).

tory boys never grow up said...

"Please point out anywhere where I have presumed guilt."

"the money isn't paid over until the MP is found innocent?"

Happy to help - as someone who wants to be a legislator perhaps you could explain how such legislation could be drafted, as well the rights and wrongs of retrospective legislation or usurping the power of the couts to pass sentences.

Mike Law said...

I still don't understand why any MP needs severance pay... it's not a bloody job.

Scary Biscuits said...

Jimmy at al, complaining that Iain is assuming guilt (which he isn't): even if he were remember that these MPs are asking to be tried outside the law, by Parliament itself. Thus, they themselves are waiving the rights that the law grants them. Parliament is under no obligation to assume their innocence or to give them any rights at all. These MPs can't have it both ways.

bewick said...

Yes fine Iain but as someone said this affects only 3 or 4.
With the exception of some who made "honest mistakes" most of those ordered to pay back MUST have known that what they were charging for went far beyond "wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred" for the performance of their duties. Yet most have still got away with lots.
Even when the Commons Committees intervened to judge wrongdoing the offenders still escape with minor censure. Even Conway didn't have to pay back much of what he paid to his sons for nothing.
So the people saying that the Commons should judge need to think again. Will the Commons REALLY take a hard line on their peers? I think not.
Many of those standing down are doing so to preserve their resettlement grants which I believe are to go. They should stop NOW.
As for pensions. Hard one that. It was indeed possible for a public servant to be deprived of pension whether or not convicted. In 30 years service I saw it happen just once. Today? Well Human Rights would intervene and in any case MPs DO pay towards their own pension and at a higher rate than most other public servants. Their rewards though are far too good at 1/40 per year of service.
I'm with John in Cheshire. Scaffold for the guilty ones.

simonmills47 said...

There is actually nothing to worry about. The offences they are charged with are lifestyle offences under the Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, and it can be assumed that any income/expenditure over 6 years preceding final offence is benefit from criminal conduct. There can then be an order confiscating the "available amount", which is the value of any free property held by them, which would include a legally acquired severance payout. It can't be avoided by transferring it to someone else at an undervalue- that is a "tainted gift".

Jimmy said...

Iain,

You are calling for them to be punished with retrospective legislation. I'd call that hairsplitting. What I find more striking is after the last couple of weeks bashing Labour for abandoning Peter Who when he was in trouble you are now insisting the party intervenes to get the three MPs' solicitors to dump them. Do you not see even a small inconsistency there?

tory boys never grow up said...

Scary Biscuits

Another big clue - read the title of the post.

For very good reasons we do not ask people to prove their innocence before the courts - and if we are not presuming they are guilty there is no need to do so.

Perhaps we should ask the Tories to repay all the Ashcroft donations until he can prove this is company Bearwood is innocent?

As for your idea that Parliments should sit in retrospective judgement on previous Parlimentarians - with no right of appeal - I think you will find that most totalitarians have behaved in a similar manner when they get to power. Didn't Arthur Scargill advocate something simialr in respect of Margaret Thatcher

Axel said...

Hang on a minute. If a criminal offense has been committed the guilty party will reeive due punishment according to the law. Are you really advocating they should receive more punishment than anybody else? If you forward the argument that they are in breach of public trust -- fine; but you'd then have to legislate for it. Please not another case of retroactive disjustice. I'm not an apologist for these people, but justice is justice. The court of public opinion is a misnomer.
Pippinbothe

Dick Puddlecote said...

Don't be silly. That would take up valuable parliamentary time set aside for passing laws to criminalise all of us.

Will Dean said...

"Simple bills" introduced quickly to satisfy the newspapers don't have a glowing history.

It's depressing that a would-be MP hasn't noticed that already.

Will it ever be possible to have a Parliament that isn't stuffed-full of people who think the only answer to every wrong is more legislation?

tory boys never grow up said...

Should also bear in mind that any bill to remove parlimentary privilege from those charged may well be entirely unnecessary even under the current law. And if such a bill were to to passed you can be sure that the accused would argue that any such bill would support their view that they had parlimentary privelge before the bill was passed and that the legislation could not be retrospective.

Dale and Nick Clegg just have not thought the position through - and their lack of knowledge of legal process really just demonstrates how unfit they are to be legislators.

Iain Dale said...

Seeing as I havent commented on parliamentary privilege, you dont know my position.

Clearly you are unfit to comment on this blog.

DespairingLiberal said...

I know this will be an unpopular view, but I don't personally feel that all future judicial decisions as they affect Parliament should be left to leading Tory bloggers. Call me old fashioned!

On a more serious note, it is becoming clearer every day that this small group - 3 low-ranking MPs and 1 low-ranking Peer - are little more than patsies to be thrown to a slavering press. Thereby distracting attention from the much bigger outrage of flipping, rent claiming for relatives and direct tax-free handovers of public money to relatives via house sales.

Why these are considered "OK" and "legal" is beyond me, although I am happy to confess to not being a leading Jurist like Iain Dale and Paul Staines.

tory boys never grow up said...

Quite right Ian - the first para was aimed at previous comment.

My comment re you not having thought through the legal position still stands however based upon your comments about the MPs concerned having to prove their innocence and retrospective legislation.

I remember the days when MPs used not to comment on sub-judice cases - why shouldn't bloggers whose views have wider circulation (perhaps regretably) do the same?

Ben said...

Firstly - There is nothing Bercow can do about it. He can't introduce legislation.


Secondly - Are you suggesting that money be held back from people accused of a crime until they are found innocent? This sits very uncomfortably with the presumption of innocence which I should remind you applies to everyone no matter how guilty they look.

That said, I don't disagree with the principle.

tory boys never grow up said...

Ben

Bercow doesn't need to introduce legislation - he thinks that he can withhold the payments under the current Rules of the House.

Given Dale's , Guido's Cameron's and Clegg's call for legislation which doesn't appear to be necessary - I do hope everyone remembers this the next time they moan about there being too much legislation.

Jimmy said...

Of course the main attraction of withholding severance is that it would penalise the three Labour defendants without costing the tory defendant a penny.