Out of pocket?

The MPs Expenses Debacle rumbles on as the Crown Prosecution Service announces who is in the shit…

But, why shouldn’t ‘criminals’ have to face the consequences of their (alleged) dishonesty in a court of law? I have to say I’m concerned (but not surprised) that so few charges are actually being brought. I can also imagine the Prime Minister will be hopping mad and, I can visualise him fidgeting uncomfortably whilst his characteristic wobbly jowl is gasping for his next contrived raison d’etre!

Three Labour MPs and one Tory peer will face criminal charges over their expenses, Director of Public Prosecutions Keir Starmer has said. (BBC News)

I suppose the four individuals (below) facing the music could in some respects, be considered as; scapegoats being offered like sacrificial lambs to the fire of public opinion. However to continue the analogies there is no smoke without fire and more importantly, the CPS are not prone to launching a case unless; it has ‘a likely prospect of being successful’. After all… The actual worth of the CPS is subject to ‘Government Performance Targets’ and is judged mainly on its conviction rate results!

  • Elliot Morley (Lab.) – two charges over £30,000 of mortgage interest claims
  • David Chaytor (Lab.) – accused of dishonestly claiming £1,950 for IT services and also £18,000 in rent
  • Jim Devine (Lab.) – accused of claiming £3,240 for cleaning services and £5,505 for stationery
  • Lord Hanningfield (Con.) – faces six charges of dishonestly submitting expense claims

The Livingston MP Jim Devine is apparently “absolutely devastated” at being charged for falsely claiming parliamentary expenses. He also said he was “naive“, but did not gain “one pound” from his claims?

He would, wouldn’t he? If I had a fiver for every crook that said, “I’ve been fitted up”, “you’ve got the wrong man” or simply “it wasn’t me”, during my 30yrs service as a police officer, my own financial security would be very similar to that of the MPs who decided to pig out on public cash!

Some MP comments that have been quoted or reported on during the whole disgusting scandal of their expenses claims have include things like:

  • I have done nothing wrong, we all make these claims – Two wrongs don’t make a right!
  • All my claims were in accordance with the rules – What you mean is you managed to cook the claims/receipts to justify your claim… Rules don’t equal Rights!

It appears now those being prosecuted are considering citing their right to Parliamentary Privilege, the process that can protect them from civil litigation.

From my limited knowledge on this aspect of the law I wouldn’t have thought it was applicable. Obviously there will be some vociferous fat cat celebrity barristers ready to challenge the fact in court, on the MPs behalf. If it is deemed to be an ‘excuse’ there is likely to be public outrage.

I have always believed that; no worker should actually be out of pocket, simply by virtue of carrying out a task on behalf of his or her employer. Is this not the main reason behind the collective term Out of Pocket Expenses, often used to describe the expenses claim process in most occupations?

To my mind, any claim that is made (especially in public office) must be:

  1. Factual & Honest
  2. A necessary expense actually incurred and required to perform the role.
  3. Based upon actual need as opposed to greed.

 How can it be right in any shape or form to do otherwise?

To try and ‘justify’ any expense Mr/Ms MP simply by saying it fits the rules, smacks of a stark disregard for the public you serve, is crass and dishonest. The public purse is not infinite, as we are now discovering and to the Nation’s detriment.

The only ones actually out of pocket are the public!

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