734 – A Funny Old Number

Not quite a Jumbo Jet, but the number of Expenses Claims fraudulently made by Bob Blackman MP (allegedly).

You can find the story here.

Now there may be those amongst you who think I’m being mean-spirited and petty minded, and turning a claim for 2 miles into a claim for 10 miles is not a big deal. Well I happen to think that it IS a big deal. Not due to the amount of money that seems to have been over claimed, but the cynical method that seems to have been applied to a large number of claims.

If this was a Police Officer members of the public (and politicians, you can be certain of that) would be calling for heads to roll. People, quite rightly, expect and demand, the highest levels of integrity from their Police Officers, and, in the main, they get it.

Well I demand the highest levels of integrity from our politicians.

Why? Because, if for no other reason, THEY ARE THE LAW MAKERS.

I am sick to the back teeth of hearing Theresa May, amongst others, running our Police Officers into the ground, while other members of her party are still systematically screwing the expenses system.

The question was asked on Twitter this morning “has this been reported to the Police?” Well it certainly should be. There seems to be more than enough grounds to warrant a criminal investigation, yet IPSA seem to think that a slapped wrist is the appropriate sanction without referring it it onwards to the appropriate authority. How arrogant is that? One more example of the inappropriate use of the word Independent

Rant over, off to B&Q now to buy some Magnolia emulsion for Angry Towers, #Vanilla service will be resumed as soon as possible.

Or maybe not..

One Rule For Them………It Was Always Thus

I have to thank the Torygraph for this morning’s moan.

They ran an article yesterday informing us that disgraced politician Chris Huhne was back in Parliament.

This wasn’t exactly the story it first appears to be but does raise an important ‘Two Fingers’ issue.

Huhne is apparently one of a number of disgraced politicians who have been issued a pass giving them access to the House of Commons. 360 are able to use Westminster’s heavily subsidised bars and restaurants as well as other facilities – including ex-Tory minister Jonathan Aitken, who was jailed in 1999 for perjury etc. Many of the pass holders seem to have left the Commons after the Expenses Scandal or similar controversies.

Derek Conway stepped down after it was disclosed that he was employing (and paying on expenses) his son, who didn’t actually have any work to do.

Ben Chapman stood down after over-claiming his mortgage by £15,000.

Harry Cohen got his marching orders for misusing the accommodation expenses system.

It was commented on Twatter yesterday, can you imagine the scenario of a Police Officer being dismissed for dishonesty and being welcomed back the Police Social Club, mixing with his ex colleagues and enjoying the very favourable prices at the bar and in the restaurants? There is also the potential for picking up the odd bit of work by mixing in such circles, or lobbying MPs in the bar, getting your view across to serving politicians.

Why should disgraced politicians be able to enjoy these privileges? Does this mean that we can all apply for this pass and enjoy everything it brings? My the Admin Office would be overwhelmed with applications, but I suspect that we wouldn’t even be considered for a pass to the HoC.

So why should ex, disgraced, politicians continue to enjoy these perks. We, the Public, pay for subsidising these advantageous prices, and I for one don’t want to. Let them drink at the Bell And Anchor or any other pub of their choosing, I fail to see why they should have the right to continue benefitting from a system most of them abused.

Labour backbencher John Mann said: “I do not think someone who has committed a criminal offence that has meant they went to prison should get privileged access to the Houses of Parliament. Let them queue with the general public if they want to get in.”

Mr Mann said the list “reinforces the impression that this is a gentlemen’s club”.

I’m a Gentleman. Where do I apply?

My Old Friend IDS Has Done It Again

Iain Duncan Smith, IDS, (or IBS to his friends) has excelled himself once more.  His Department is completely and utterly incompetent and he should fall on his Biro, that he’s probably claimed on expenses anyway.  just as an aside he claimed (and was paid) almost £91 for some Banner Pens. He must write a lot.

You don’t need me to remind you what a shit-storm there has been lately about a  certain organisation seemingly fudging its official figures, and how they have had their ‘kitemark’ revoked as they cannot currently be relied upon.

You would think, would you not, that in the light of that any Government Department releasing some official figures would double check them for accuracy. Wouldn’t you? Or is it just me?

Then I found this headline;

Universal credit claimants not counted in jobless figures, says Labour

It would appear to an old duffer like me that the government have made fudging their figures so bloody complicated that they don’t even understand how to do it themselves.

For as long as I can remember there has been a seemingly endless see-saw of figures between Unemployed and Incapacitated.  Depending upon the government of the day, their colour and this week’s message people have been swapped between lists in order to get one or the other looking better. Am I being too cynical, because that’s EXACTLY how it looks to me in Angry Towers.

Errors by the Department for Work and Pensions have meant claimants are being excluded from official unemployment figures.  The Office for National Statistics (ONS), which publishes unemployment figures, said the DWP had not been able to supply it with information in a way that has allowed Universal Credit claimants to be counted.

The shadow work and pensions secretary, Rachel Reeves said “If David Cameron and Iain Duncan Smith can’t ensure UC claimants are included on official unemployment figures, how can we have any confidence in their ability to deliver this flagship project?  There are now serious questions about whether the government even knows how many people are being left off official unemployment figures.”

The fact that some Universal Credit claimants are working is neither here nor there. The DWP clearly doesn’t have a database which is capable of separating them out, schoolboy error.

In a period when HMG has severely criticised the Police and its Stats you really would think they would get it right. Stat Fudging on an Imperial Scale.

Roll on 2015.

Iain-Duncan-Smith-3002319

Iain Duncan Smith DWP

Iain Duncan Smith

ConDem – The Government That Just Keeps Giving (And Taking)

In the week when MPs get an 11% pay rise and a brand spanking new pension scheme, (have I mentioned those before?) just so long as they stop claiming for tea and biscuits for the office, we get the disastrous (some may say criminally so) waste of millions/billions of pounds by Government.

I’ve mentioned before the odious Iain Duncan Smith’s Department for Work and Pensions and their ridiculous Universal Credit Scheme.  By anybody’s best estimate it is due to WASTE at least £34,000,000 and possibly anything up to £130,000,000 because the IT system won’t work. Back to the Drawing Board there then.

Phillip Hammond’s Ministry of Defence is set to waste £7.4 million because he tried to privatise (that P word again) their procurement system and all but one of the bidders withdrew. I wonder why that could be? Maybe there’s not so much profit in procurement as the private side thought.

This is on top of my old friend “Aircraft Carriers” that I’ve ranted about before.

The Government changed Labour’s plans to buy jump jets. But after delays and more costs emerged, Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced a U-turn costing at least £74million, the National Audit Office has revealed.

Margaret Hodge said: “We were supposed to get two aircraft carriers, available from 2016 and 2018, at a cost of £3.65billion. We are now on course to spend £5.5billion and have no aircraft carrier capability for nearly a decade.

“Officials also made incredibly basic errors such as forgetting to include the costs of VAT and inflation.” Now that one’s an absolute classic. I do hope someone got sacked for that.

Hammond’s department was also responsible for a trifling £40,000 bill over the last two years for ringing the Speaking Clock. Speechless.

And then today we get the news that a totally disgraceful £55 BILLION is being wasted through Fraud and Unclaimed Taxes according to the Public Accounts Committee who described this figure as “worryingly high“. The Public Accounts Committee obviously employ masters of understatement amongst their staff.

Total government accounts drawn up by the Treasury show that in 2011-12 some £13.2 billion had to be written off due to fraud and error. Margaret Hodge (again) said: “Taxpayer losses due to fraud and error are worryingly high. It is staggering that, in one year, the public sector was defrauded of over £20 billion and the tax gap rose to £35 billion.”

But it’s OK, we are in times of Austerity. Your pay has been frozen, your pension eroded, but HMG can continue to waster staggering amounts of money and still qualify for an 11% pay rise. When’s the next election? Might just stand, seems like a good number to me.

But one serious question. What could you do with all that money if you added it up and used it for fixing the Police, NHS, Armed Forces. Someone, somewhere wouldn’t be losing their job, folks could have the right kit, we might have a usable aircraft carrier somewhere, hospital waiting times reduced, who knows what you could do with it all. A Bean Counter somewhere could tell us I’m sure.

MPs’ Expenses Part II

Hey Kev, What’s in the shed?  A Shed Load of Cash for your MP is what’s in the Shed, and make no mistake.

Yesterday’s post was more about the headline figures and big numbers, today I thought I’d have a look at the small numbers,  I find that you can tell almost as much about an MP by what they claim for, as well as how much they have claimed in total.

Before I get to that though, what about IPSA themselves. How transparent are they really?

Back in July I asked them the following under the Freedom of Information Act;

1. – Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
2 – What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
3 – What is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been asked to pay back expenses previously claimed but not prosecuted?

The main thrust of their response was this;

We understand that no investigations conducted by the Compliance Officer for IPSA have resulted in prosecution
The remainder of their answer was a complete cop-out, don’t ask us, ask someone else.
So yesterday I hit them with this one;
Under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act could you please supply me with the following information;How many of your staff are qualified in Accountancy?How many of your staff are qualified as Auditors?What level of proactive auditing is conducted by yourselves, or an external body, into matters which are the responsibility of IPSA, such as MPs’ Business Costs and Expenses?”
Quite simple, not much wriggle-room really. Can’t think of a single reason why they shouldn’t answer it, but I’m sure they’ll think of one.

While I’m waiting for their response I thought it would be good fun to look at the very latest data available for 2013/14 re MPs’ Expenses and examine some of the trivia.  As this is a public document I have absolutely no problem with Naming and Shaming.

The document contains 10,500 rows of data, a mere trifle really.

1,570 claims were for less than a fiver.  Nearly 15% of MPs’ Expenses claims are for less than a fiver! Does that tell us anything?

Sharon Hodgson MP claimed £4.44 for Maintaining Office Equipment, that’s official speak for Water Cooler Rental.

Nick Gibb MP had two consecutive claims of £2.25 for Computer Hardware Purchase (item not specified)

Nick Smith MP claimed 0.68p (yes, 68 pence) for his Vodafone usage March to April

Chuka Umunna MP claimed 40 pence for a pint of milk for a meeting.  He/She has also claimed for Coffee, Sugar and Water on separate occasions.

Nadine Dorries, the MP that keeps on giving, claimed £2.10 for an assortment of Highlighter pens.  Doesn’t the House of Commons have a stationery cupboard?

I’m sure you’re getting the picture.

David Cameron’s claims seem to consist mainly claiming back 25% contributions towards his Parliamentary Assistant’s mobile phone bill.

Gorgeous George Osborne has only made two claims, for rental of his Blackberry.

Our old friend Cruella doesn’t seem to claim expenses.

All pretty mundane really, and the full document is readily available from the IPSA website, my point is this;

What a greedy bunch they must be if they have to claim for pints of milk and highlighter pens etc.  There are loads more examples but I’m sure you don’t want to read all of them.  If they have spent the money then I presume that rules entitle them to claim the money back, although I’m sure in the case of milk, highlighter pens etc, other suitable alternatives were probably available.  I just have difficulty, from a personal point of view, understanding the mentality of someone on a hefty salary actually bothering to reclaim 40 pence, but I mustn’t criticise too heftily for following the rules.

Out of 10,500 claims for Expenses only ONE was unpaid, because it did not come under the Expenses Scheme, and that was by Harriett Baldwin MP, for £45 in relation to a  Bryansk delegation.  Bryansk is apparently a city in Russia, known for steel and machinery manufacture amongst other things.

Just like yesterday, if you want to know what YOUR MP is claiming for, ask me nicely and I might just tell you, or you can download the whole picture from the IPSA website.

I can’t help thinking though, that it’s time the whole system was overhauled again, with proper external, independent scrutiny and accountability.  Self-Regulation just doesn’t seem to be working. Parliament seem to think that they can change Terms and Conditions at will, let them have some of it please.

MPs’ Expenses Bill Soars To Almost £100m

Well, there’s a headline to start the week with.  If you’re feeling charitable please feel free to forward new quills to Angry Towers, this one’s getting worn out.

It took me quite a while to locate the document referred to in this article on Sky News, but I found it in the end.  IPSA may be ‘transparent’, but they certainly don’t believe in making it easy to find stuff, but while I was squirrelling I did find reference to a Freedom of Information Request which relates to MPs renting from other MPs.  I don’t know about you but I’d love to read that, trouble is that all their #FOI correspondence is published under a reference number, making it difficult to locate a specific enquiry, but as an infrequent betting man my money would be on “Refused to Answer” or “Information Not Held”.

Going back to the matter in hand, the Sky Headline is a tad misleading (no surprises there) but not too inaccurate.

It’s not just MPs Expenses which constitutes the £100 million but a shed load of other stuff as well.

You can choose from;

  • Constituency Office Spend
  • Accommodation Spend
  • TravelSubSpend
  • Staffing Spend
  • Winding Up Spend (I quite like that one)
  • Startup Spend
  • Misc Spend [sic]
  • StaffingPayroll

Then there’s a few really interesting columns where they have to declare things like

  • Connected Party
  • Connected Party Salary
  • Connected Party Job

Three of our illustrious MPs actually claim salaries for TWO members of their family etc, including the ever-present Nadine Dorries, who never seems to be out of our news.  She appears to have claimed for her two daughters, Philippa and Jennifer as her Office Manager and Senior Secretary respectively, but Philippa may have now left.  Mind you £40-£45,000 is not bad money for an Office Manager.

My own MP, up here in DeadBadgerShire seems to employ his wife as his Senior Parliamentary Assistant at a salary of £30-£35,000 in addition to his own salary of £100,000+.  When’s the next General Election? I might stand.

So, getting back to the £100,000,000.

This is made up of

Constituency Office – £10,400,00

Accommodation – £6,640,000

Travel – £4,215,000

Staffing – £2,425,000

Winding Up – £10,662

Start Up – £25,645

Miscellaneous – £56,000

Salaries – £74,000,000

TOTAL SPEND £97,644,635  and I believe that wives, girlfriends, sons, daughters etc cost extra to this figure.

So as you can see, it’s not all simple expenses, but a bloody lot of money nevertheless.

And whilst we’re on the subject of MPs expenses, I butted into someone else’s conversation this morning about MPs claiming Council Tax as an Expense.

It took me about 2 minutes to discover that in 2012 there were 990 claims for Council Tax totalling £255,550.

I also noted a bit of sneaking by IPSA.  They publish these figures in spreadsheets which you can easily (?) download.  Most people I know process spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel which has a physical limit of 65,536 rows of data, but the spreadsheet for 2012-2013 contains 99,069 rows of data, which means that most people will miss about 33,000 rows of data (claims), about one third of the total.

A cursory examination of the 99,069 claims for EXPENSES by MPs last year shows that they totalled £14,600,543 of which only £3,105 was unpaid for whatever reason.  I’m not quite sure what that tells me, but in olden times that would suggest that if a form had a signature on it the claim was paid. But I might be wrong, our MPs might just be very good at submitting Expenses claims and get them right almost every time.

But of the claims NOT paid I was particularly impressed by one North West MP who had one claim for £3 rejected on the basis that it was a Duplicate Claim.  Fair Enough. What was it for? I hear you ask. Window Cleaning at his office.  Send that Window Cleaner round here, I’ll pay £3 to get my windows cleaned.

How much is YOUR MP costing the country?  Ask me nicely and I might just tell you

#SnoutsInTheTrough

Just a Quickie today. Now where have I heard that before?

What news was there on 11th July that stopped me seeing this?

IPSA released it’s recommendations for MPs’ Pay and Pensions

Briefly, these are the recommendations that up for consultation,

  • a salary of £74,000 in 2015, indexed to average earnings in the whole economy thereafter;
  • a new pension on a par with those in other parts of the public service, saving the taxpayer millions; (Have they not just had a Pension Reform very recently via Maude Francis?) With the Taxpayer paying 60% of the Career Average Pension;
  • scrapping out-of-touch “resettlement payments” worth tens of thousands of pound per MP and introducing more modest, modern redundancy packages, available only to those who contest their seat and lose; and
  • a tighter regime of business costs and expenses – ending the provision for things such as evening meals.
 
Additionally, IPSA proposes that MPs produce an annual report on their activities and achievements.  You mean they’re not obliged to already?  What on earth do they do then?
 
Sir Ian said the package was fair to taxpayers and fair to MPs
Main benefits of the proposed Pension Scheme are;
  • Defined benefit scheme, based on career average revalued earnings (CARE).
  • Based on a total cost of 22.9% of payroll (in comparison to 32.4% now).
  • Retirement age to be the same as State Pension Age or 65, whichever is the higher.
  • Accrual rate of1/51st of pensionable salary each year.
  • Revaluation rate equal to the increase in the Consumer Prices Index.
  • MPs pay 40% of the cost of the scheme; the taxpayer 60%, with a ceiling and floor
  • arrangement to ensure stability in contribution rates and to protect the taxpayer
  • from significant increases in cost.
  • Death in service and survivor pension benefits reducedto the same level as the Ministers’ scheme.
  • Transitional protection for MPs within 10 years of retirement age on 1 April 2013.
  • Some protection available to MPs between 10 and 13.5 years from retirement.

Fair to Taxpayers?  Some of it might be, but I got bloody apoplectic when I read the bit about redundancy packages.  When did Elected representatives become Employees?  Seems to me they want the best of both worlds, but why should that surprise me?

Over to you my reader, what do you think?

#SnoutsInAllTheTroughs
 

MPs Expenses – 2 Versions

I don’t know about you but I’ve absolutely had enough of the sleaze and expenses furore from all parties in our illustrious government, Lords and Commoners alike.

I’m also quite (well extremely actually) fed up with the constant bashing that our public services (and the Police in particular) are taking at the hands of our politicians.

With naughtiness and mischief in mind I let loose an #FOI request to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority asking the following questions;

  • Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
  • What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
  • What is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been asked to pay back expenses previously  claimed but not prosecuted?

Quite simple one would think.  Oh no.

The reply that I got back was this;

IPSA does not hold the information that you request.IPSA began operations on 7 May 2010 and does not hold information relating to claims made or processed prior to that date.
Prior to 7 May 2010, the administration of business costs and expenses was the responsibility of the Department of Resources at the House of Commons. For information relating to claims made prior to 7 May 2010, you may wish to contact the House of Commons FOI team at the following email address:FOICommons@parliament.uk
.
Investigations that relate to business costs and expenses claimed for since May 2010 via IPSA’s Scheme are the responsibility of the Compliance Officer for IPSA, an office independent of IPSA and, for the purposes of the FOIA, a separate public authority. Details of the outcome of all investigations undertaken by the Compliance
Officer,including details of any repayments requested in relation to expenses previously claimed,are published on the Compliance Officer’s website and may be viewed via this link: www.parliamentarycompliance.org.uk
.
We understand that no investigations conducted by the Compliance Officer for IPSA have resulted in prosecution.Investigations that relate to claims made prior to May 2010 via the House of Commons
Department of Resources are the responsibility of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. For more information, you may wish to visit the Commissioner’s website via the following link:http://www.parliament.uk/pcs

So,apparently they don’t hold any archive material from before May 2010.

Well I bimbled on over to the Compliance Officer’s website as suggested, expecting to be absolutely inundated with data.

I dared to look up the investigations conducted by IPSA’s Compliance Officer.

For 2010 (post May obviously) I found NONE

For 2011 I found 21 in the 3rd Quarter of the year

For 2012 I found NONE.

In addition there are more comprehensive reports on investigations into Valerie Vaz and Nadine Dorries.

Just so that you don’t feel left out and frustrated I will reproduce one of the reports into an investigation chosen at random, you’ll like it;

Investigation summary
1.The Compliance Officer for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority carried
out an investigation into whether Ian Mearns MP was paid an amount under the MPs’ Expenses Scheme (the Scheme) that should not have been allowed.
2.The investigation was conducted in accordance with section 9(1) of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (as amended by the Constitutional Reform and Governance Act2010) (PSA).
3.The investigation was initiated by the Compliance Officer, as he had reason to believe
Mr Mearns may have received funding for claims relating to a website (www.ianmearns.org.uk) that did not comply with the rules of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) as set out in the Scheme.
4. On 11 April 2011 the Compliance Officer notified Mr Mearns that he was the subject of a preliminary investigation and on 23 June 2011 the Compliance Officer opened a substantive investigation into this matter.
5. On 23 August 2011, the Compliance Officer issued a Statement of Provisional Findings. This statement provides full details of the investigation. The findings are summarised below.
Findings
6. The Compliance Officer found:
a. that, in contravention of the rules of the MPs’ Expenses Scheme, Mr Mearns received reimbursement for claims
he submitted for costs relating to his website at a time when the website contained a party political logo;
b. that Mr Mearns acted swiftly to rectify the contravention;
c. that IPSA was in part at fault as its validation procedures should have prevented reimbursement being made;
d. that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable; and
e. that IPSA had strengthened its validation practices.
Resolution
7. On 7 September Mr Mearns confirmed by telephone that he accepted the provisional findings.
8. No further action was required either of Mr Mearns or of IPSA and on 21 September 2011 the investigation was closed.

An excellent write-up to an investigation I’m sure you’ll agree.  Yes, the MP did something wrong and claimed money he shouldn’t have but IPSA was at fault so we won’t ask him to pay it back.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve read every single one of the 21 reports but the 3 or 4 that I have read ALL contained this phrase “that seeking a repayment for this contravention would be neither proportionate nor reasonable

So it seems to me that IPSA’s Compliance Officer is a bit of a toothless tiger, might give you a nasty suck but that’s about all.  Nothing there to instil fear into our trusted politicians.

You can probably imagine, I was not best pleased with the lack of information being provided.

So, undeterred I asked the same questions of the Metropolitan Police.

On this occasion they were happy to supply me with some information;

At Question 1 you ask
Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been investigated for
mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?
The MPS response is:
All MPs were subject to an initial assessment.
16 MPs were then subject to an extended assessment or investigation.

At Question 2 you ask
What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?
The MPS response is:
4 MPs were prosecuted and convicted.
1 MP was prosecuted but deemed unfit to be convicted.
1 MP is the subject to an ongoing prosecution.

At first glance it seems like the MPS investigations were somewhat more thorough than those of the IPSA Compliance officer.

Bottom line is though, there was a huge scandal over Parliamentary ‘Expenses’ which has never really gone away.  IPSA’s investigations don’t really justify the name and the Met seems to have as good a job as it can with the information it was provided with. BUT these people are the Law Makers. They have no excuse for breaking the Law. They should, above all people, understand the Law.  It is NOT ACCEPTABLE for IPSA to say “It’s our fault, blame us, we’ll take no action’.

This scandal shows no signs of going away. Darwin’s Theory of Evolution holds good.  They find other ways to get away with claiming dubious expenses.  Just look at the IPSA website and see the kind of claims that are being paid every week as acceptable.  Then come back and tell me they don’t have #SNOUTSINTHETROUGH.

Ethics

Good morning folks,

I woke up this morning to a right little Twitter Shit-Storm about Ethics. I’m sure you’ve seen it, how can you have missed it?

I’m sure it’s reported everywhere this morning but our favourite news agency Pravda, sorry, I meant the BBC, have chosen to report it under the headline

‘Cut police pensions’ to punish misconduct, MPs say

“Police officers who commit serious misconduct should have their pensions docked, a group of MPs has said.

The Home Affairs Select Committee also called for a new code of ethics for all officers in England and Wales.

Its report comes after the “plebgate” affair and a series of allegations about the conduct of undercover police.”

So what’s actually NEW about this?  The old Police Authorities always had the power to take away part of an officer’s pension if he/she was convicted of a serious crime, I presume that PCCs have retained this power, I have seen nothing to the contrary.  Last time I looked British Justice still worked on the ‘Innocent till proven Guilty’ principle, although sometimes I wonder with the way certain sections of the media report things.

“But the committee said it had learned of numerous cases where police officers facing corruption allegations had retired to avoid disciplinary proceedings and had suffered no financial penalty.

It cited the example of Sir Norman Bettison, former chief constable of West Yorkshire, who stepped down while facing a disciplinary investigation for gross misconduct charges relating to the Hillsborough disaster.”

This is true, I’m sure that we can all repeat stories of officers who have resigned in order to avoid disciplinary proceedings, but this is somewhat different.  If an officer is facing allegations of corruption as stated above, the mere fact that they have conveniently resigned does not make them immune from criminal investigation and subsequent prosecution. Many Police Forces allow officers under criminal investigation to resign so that they appear in the dock as “Ex Policed Officer Smith” and not “Serving Police Officer Smith”.  Personally I don’t have a problem with this practice per se as it helps to maintain the image of the Police Service, but it is important that the investigation/prosecution is continued to retain the integrity of the process.

I remain to be convinced that we need a new Code of Ethics, I’m pretty certain that existing policies and procedures are quite capable of dealing with almost any issue if applied correctly and consistently.

As for the allegations about the conduct of undercover officers, they are just that, allegations. Trial by Media has taken place and all 43 Police Forces have been convicted.  If these allegations turn out to be true then I would fully support any action that is taken to bring those responsible to book.  IF they are true there are several people out there who know the truth, let them come forward and we should be big enough and ugly enough to deal with it and take it on the chin, deal with honestly and move forward to retain the respect and admiration that the Police Service in the United Kingdom deserves, and it DOES deserve it.  The SIO must know the truth.  Other Undercover Officers presumably know the truth, there should be a Decision Log in existence somewhere recording the decision and why it was taken.  A costly enquiry will/should uncover the truth anyway, so let those people who know the truth come forward and put us out of our misery.  All I want to hear is the truth, good, bad or indifferent. Is that too much to expect?

As for MPs demanding Ethics from anybody, that’s just laughable.  Ethically bankrupt, I don’t need to go any further than one word – Expenses.  I have no desire to repeat all of the details that we know so well anyway, but I will share one thing with you.  This morning I reversed my own decision, and once again put on my #FOI Cloak and submitted the following request to IPSA and the Met Police

“Since 2008 what is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been
investigated for mis-claiming Parliamentary Expenses?

What is the TOTAL number that have been prosecuted?

What is the TOTAL number of MPs who have been asked to pay back
expenses previously claimed but not prosecuted?”

If IPSA doesn’t duck the issue and refuse to answer this should enable us to quantify the Ethics of MPs.  We know how many MPs make up the House of Commons, if I actually get an answer we can calculate the percentage that is Unethical.

No profession is perfect and I’m not blind or stupid enough to think that the all Police Officers are perfect. But I am arrogant enough to think that those that MAKE the laws of this land should be prosecuted if they BREAK the laws of this land, in EVERY instance.

Finally, is it just a coincidence that this shit-storm broke today, when the other attention-grabbing headline was this one

David Cameron ‘warned he cannot stop pay rise for MPs’

Apparently our politicians think that they deserve a pay rise of up to 32%, although, in fairness, this is likely to be pegged at a mere 15%.

#AllInThisTogether or #SnoutsInTheTrough? You decide.

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

Nope, I haven’t gone mad and started promoting parliamentary committees.

But I did get to wondering after Saturday’s blog, “I Am Disturbed“, about the thorny subject of ethics in the Houses of Parliament.

We probably first started to doubt the ethics of our politicians when the now famous expenses scandal excrement hit the air conditioning device.  That has been well documented and publicised so I won’t dwell on it further except to say that old habits seem to die hard with some people.

In Camoron and co’s reforms of the Legal System they have scrapped Legal Aid for several different things, but one that crept through quietly was Legal Aid in respect of challenging government decisions.  Our old friend Chris Grayling has changed the system to avoid the government having to defend itself continuously against ‘spurious’ challenges.

But wait! It gets worse! He has also introduced a £1,300 charge.

Under the new rules, people will have to pay both sides’ costs of preparing cases for a review until it is accepted by a court, when Legal Aid will start to pick up the bill.

Legal aid would then pick up the £1,000 to £1,300 cost of preparing legal papers retrospectively, as long as the case had been accepted by the court.

So although Legal Aid might still pick up the tab if you’re lucky, this will only be retrospective, making it impractical or impossible for normal folk to challenge government decisions in the courts.

Is it ethical to deliberately set out to make it harder to challenge a ‘democratic’ (ha) decision?

Under another plan foreign migrants are to be banned from obtaining legal aid for civil claims until they have lived in Britain for at least a year. Is this an ethical policy or is it a racist policy?

The latest round of NHS Reforms will directly or indirectly benefit current members of the House of Lords. There are those that would have you believe that they will benefit certain members of the Cabinet as well.

One fifth of Lords who voted on Health Bill had conflicted interests

Peers from every party were found to have private healthcare connections. According to Social Investigations’ research, one in four Conservative peers had links, compared to one in six Labour and one in 10 Liberal Democrats.

The Lords’ Register of Interests is updated regularly and exists to chart any potential conflict of interests. The Lords’ code of conduct also states that peers must ‘declare when speaking in the House, or communicating with ministers or public servants, any interest which is a relevant interest in the context of the debate or the matter under discussion.’

However, there is no procedure to stop Lords with conflicted interests from voting on bills. And there is no suggestion that any of the Lords who voted for the Bill did anything wrong.

But is it ethical?

The NHS is safe in our hands
The NHS is safe in our hands

Privatisation in its many guises.  This brings Ministers and Lords into close proximity with companies like our old friends G4S (but not G4S exclusively I must point out).

John Reid (now Lord Reid), former Home Secretary and Minister for Health, Defence and Transport, who went on the G4S payroll at £50,000 in 2008 when he was a backbench MP, is now a G4S director with a seat in the House of Lords.

“Is the Minister aware that the best protection against misuse or fraud on cyber issues is biometric protection?” asked Lord Reid during a January 2012 debate on electoral registration in the House of Lords, neglecting to mention that his employers G4S are big players in the biometrics market.

What else is this company up to? It’s a partner in the private finance initiative project that is GCHQ, the UK Government Communications Headquarters. It’s engaged in “total facilities management”in the NHS, looking forward to “strong pipeline” from the Department of Health. It’s at the heart of government plans to install smart meters in every single home in Britain, with Centrica, O2 mobile and others gathering data for the “G4S Data Bank”.  It’s a big player in the automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) market. Its commanding position in “asylum markets” gets only stronger,

I don’t believe that Lord Reid is the only Peer in this position, I just use him as an example of the sort of thing that goes on. Neither am I saying that Lord Reid is doing anything wrong.

But is it ethical?

Finally (for now) – Pensions. Government are forever telling us that we must work longer, pay more in and draw less out. Final Salary Pension Schemes are rapidly being replaced with Career Average Pension Schemes. So it should come as no great surprise to your that our politicians are holding on to their Final Salary Pensions like there’s no tomorrow, and for some of them there might not be.

MPs should face “exactly the same changes” to their pensions as those imposed on public sector workers, David Cameron once said in 2011.  In opposition, the Tories and Lib Dems pledged to ditch the final salary pension scheme for new MPs and replace it with one linked to prices on the Stock Market. What’s more, while raising the retirement age for 2.6 million of the country’s working women by up to two years, MPs have still not accepted proposals made in summer 2011 for their pension age to rise from 65 to 68 while they await the outcome of the IPSA review into salaries and pensions (see below).

But is it ethical?

And then today we get this headline

MPs may get £10k pay rise: But they say: ‘It’s not snouts in the trough – if you pay peanuts you get monkeys’

IPSA believes MPs’ wages are well below those of equivalent professionals working in London such as accountants.According to some insiders, officials believe a pay rise as high as 25 per cent – taking  salaries to £82,172 – is needed to give MPs a fair deal.But it is thought they may recommend a figure closer to £10,000 to try to minimise the anticipated public outcry. Public Outcry?  Would there really be any? A Pay Rise of 25%? Why would there be a Public Outcry about that?

A senior MP said he feared they would be accused of  having their ‘snouts in the trough’ but argued: ‘Voters may not like it, but if you pay peanuts you get monkeys.’

So the establishment that already pays its coffee makes more than a Probationary PC is now considering an inflation-busting pay rise of 25% for itself?  But it’s OK it’s not #SnoutsInTheTrough, they say so. To sweeten the pill for the public they are likely to demand that MPs give up their guaranteed pensions and switch to a less generous scheme.
But is it ethical?
The Oxford Dictionary defines ethical;
  • relating to moral principles or the branch of knowledge dealing with these:ethical issues in nursing ethical standards
  • morally good or correct:can a profitable business ever be ethical?
  • avoiding activities or organizations that do harm to people or the environment:an expert on ethical investment switching to more ethical products adopt ethical shopping habits ethical holidays.

So I guess my question has become “Are these issues above morally good or correct?”

If your answer is NO then what the bloody hell is the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner doing about it?

The Office of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards deals with the application of the Code of Conduct and related Rules that apply to Members of Parliament.

This includes the registration of financial interests held by MPs and the investigation of complaints about MPs who have allegedly breached the Code of Conduct or related Rules.

Key responsibilities

  • Overseeing the maintenance and monitoring the operation of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests
  • Providing advice on a confidential basis to individual Members and to the Select Committee on Standards about the interpretation of the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members
  • Monitoring the operation of the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules and, where appropriate, proposing possible modifications of it to the Committee on Standards
  • Preparing guidance and providing training for Members on matters of conduct, propriety and ethics
  • Receiving and investigating complaints about Members who are allegedly in breach of the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules, and reporting her findings to the Committee on Standards
  • The Commissioner also presents an annual report to the House of Commons on the work of her office

I understand that most, if not all, of the above relate to individuals, but who the hell monitors the ethics of Parliament as a whole? Or is it just that they can fob us off with absolutely anything they choose without fear of challenge or consequences? Because that’s exactly what it feels like.