Wednesday, January 21, 2009

One Rule For Them...

On Monday I wrote about the MySociety online campaign to persuade MPs to vote against Harriet Harman's desire to keep MP's expenses secret on Thursday. More than 6,700 people have joined the Facebook Group, dozens of blogs from all parts of the political spectrum have taken up the issue and many people have emailed their MPs or contacted them through TheyWorkForYou.

As a result both the LibDem and Conservative parties are imposing a whip on their MPs to fight the move. Labour MPs are on a three line whip to ram in through. This should not be a matter for party politics, it is about doing the right thing. I am delighted that Alan Duncan's first act as Shadow Leader of the House was to toughen up the Partys stance on this issue. Until this week only frontbenchers were being whipped. Now the whole parliamentary part is being asked to vote against.

If you haven't already contacted your own MP to lobby on this issue, it's not too late. The vote isn't until Thursday afternoon. I will be listing here on all those MPs who vote to do one thing, when they make laws which force the rest of us to do the exact opposite.


Obnoxio The Clown said...

My (Tory) MP stopped speaking to me after I asked him to support an EDM on publishing MP's expenses.

They are ALL at it and the Tories and LibDems are all praying that this gets pushed through, despite all their posturing.

Mr Mr said...

"Gordon Brown is to order Labour MPs to back a controversial plan to exempt details of MPs' expenses from the Freedom of Information Act."

Showdown looms over MPs' expenses

I had just seen the above on the BBC website and am pleased that you are blogging on this disgraceful act by our Prime Minister. The man is an utter disgrace to British politics. I wish the Liberals, Consevatives and labour MPs with a conscience, all the best in defeating the government on this.

Oldrightie said...

Some of Obnoxio's comment is true but you have to start somewhere or just give in.
Good on Ian and all those taking a stand.
My forecast for the UK under Labour is available , if interested!

Bob said...


Andrew said...

If those awful grasping Wintertons vote for this motion then the whip should be withdrawn from them, and any other Conservatives who support the motion - the public have had enough of MPs making laws that apply to us (e.g. Inland Revenue) that don't apply to MPs - and it's time that our party took a firm stand on this - it is very much in the party's interest to do this, even if it's not very appealing to individual MPs, even for honest reasons.

Guthrum said...

So far the only MP's I have seen make a public declaration that whatever the outcome of the vote they will publish are Douglas Carswell and Ben Wallace- I would be so much more impressed if all opposition MP's made this declaration, rather than be forced into by their party leaders.

None of these Party Leaders seem very worked up about this, and in the week that a large number of us are filling online tax forms, says volumes about Labour's timing.

Bet at PMQ's all we get is pathetic I love Obama more than you do quips.

David Boothroyd said...

OK then Iain, I want to see all your expenses. The last five years will do, but it must be the actual receipts and claims, not just the information about how much you were paid and for what.

Same goes for any commenter in the thread who is silly enough to argue for the disclosure of MPs receipts on the basis that "MPs should be subject to the same rules as the rest of us".

And I note that no-one can explain how "One rule for them" suddenly becomes absolutely essential when a Tory MP gets arrested under the criminal law.

Pogo said...

I've written to my MP, but won't be holding my breath... He appears to be little more than ambitious labour lobby-fodder.

Pogo said...

Mr Boothroyd,

I think that it would be reasonable to expect Ian to make public all his expenses as long as they are being recompensed by the taxpayer. If they aren't, then it's none of our damned business.

Iain Dale said...

I declare all my expenses to the Inland Revenue and I have receipts to back up every single one of them.

As for you seeing them, I am not a publicly elected official so go hang. But if I were, I would happily detail every penny I claimed from the public purse and back it up with receipts - as I promised to do at the last election. Fat lot of good it did me!

You keep bringing Damian Green into this for reasons I can only surmise. There are no crossovers here. Parliamentary privilege does and should not extend to fiddling expenses.

Under your argument you are being entirely inconsistent on the Green issue. You are arguing that they SHOULD have privilege on expenses but NOT on confidentiality of constituents' correspondence. Are you sure that is a comfortable position for you to be in?!!!

David Boothroyd said...

Got you rattled there. An immediate comment and a twitter, you must know you're defending a difficult position.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Oh Mr Boothroyd... a) as Iain says he has to list his expenses to the revenue as does anyone who has their own compnay. The issue for MPs is they are paid for by the taxpayer.

I had to provide receipts for every expense I had when I worked for Royal Mail (paid for by the taxpayer). I also had to in the private sector for our HR function to deal with.

What justification do you have for MPs not publishing this information?

Iain Dale said...

You fatuous point warranted both replies. Debating a point is not an indication of being rattled. I notice you don't respond to the substance of the issue. But I am not surprised.

Lady Finchley said...


In answer to your comment here is my comment from the Iain's previous posting on the subject. This is probably why he won't be signing the EDM but will be voting against the Government (unless of course your MP is a Winterton)

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.

Iain Dale said...

Lady Finchley, please mind your language!

Lady Finchley said...

Sorry, Iain - my bad!

David Boothroyd said...

The assertion that "MPs should be subject to the same rules they impose on others" is a general one which you never stated had any exceptions (indeed to do so would remove all force behind your point). As a point of fact I think it is too sweeping a statement because it does not account for Parliamentary privilege.

It applies with perfect force to Damian Green. As I have previously pointed out, Green took the leaks he had obtained from Galley and disclosed them to the press, not to Parliament. He evidently had some form of regular arrangement. A civil servant who regularly discloses confidential documents is arguably guilty of misconduct in public office; someone who arranges their further disclosure is arguably guilty of conspiracy to procure misconduct in public office. Parliamentary privilege cannot enter into it. The point though is this: you were arguing that it did enter into it, and separately that MPs should not have exemptions from the law. The two are plainly and fundamentally in conflict.

Then on expenses, you were the one who asserted that because you had to provide receipts for money you claim, MPs should have to do so. You brought in your own expenses into the comparison. Now you want to dance around the issue and bring in the difference between public and private sector employment. It may surprise you to know that you can't use Freedom of Information to get expenses claims by Civil Servants. (NB the National Audit Office voluntarily disclosed Sir John Bourn's claims, just in case you were thinking the opposite)

Anonymous said...

David Boothroyd ~ what, exactly, is your problem with transparency when spending public money? Do you believe, perhaps, that councils, etc, shouldn't bother with publishing accounts, audits, etc, and we should just throw money at them and hope for the best?

Everyone who claims expenses has to provide receipts, either to the HMRC in case of the self employed, or to their employer. Why do you think that MP's should be treated differently?

David Boothroyd said...

Furthermore it seems the Conservative Party have been utter hypocrites on this issue as well. They negotiated the text of the draft statutory instrument with the government, said they were happy with it, and then say that they are against it!

Opportunistic do-nothing Tories are nothing new but this is as blatant as they come.

Anonymous said...

Yet again, you fail to answer the question.

Why do you think that MP's should be exempt from detailing their expenses, when other aren't? Why should this area of public expenditure be exempt from scrutiny?

Iain Dale said...

What utter rubbish. So it's clear, you don't think MPs should have to provide receipts for their expenses. The thing is, I just know that if this was being proposed by a Tory government, you would be arguing exactly what I am. And you'd be adding in accusations of Tory sleaze for good measure.

Wrinkled Weasel said...

"Unnecessary secrecy in government leads to arrogance in government and defective policy decisions. The Scott Report on arms to Iraq revealed Conservative abuses of power. We are pledged to a Freedom of Information Act, leading to more open government.."

Tony Blair, Labour Party Manifesto, 1997

David Boothroyd said...

Harry - this isn't actually about submission of receipts; the subject is not contained in any of the resolutions to be moved tomorrow.

In practice the effect of requiring MPs to submit receipts for everything would considerably increase the cost of administering the Fees Office but would be very unlikely to detect any significant fraud.

Reference to HMRC is a red herring. MPs' tax affairs are absolutely subject to the same rules as everyone else. If HMRC treats the Fees Office differently then it probably saves us all money by not requiring so many Parliamentary officials.

Note that the primary responsibility for detecting fraud in MPs' expenses is the Fees Office, not the press.

David Boothroyd said...

A reply consisting only of "what utter rubbish" does not constitute an argument. Do you think "MPs should be subject to the same rules as the rest of us" or don't you? If you do, how can you object to the police's actions in respect of Damian Green, and will you send us details of your expenses?

Anonymous said...

The Guardian is reporting that Brown has backed down and that there'll be full disclosure of accounts within 'weeks'.

Jonathan Sheppard said...

Free vote now eh? Hmmmmm

TheBoilingFrog said...


Daily politics show have confirm from Harperson and the lobby the vote is whipped, but Brown during PMQs said it was a free vote.

Beckett on DP didn't know whether she was coming or going!

Jess The Dog said...

Looks like Brown has just pulled the plug on this, according to the Guardian.

I emailed my MP (Labour) and got a courteous response that mostly agreed with me but raised a few issues in terms of managing receipts and hinted that he would be voting in favour of the order.

I agree there may be difficulties with managing the disclosure of receipts but a FOI exemption through a rushed Order with no debate is not the way to deal with this, but it is textbook New Labour.

Unknown said...

Iain: I blogged the disgusting approach by Labour to whip this through last night (so all three readers of my blog can be informed) and have got a few more people involved. I've just read about the U-turn and I'm quite happy - it could be better, e.g. the whole vote being scrapped, but it's good.

Eddie 180 said...

Did you notice how the Clunking Fist managed to blame the Tories for this U turn...
Apparently they had suggested that they would support the move - now it is clear that they don't. So the PM removes the SI.
Who is running the country?

John M Ward said...

It has just come to light (in the DP) that this has now been shelved: the Statutory Instrument has been withdrawn.

I think it must have got a little too hot for the Government to be able to contain, especially after the 3-line Whip business came to public notice…

Bob said...

Signatories so far:

Swinson, Jo
Shepherd, Richard
Sanders, Adrian
Winnick, David
Bottomley, Peter
Hoey, Kate
Russell, Bob
Harris, Evan
Field, Frank
Fisher, Mark
Webb, Steve
Hopkins, Kelvin
Jones, Lynne
Key, Robert
Loughton, Tim
Moore, Michael
Burstow, Paul
Corbyn, Jeremy
Davey, Edward
Drew, David
George, Andrew
Barrett, John
Stunell, Andrew
Willis, Phil
Alexander, Danny
Carswell, Douglas
Davies, Philip
Farron, Timothy
Leech, John
Hunter, Mark
Rennie, Willie
Davies, Dai

Unsworth said...

David Boothroyd

Running to form, again. You obviously believe that the Fees Office - which we all pay for - should not have an additional burden placed upon it. Why?

So far the Fees Office has shown itself to be incapable of regulation - short of rubber-stamping all claims.

You're really being quite obtuse. It's perfectly reasonable for the public to know exactly what our MPs are claiming from the public purse - in full detail.

You claim additional work-loads. Fine, employ more staff. So far there's been no complaint about the numbers of those working in the Fees Office - but there certainly has about the lack of oversight and transparency.

Frankly it's in the interests of the Fees Office to collude with MPs who do not wish to see their expenses revealed to the public. The Fees Office certainly doesn't want its utterly useless perfomance to be held up to scrutiny. That is the game-plan. Plead on the basis that they don't have the resource. Well it ain't going to cost that much to replace the Fees Office with a half-way decent firm of book-keepers. Probably rather less that the costs of the Office as it now stands.

It's not rocket science to control, record and annually publish expenses of about a couple of thousand people - even if some of them are those exotic creatures called Members of Parliament. I would use about half a dozen people at the most to do that, and with office space and overheads you should be able to do the job comfortably for about a million per year - and have some cash left over for the occasional piss-up too.

Anonymous said...

Why does boothroyd never reply when browns accused of doing what Green did.Typical double standards from his masters innit sad.
Come on boothroyd,lets hear you condemn brown as well.