Ministers are quaking in their boots.
Today, the Daily Telegraph printed the report into their investigation of the expenses of UK Members of Parliament, without the big black lines through them that MPs have been spending time scribbling in before the supposed official release in July.
Although if it was someone committing benefit fraud you can be sure that they would be down the station being charged, and their fingerprints and DNA taken, it appears that MPs are above the Law of the Land and the police have instead been called in to investigate how The Telegraph got hold of the documents.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas called the Telegraph’s reporting “absolutely disgusting” and seems to believe that the newspaper’s claims might be “actionable” and is seeking legal advice. A pity he doesn’t understand the difference between ‘claims’ and ‘evidence’.
Minister’s are attempting to defend themselves by stating that all their claims were made within the rules. It’s unlikely to help Peter Mandelson’s case as he claimed £2850 less than a week after announcing his decision to stand down as an MP. Then he sold the house at a large profit.
Jack Straw claimed his full council tax on his constituency house in Blackburn, Lancs whilst receiving a 50 percent zero occupancy discount. On July 20th 2008, just two months after discovering that he would be found out because expenses would be made public, he paid it back, his letter marked “In confidence” as he had hoped to keep it secret.
However, all of them are exposed as criminals by the very rules they claim to have upheld. Those rules are laid out in the Minister’s Green Book 2009. (pdf file)
The Green Book contains Fundamental Principles based on ‘The Code of Conduct and the Rules relating to the conduct of Members’.
The first of these Principles states:
“Claims should be above reproach and must reflect actual usage of the resources being claimed.”
The fifth Principle states:
“Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else.”
Furthermore, “Members are committed to openness about what expenditure has been incurred and for what purposes.”
So, not only are their claims definitely not above reproach, and clearly giving the appearance of improper personal benefit; but they can even be seen trying to cover them up, which is hardly in keeping with their duty to be “committed to openness”.
In the next section of The Green Book 2009, ‘Applying the Principles’, Ministers are given a set of questions “designed to assist Members in coming to a decision about whether or not costs incurred are appropriate to be met from the allowances”.
One of those questions is:
“Could the claim in any way damage the reputation of Parliament or its Members?”
And so we have our answers.
These claims have damaged the reputation of parliament and its Members, they have not been above reproach, and they have not been committed to openness about their expenses.
“Above reproach” are the two words that sentence them.
I reproach thee, sleazy and thieving varlets, and call for the full weight of the Hammer of Law to fall upon you.
Benefit Fraud is a crime. No Ifs, no Buts.
©2009 The Initiatrix