Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Monday, 28 January 2008

MPs Need Policing

Good to see Guido is not confining himself to the scandals besetting New Labour.

The case of Derek Conway, Conservative MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, is much, much worse than anything Peter Hain is supposed to have done.

In a nutshell, it appears that Conway gave his son Freddie a non-job whilst at University, and used money from his parliamentary staffing allowance to pay him. Money to the tune of £981 a month, together with one-off "bonuses" of £2000, £5000, £1300 and £1765.94.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded that:
..Conway did not give his son enough work to do to fill the 17 hours per week for which he was paid;
..Conway paid his son substantially more than an appropriate rate for the job he was employed to perform;
..the bonuses exceeded the limits set by the House of Commons.

Actually it's far worse than that. The findings go on to say

"We note that FC [Freddie Conway, the MP's son] seems to have been all but invisible during the period of his employment. For the majority of that time he was based at Newcastle where he was engaged in a full time degree course at the university. He had little or no contact with his father's office, either in the House or in the constituency. No record exists of the work he is supposed to have carried out, or the hours kept. The only evidence available to us of work carried out was that provided by FC and his family.

"This arrangement was, at the least, an improper use of Parliamentary allowances: at worst it was a serious diversion of public funds. Our view is that the reality may well be somewhere between the two."

And the punishment for this gross abuse of taxpayers' hard-earned money ? An order to repay some of the £13,000 he paid to his son in bonuses and ten days' ban from the House of Commons. Oh, and he has to apologise. I have to say that I find that ludicrous.

If I was unable to account to my employers for that kind of money, I would get sacked. And yet this man receives little more than a telling off. What's more, it was only brought to the attention of the Standards Committee by one of his former (defeated) opponents, who made a complaint about him. This is a recurring theme in the detection of improper behaviour by MPs; it usually seems to come to light through the work of journalists or political opponents. Only once it's brought to their attention will the Parliamentary authorities act. So where is the policing of what these MPs do, and how can we be sure that this kind of malpractice isn't actually going on on a huge scale ?

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