Posts Tagged ‘Parliament’

MPs to escape expenses investigations after paperwork destroyed by Parliament

November 2, 2014

House of Commons authorities have destroyed all evidence of MPs expenses’ claims prior to 2010, meaning end of official investigations into scandal

David Cameron and Maria Miller

David Cameron and Maria Miller

MPs accused of abusing the unreformed expenses system will escape official investigation after the House of Commons authorities destroyed all record of their claims, the Daily Telegraph can reveal.

John Bercow, the Speaker, faces accusations he has presided over a fresh cover-up of MPs’ expenses after tens of thousands of pieces of paperwork relating to claims made before 2010 under the scandal-hit regime were shredded.

Members of the public who have written to Kathryn Hudson, the standards watchdog, to raise concerns about their MP’s claims have been told there can be no investigation due to lack of evidence.

Under the House of Commons “Authorised Records Disposal Practice, which is overseen by Mr Bercow’s committee, records of MPs’ expenses claims are destroyed after three years. The move is necessary to comply with data protection laws, a Commons spokesman said.

However, under that same set of guidelines, the pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday. Health and safety records are kept for up to 40 years, while thousands of other classes of official documents on the day-to-day running of the House are stored indefinitely in the Parliamentary Archive.

al that rocked Parliament in 2009 after obtaining a leaked CD, holds the only record of claims made under the unreformed system. That leak followed a High Court battle by the Commons authorities to prevent the release of the information.

It also means that “cold case” investigations like that into Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, by the expenses watchdog are now unlikely.

In April Mrs Miller was forced to resign from the Cabinet and apologise to the Commons after Mrs Hudson ruled she had wrongly claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage payments between 2005 and 2009 on a home occupied by her parents. The case was first uncovered by the Telegraph in 2012.

The policy came to light after Tory activists asked Mrs Hudson to investigate accommodation claims worth £103,000 made by Andrew Turner, their local Conservative MP, between 2004 and 2010.

David Pugh, Alan Stovell and Gary Taylor, members of the Isle of Wight Conservative Association, alleged Mr Turner had improperly designated the five-bedroom island home he shares with his partner as his “second home”, while telling the fees office that a one-bedroom flat in London was his main home.

Mr Turner last night insisted his claims were audited and found in compliance with the rules at the time.

Mrs Hudson, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, told Mr Pugh the allegation was “serious”, but refused to investigate, citing “availability of evidence”.

“All records relating to expenses claims before 2010 have now been destroyed. No unredacted information is now available here nor any notes of conversations or advice given to Mr Turner which might establish the facts,” she wrote. Half of the period in dispute fell outside the seven-year time limit for investigation, she added.

Mr Pugh told Mrs Hudson the decision to destroy the paperwork was “extremely concerning.”

“This is, in our view, sadly indicative of a wider culture within the Westminster and Whitehall establishment of an inclination to destroy information and evidence which may give rise to future difficult questions about MPs and those in positions of power,” he wrote.

A House of Commons spokesman said the policy on destroying MPs’ expenses records was “long-standing”, but it was originally set by the Members Estimate Committee, which is now chaired by Mr Bercow.

However, committee minutes seen by this newspaper show that in March 2010, in the wake of the MPs expenses scandal, Mr Bercow’s committee called for the policy to be suspended and all expenses records to be saved.

Then, in February 2012, the committee discussed and agreed to implement the “existing policy on the retention and disposal of records” relating to expenses.

MPs at that meeting, which took place in the Speaker’s House, included Sir George Young, the Conservative Leader of the House; Angela Eagle, his Labour shadow; and John Thurso, the senior Liberal Democrats.

Only expenses records where inquiries into wrongdoing have already been opened have been retained.

John Mann, the Labour MP for Bassetlaw, said members have been kept in the dark about the policy. He will tabled a question, asking Mr Bercow to explain himself in the Commons.

“It sounds like MPs trying to protect MPs again. It will make the public very suspicious of what the motive is. The old gentlemen’s club is resurrecting itself.”

Sir Alistair Graham, the former chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said historians have been denied the chance to study Parliament’s “worst hour”.

“It is scandalous that anybody has destroyed the records for that period. Who knows what anybody’s motivation was?”

“The people concerned should know better. There was a strong public interest in retaining this information so that people have access to it, and I’m really very surprised.”

The revelation comes as seven former Labours MPs and two ex-Lib Dems voted out of Parliament in the wake of the scandal have been re-selected by their parties to contest the 2015 General Election.

Andrew Dismore, Joan Ryan and Dawn Butler are among former members who lost their jobs in a wave of public anger in the 2010 election, and are now seeking office again.

Mr Turner said: “Conservative MPs’ expenses, including my own, were independently audited twice in 2009 to ensure that the rules in force at the time were complied with. In June of that year, for complete transparency, I invited any Islander with any concerns at all to view my complete and un-redacted expenses records, and a number of them did.”

He added he had not been contacted by any constituents or Mrs Hudson about the complaint.

A Commons spokesman said: “Destruction dates for records are prescribed by the House of Commons Authorised Records Disposal Practice (ARDP) policy, and in compliance with the Data Protection Act.

“The retention period for general financial data, of which Members’ Expenses is a sub-set, is three years after the current financial year finishes. The long-standing policy on retention of MPs’ expenses records was originally agreed by the Members Estimate Committee (MEC).”

“In accordance with the ARDP, the disposal of records relating to Members’ expenses claims pre-2010 was carried out on a routine basis at various times each year up to 2014, four years after the House of Commons’ oversight of the MPs’ expenses arrangements finished.”

Originally published by Daily Telegraph.

You could not make it up if you tried. Expense claims destroyed, those found guilty of fiddling their expenses and kicked out, are standing for re-election.

Last week, MPs rejected the Right of Recall, granting the electorate the right to kick them out mid-term. It is easy to see why.

Occupy Democracy

October 20, 2014
Occupy Democracy

Occupy Democracy

For a couple of weeks or more, pro-democracy activists have taken to the streets of Hong Kong demanding open and fair elections. They have faced down police brutality and attacks by thugs orchestrated by the imposed illegitimate chief executive (Hong Kong a business not a democracy).

At the weekend, supporters mounted a rally in solidarity outside Parliament.

With full backing of the political establishment?

Er no, akin to scenes from Hong Kong, police were sent in to brutally break up the rally.

In the face of police brutality, Parliament Square has been held.

And as usual deathly silence from mainstream media.

In the UK we do not have democracy, we have a sham democracy.

We have party apparatchiks who are out of touch with the people, who have never done an honest day’s work in their lives, who are in the pockets of Big Business. The people are reduced to Election fodder, cast your vote every five years then keep quiet.

In Hong Kong, thousands of people are fighting courageously for the right to a real vote. They know that a system where candidates are decided by the state is no democracy.

In Scotland, 45% of people rejected Westminster rule. They know that a system that takes the power to make local decisions out of their hands is no democracy.

Democracy is not just about having a vote every four, now five years. It is about having the power to make your voice heard. It is about people taking the decisions, not corrupt politicians.

A government that answers to profit before people is no democracy.

In the UK today, record numbers of people are homeless, record numbers rely on food banks to feed their families, and record numbers face fuel poverty as energy prices rise eight times faster than wages.

At the same time, inequality is back on the rise, making us one of the most unequal countries in the developed world. The amount we ask businesses to contribute to our social services in tax is set to be the lowest of any of the G20 countries. Tax evasion and avoidance costs the UK £95 billion a year, enough to fund the NHS in England.

Nobody voted to be made homeless, hungry or unemployed. It is clear whose voices are being heard.

Austerity, Shock Doctrine, is not working.

We need to start a movement for real democracy. The voices of the majority have been ignored for too long. We need to give ourselves the tools to hold our politicians to account, and to end the corporate lobbying power that drowns our voices out.

Parliament Square is to be occupied 17-26t October 2014, to begin a fight for a real democracy. There, in the shadow of Nelson Mandela’s statue, we will transform the Square into a civic space where we can re-envision what our society could be like, with talks, workshops, community assemblies, music and theatre.

This is what real democracy was like in Athens. People met on a hillside overlooking the Acropolis. Anyone could speak. They stood on a large stone and addressed the assembled crowd. That large stone is still there. Not the sham democracy in Parliament.

The NHS is being privatised whilst the politicians claim it is safe in their hands.

TTIP is being forced through in secrecy. A trade agreement that is a front to hand more power to global corporations.

The planet fries whilst the politicians lie.

Climate Rush carol singers prevented from lobbying

December 21, 2010

Climate Rush carol singers in St. Stephen's Hall, having been escorted out of Central Lobby

On Monday evening, I was part of a Climate Rush contingent in Central Lobby at the Houses of Parliament. We were there to, as the venue suggests, lobby our MPs on the importance of taking action on climate change. However, we were prevented from doing so by the parliamentary authorities and the police. Their reason? Our chosen method of lobbying: carol singing.

Following successful singing sessions in Hyde Park and on Oxford Street, we had decided to take our unique lobbying method to the heart of power, and to the men and women who sit everyday and govern our country. The coalition government has promised to be the greenest ever, but so far we have seen precious little evidence of this: the so called Green Investment Bank is at present little better than a fund, and George Osborne’s green promises are looking more and more empty as time goes on.

This is why we went to parliament today: to remind MPs on all sides of the House where their priorities should lie, in an appropriately festive manner. Some members of Climate Rush were however prevented from even entering the Houses of Parliament, and those of us who did gain entry had our lobbying abruptly halted. We were part way through our first carol, a reworked version of ‘I Saw Three Ships’, when the police and parliamentary security descended, plucking our carol sheets from our hands and escorting us from Central Lobby. The deputy sergeant at arms even put in an appearance to remind us that such festive cheer would ‘disturb the good running of the house’ and thus was not permitted.

Following this somewhat humourless remark, all of the carol singers had their details taken by the police, although some officers were barely able to contain their amusement at writing ’singing in central lobby’ as their reason for stopping and speaking to us.

At least one MP later commented that she was “sorry not to have seen [us]“, and to all other MPs who had been invited to a unique lobbying occasion, we can only apologize. Stay tuned, however, as this is certainly not the last you’ll be seeing of Climate Rush.

Posted by Climate Rush on their blog. Also posted on Crossing Points.

Am I surprised? Sadly no.

Sadly once again we are seeing, as we saw with the student fees protests a couple of weeks ago, the rottenness that lies at the heart of what jokingly masquerades as democracy.

We saw it earlier in the day when the spineless Ed Miliband attacked the trade unions for planning a wave of protests against the slash and burn of public services being pushed by the loathsome Nick Clegg and his ilk. It only goes to show how out of touch is Milliband. He would rather continue with the childish yah-boo public school antics across the chamber of the House, petty childish point-scoring of no interest to anyone.

Also see

Right to protest?

Do we need a “democratic right” to protest?

Johann Hari: Your right to protest is under threat

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