A Pan African Human Rights Organisation challenging the misrepresentation of African people, culture and history in the British media.
Thu 12 May 2011
African MP leads whinge attack on expenses reform body
The millionaire Tory MP, Adam Afriyie has led an assault on the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) arguing for a reduction of its powers on constitutional grounds.
In an understated performance of theatrical politics, Tory MP for Windsor, Adam Afriyie launched an attack on the parliamentary system set up to monitor and where necessary regulate the behaviour of MP’s in light of Westminster’s expenses scandal in 2009.
The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) was established to operate alongside the widely inept Standards and Privileges committee after the corruption and criminal behaviour of a huge number of MP’s was exposed and condemned in the British media.
Two years later, MP’s are covertly seeking to reduce and ultimately remove the regulatory body which the majority of the public supports in light of its belief that the existing Standards and Privileges committee is not firm or honest enough. This follows the recent seven day ban imposed on millionaire Lib Dem MP David Laws after the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards detailed six breaches of the rules when he fraudulently claimed £40,000 to pay rent to his partner, whilst Ex-Labour minister Elliot Morley who fraudulently stole around £30,000 was sentenced to 16 months in jail.
The temporary ‘ban’ which was justified on the basis that Laws’ dishonesty was said not to be motivated by a desire to make financial gain but instead, an intent to keep his same-sex preferences private is a punishment that many believe is woefully inadequate. Whilst the politicians agree with the decision, the public at large would have preferred a custodial sentence. A fact confirmed during a recent discussion on the BBC’s topical debate programme Question Time programme where members of the public exposed it as hypocritical double standards when similar sanctions would not apply in a similar situation for those on housing benefits.
The session which was deliberately scheduled to take place out of the public eye ‘on backbench time’ included contributions from disgruntled MPs from all the parties who moaned and groaned about being held to account by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa).
Afriyie disingenuously stated that he would not refers to ‘all the crimes of the current [Ipsa] system’ and presided over a debate which included complaints against compliance officers and rules designed to prevent parliamentary abuse of power, one MP even suggested that IPSA was delving into areas that it was never intended to go.
Contempt of the Electorate?
However for many, the most disturbing part of the debate was the facetious argument put forward by Afriyie asserting that MP’s should not be held to account by anyone. Afriyie claims the ConDem government have a mandate on behalf of all ‘those people who voted us into this place last May’ and should therefore be allowed to reform the enabling 2009 act in order for MP's to get back to business as usual.
He argued that 92% of people [in parliament] 'are not claiming what they are entitled to claim' and said;
“In a parliamentary democracy members are elected to make or change the law, Parliament is sovereign under the way our unwritten constitution works, and one has to ask the question, is it right that an external body [should] be able to determine the way which members of parliament, who are elected by the public, by our constituents, determine the way in which they do their work?
Not just the level of remuneration, we understand that and respect the independence and most people are comfortable with that, but to actually determine the way we do our work?
I think tough questions need to be asked about those arrangements. And I hope that during the process of the review of the committee that some of these questions will also be raised because I think there’s an opportunity here for the committee to calmly consider not only the current difficulties, not only the level of accountability, whether its fulsome enough, not only whether receipts need to be published, not only all the details we deal with on a day to day basis, but also the constitutional position, and some of those issues that during our rush to make the changes which we were right to do, that we have made those omissions and small errors in our haste.”
Adam Afriyie is one of the few millionaire Tory MPs that did not claim any second home allowance but he and his parliamentary colleagues defended some 40 members who have been reported for violations as being ‘investigated for some seemingly minor, seemingly irrelevant issues’.
These exclude current cases such as that of Paul White, 70, the Tory peer (‘Lord’ Hanningfield) and former leader of Essex county council. White is in court for several ‘false and misleading’ claims for travel and accommodation expenses between March 2006 and April 2009 such as when he claimed expenses for overnight accommodation in London whilst being on a plane to India.
Michael Pownall, former Clerk of the Parliaments, told the court that “members regarded it as a reimbursement system but without any requirement to put in invoices it was their decision as to how much to claim.” It was also revealed that parliamentarians saw the public purse as a means ‘to generate an income’.
Indeed, Alun Jones QC stated that many peers regarded daily expense limits as allowances to which they were entitled, regardless of what they had spent.
Toyin Agbetu from the Ligali Organisation has responded by stating, ‘It is sad that the historic role of African MP’s being used like chaff to present immoral edicts has not ended. From Amos to King, Lammy to Boateng, there appears to be a severe lack of integrity and moral fortitude in this tired breed of scapegoat politicians that see themselves as politicians that just happen to be so called ‘black’.
That Afriyie and his cross party allies would have the audacity to invoke Parliamentary Sovereignty as a means to enable politicians to avoid scrutiny and where applicable, accountability, is symptomatic of the continuing disconnect between politicians and the majority of the electorate, who refuse to participate in elections out of contempt for all the major parties and did not authorise this regime in government to act in their name.
Perhaps these whingers best study the cases of M v Home Office (1994) and the classic Entick v Carrington (1765) and be grateful that they remain shielded by the peculiarities of Britain’s unusual constitutional arrangements, for if the people were protected by a codified constitution then perhaps no-one would tolerate such moral impertinence.’
Should MP’s be allowed to invoke parliamentary sovereign in order to ensure parliamentarians are able to act without accountability and eat from the trough of public expenses without sanction?
In our democracy, Parliament is sovereign due to the way our unwritten constitution works, therefore is it right that an external body should be able to regulate MP’s who are elected by the public to make law?
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