‘The MPs’ expenses scandal has exposed the House of Commons as an Augean stable – and I mean to get it cleaned up’, writes Mark Thomas.
As some readers may be aware, I have been working on the destruction of international capitalism and bourgeois parliamentary democracy for some time. However, even I have been taken aback by my recent run of success. Had I factored in the self-destructive culture of greed, I could have spent considerably less time handing out leaflets and waving placards and spent considerably more time on the champagne aspect of the “champagne anarchist” life style.
Frankly, no one could have quite predicted the depths to which parliament has sunk. And each release of information, similar to the release of Police Academy films, gets progressively lower and more vile.
So when I saw the headline “Police called in over MPs’ expenses”, I was naturally delighted. I had visions of MPs being dragged off to answer for their crimes and the Lord Archer Memorial Wing of Ford Open over flowing with “right honourables”. What a fool I was to believe that MPs would be treated in the same manner as the rest of us. The police, as it turned out, were being called in for the whistleblower – that was Speaker Martin’s vision of justice.
Throughout this, MPs keep insisting that they have “acted within the rules”, but quite clearly, they have not. The Green Book which lays out the rules for allowances says that expenses claimed must be “wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the purposes of performing your parliamentary duties”.
So, just what parliamentary duty requires a moat to be cleaned?
To my knowledge, there is no such position as minister for Jousting, Archery and Medieval Defence, and even if there were, it would highly dubious to claim for your personal moat. How many constituents feel that their MP is simply not up to the job unless they have a chandelier? And now Elliot Morley has claimed £16,000 for a mortgage that had already been repaid and he didn’t notice. What planet do you live on when you don’t notice £800 turning up in your bank account each month? Quite clearly, the rules have been broken.
Quite simply, none of us one of us could get away it. When benefit cheats get caught working and signing on, they get punished. They don’t form a committee made up of other benefit claimants to debate how they might make new rules to prevent themselves from doing it again. They certainly don’t appear on BBC News barking that “they work extremely hard and made a simple mistake.”
Nor can an exposed tax dodger offer to pay back money because they are “concerned about how it looks to the outside world”, and then walk away with no repercussion.
It is unfair, unjust and profoundly undemocratic. Which is why lawyers acting on my behalf have served legal papers on Speaker Martin this morning. As the chair for the House of Commons Commission, he should take urgent steps to commence a review of the department’s actions in dealing with MPs’ applications for expenses. These should include an independent audit of expenses and the forced repayment of wrongly claimed expenses; and in cases of fraudulent claims, the police should be called in. Speaker Martin has 14 days to respond. If he does not, I will instigate a judicial review of Speaker Martin’s decision, on the legal grounds that public law should be consistent. MPs should not be allowed to be above the law and what is good enough for us is good enough for them.
I’ll keep you posted on how I get on.
Update (Thurs 17:20): Thanks ever so much for offers of support – at the moment I’ve made decision I should pay for legal costs incurred so far. But if we end up taking Speaker Martin to court for a judicial review then we will launch a campaign fund. I am in the process of setting up a not-for-profit company specifically to collect funds for this one issue: it will be administered independently from me – i will have no contact or involvement with any of the money. Thanks again for offers of help. If it gets to court you can be sure I’ll be coming back to you. (P.S. The commission have confirmed they have received our legal papers.)