Un Rendez-vous

2009/10/11

How to win friends and influence voters

Filed under: finance, politics — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 20:09

MPs today began to challenge openly the authority of the independent auditor charged with investigating expenses abuses at Westminster amid claims that the civil servant’s inquiry had strayed beyond its remit.

John Mann, the MP who has led calls for a thorough overhaul of the allowances system, raised concern that Sir Thomas Legg’s audit of expenses had become too broad, and warned that this might trigger lawsuits that could drag on through the “entirety of the next parliament”.

The MP for Bassetlaw, who has been publishing his own expenses in full since 2004, warned that many MPs – faced with paying back sums of up to £200,000 – may “go to ground” rather than pay immediately, and then challenge the legality of the repayment demands.

In early July, Legg initially set out to examine cases where MPs used parliamentary expenses to improve their second homes in order to make a profit rather than just maintaining them, as rules allow. However, he has also looked at exploitation of loopholes which amounted to breaches in the spirit of the law, as well as the actual law.

Mann’s views were supported by Sir Stuart Bell, who sits on the ruling Commons members estimate committee (MEC). Bell yesterday suggested Sir Thomas may have “strayed outside his remit”.

The expenses scandal that dominated the last parliamentary term will kick off the new term tomorrow. Legg has been examining the expenses claims of all MPs over the last four years. Tomorrow morning he will send hundreds of letters to MPs detailing wrongdoing or requesting further evidence. He will send a separate email itemising whether or not the MP flouted the rules of the parliamentary housing allowances.

MPs will either be cleared, told to provide more information, or will be ordered to repay money. Disputes over Legg’s findings must be raised within three weeks to the MEC. When Legg has received all responses his team will publish a report of recommendations to parliament in December.

It is thought Legg has also uncovered more cases where MPs have used taxpayers’ money to pay off the capital element of mortgages instead of just the interest on the borrowing, as is allowed under the rules. His team is also said to have been particularly exercised by claims for gardening and cleaning. One source suggested he was to place a ceiling on claims of this sort; any MPs broaching that limit would have to repay the difference. This would include MPs whose expenses claims of this kind were approved by the fees office.

It is under these tight rules that the prime minister is likely to be asked to pay back some or all of his cleaning expenses. On Sunday, Downing Street said Gordon Brown would repay anything asked of him, adding that up to 500 of parliament’s 646 MPs would also be asked for more information.

Mann predicted legal challenges which could engulf the general election. “The Legg team have clearly got problems, because [MPs] don’t have the receipts for a lot of this stuff. Clearly, if someone has managed to get [a claim] signed off by the fees office then they have a case when asked to repay.

“There could be as many as 200 MPs who refuse to pay anything. If he is going to say to an MP, ‘You have to pay back £200,000’ and that MP is standing down, they are simply going to say ‘No way’. I think there’s a chance that a good number of MPs will not pay up – the repair of a moat may have been bad but it was approved by the fees office.”

–Defiant MPs challenge call to repay cash in expenses row

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2009/10/04

It’s OK, I’m Harriet Harman

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , — simonlecoeur @ 08:46

Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman is being investigated by the police after she was involved in a traffic collision, it was revealed last night.

The MP for Camberwell and Peckham is reported to have wound down her window following the crash and said to witnesses: “I’m Harriet Harman – you know where you can get hold of me,” before driving off.

The accident, which is said to have occurred while the leader of the House of Commons was using her mobile phone, did not result in any injuries.

Witnesses say Harman failed to leave any of her insurance or registration details at the scene, an offence carrying a possible six-month jail term.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said yesterday: “We are investigating a minor traffic collision and are in the process of taking statements from all parties concerned.”

The crash happened in the afternoon of 3 July in Dulwich, south-east London, near Harman’s home. Witnesses say the 59-year-old, who is normally chauffeur-driven in a silver Toyota Prius, was driving her Ford Fiesta when she collided with a car parked by the side of the road.

Reports claim that the resulting loud crash caused a small crowd of onlookers to the scene. One witness is understood to be the neighbour of the damaged car’s owner.

Police are now expected to take a statement from Harman, but have refused to say whether they have spoken to her or confirm any other details relating to the incident. A spokeswoman for the MP said yesterday: “Ms Harman strongly refutes the allegations but is co-operating fully with the police.”

Under the 1988 Road Traffic Act, any driver involved in a collision with another vehicle is required by law to stop and give their name and address, as well as details of the vehicle’s owner and the vehicle’s registration. Drivers caught using a mobile phone while at the wheel receive an automatic three points on their licence and a fixed £60 fine.

In 2003, Ms Harman was fined £400 and banned from driving for a week after being convicted of driving at 99mph on a motorway. She was also issued with a £60 fixed-penalty notice and three penalty points in April 2007 for driving at 50mph in a 40mph zone in the A14 in Suffolk.

Harriet Harman failed to leave details at scene of car crash, allege witnesses

2009/09/11

Quelle surprise

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — simonlecoeur @ 21:29

WASHINGTON — Attorney General Eric Holder has decided not to bring any criminal charges against a former Bush administration official who lawmakers said lied to them in sworn testimony.

An inspector general’s report found that Bradley Schlozman, the former head of the civil rights division, misled lawmakers in sworn testimony about whether he politicized hiring decisions.

At his February confirmation hearing, Holder pledged he would review that decision to prosescute Schlozman when he took over the department and promised to strengthen and rebuild the civil rights division.

Holder’s decision was revealed in a letter sent to lawmakers on Friday.

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who was one of Schlozman’s questioners at the original hearing and had urged Holder take a second look at the case, called the attorney general’s decision “very disappointing.”

“Perjury is often a close call, but in this case it wasn’t. Mr. Schlozman was way over the line,” Schumer said.

Bradley Schlozman Won’t Face Criminal Charges For Lying Under Oath

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