Saturday, May 23, 2009

Malcolm Bruce and Expenses

Full expose in the Daily Telegraph of Malcolm Bruce's expenses.

As he says on his own web site with an April 2008 update date and justifying his expenses

These allowances have been established because MPs do work long hours, are away from home for four days a week for much of the year and travel extensively around their constituencies and between London and Westminster.To do this they need staff support, a place to stay in London and the means to rent and run an office in their constituency.
So why is he claiming for an office outside his own constituency?

I also assume that he won't be claiming so much this year since his wife is now one of my local councillors having managed to come in second best in an election recently.

As I said at the time
I do hope that Rosemary can juggle her family life, Office Manager job (As hubbies 30k Diary Secretary) and the work of a Councillor, or will being a Councillor be second best to helping her hubbie.
Also nice to see how he can claim for an MP's office in a village more than 30 minutes from the biggest town in his constituency and at least an hour from much of his constituency. The Daily Telegraph has this to say

Between April, 2006, and March, 2008, he was paid a total of nearly £3,100 towards the cost of electricity, heating and cleaning at his main home in the village of Torphins, just outside his constituency of Gordon. Over the same period, he received a total of £61,186 from the additional costs allowance (ACA) for his second home in London.

The Torphins claim was made despite Mr Bruce having a constituency office in Inverurie, about a 30-minute drive away, also funded by the taxpayer. The ACA claim included regular monthly spending of more than £300 on food, close to the maximum of £400. In one month, August, 2005, he successfully claimed £451 for food.

As I detailed before we have also seen the following from the Bruce's

I see our prospective Liberal Democrat Councillor Rosemary Bruce in the Aboyne, Upper Deeside and Donside by-election advertises herself as an Office Manager.

She is currently an office manager, but has previously worked in both training and hotel management
Strange. I thought she was the Diary Secretary for her Husband, Malcolm Bruce M.P. , at a cost of about £28,500 to us, the general public.
No mention of who she was an Office Manager for and the fact that the office was miles from the people he represents.

MPs' expenses: Liberal Democrat MP Malcolm Bruce claimed running costs for two homes - Telegraph

Friday, May 22, 2009

A Scandal within a Scandal

The attached article in the Daily Telegraph tells the story of John Wick the intermediary who sold the MP's expenses story to the Telegraph.

The interesting part of the story is how the data was presented to him.

Rather than being a simple CD or such like, it looks like what has been given to the Daily Telegraph, is the complete system or database used by the Fee's office. If this is true then it is truly scandalous that a Government department should have such lax security that it allows data such as this to be available unencrypted in any form far less as comprehensive as this. As Mr Wick says
It was obvious there was also a major failure in the way the parliamentary authorities had handled such sensitive data. Government ministers had overseen a series of data losses involving the electronic records of ordinary people in recent times and here was the proof that they could not even properly protect their own information.
What does this say when the complete personnel details of over 600 of the top members of our government are available to the highest bidder. The details include enough information to take each of them for probably more than they have received in expenses.

Mr Wick then adds
Has the Govenment and Civil Service learned nothing in the past 18 months since the loss of the Child Benefits data. Have they not taken up any of the recommendations from the investigation into that loss.
I blogged on that quite a few times including a blog entry on 25th June 2008 which pointed out the words of our Shadow Chancellor that the loss of data was symptomatic of
the incompetence and systemic failure at the heart of this government. They were a guide to how not to govern this country
How can a government manage to continue to lose this sort of confidential data so many months after it has been castigated and had to apologise to 25 million people.At the time some of the factors causing the data loss were identified as follows:
  • Some DSSM and IDG policies lacked sufficient detail and strength to guide staff
  • Inadequacy of removable media and encryption policies
  • Better implementation and enforcement of policy is required.
  • Policy could be made more accessible and better communicated.
  • Appropriate authorisation.
  • Method of data transfer.
  • Prioritisation of operational delivery over information security.
  • Lack of policy awareness.
  • Lack of training.
  • Accountability for the ownership and guardianship of data.
  • Lack of clarity surrounding authority requirements.
  • Relations with the NAO.
Obviously no heed has been taken of any of the above in the Fees Office. At the time the report written by Poynter said
As regrettable as the Child Benefit data loss incident was, one positive may yet flow from it. It may provide the burning platform for these transformations, recognising it as an imperative rather than a luxury.
Obviously from what has happened here not a thing has changed. It doesn't matter that this data may have been obtained in the public interest, it is a scandal that it is available to anyone in this form and with apparently such ease. Remember these are the same type of people who are responsible or will be responsible for all sorts of highly confidential data on our whole population. I wouldn't trust them with one bit.

A video of John Wick telling his story is below

John Wick: I am proud to have exposed expenses scandal - Telegraph

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

For Ducks Sake - This is Quackers

Not satisfied with Moats and Jacuzzi's we now have a Duck Island in amongst the gaggle. Not sure if it was decorative or like the picture one for shooting ducks from. In any case this is one MP whose Goose is well and truly cooked.

According to Sky news

The Gosport MP's expenses were among the latest to be published in The Daily Telegraph. His claims included £1,645 for a floating "duck island" for the garden pond at his Hampshire home, the paper said.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said: Sir Peter Viggers has confirmed that he will retire as MP for Gosport at the next election.He will do so at the direct request of David Cameron. Sir Peter is the third Tory MP to say he will step down over expenses claims after Douglas Hogg and Anthony Steen did the same.

He is expected to repay more than £10,000, the Telegraph said.

I await with bated breath the next item that MP's deem as absolutely necessary for their job.

Expenses: Conservative MP Sir Peter Viggers To Step Down At Next General Election Over Claims | Politics | Sky News

Gurkhas to be given right to settle in Britain

All Gurkha veterans will be given the same right to settle in Britain, ministers will announce on Thursday.

The statement will confirm a significant political victory for campaigners led by the actress Joanna Lumley.

Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, is expected to signal the new policy in the Commons today, with a formal statement from the Home Office on Thursday.

Victory for Joanna Lumley as all Gurkhas to be given right to settle in Britain - Telegraph

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Labour Supporters say Brown should go

Now it's own supporters say Brown should go (and go now). Even Scotland doesn't want him!

Labourlist had a pool over the weekend and 62% say Brown should go; 38% would support Johnson.

"Should Mr Brown step aside, Alan Johnson was favoured to replace him in every demographic breakdown by age, gender and region, though his level of support varies and is higher amongst men (40%) than women (27%).

A total of 1,060 people responded to the poll between Monday 11th and Friday 15th May, 2009.

A total of 783 identified themselves as Labour Party members or supporters.

Duplicate responders were filtered from the results. Apart fromn the first category showing all responses, only those who identify as Labour Party members or supporters are included below."

62% say Brown should go; 38% would support Johnson |

Monday, May 18, 2009

Really Deep Trough needed for this Snouter

I haven't commented much directly about expenses but this must take the biscuit for the depth of trough needed, in fact it must take a lorry load of Biscuits.

Government Chief Whip and Minister for the North East Nick Brown has managed to trough £18,800 worth of food in four years with no receipts. No wonder he looks like a Porker.

This must be one of the deepest troughs by any MP. I calculate that, as this is his second home, he probably spends about 150 days there a year which by my reckoning makes it over 30 quid a day on food. The troughs must also be expensive down there in Newcastle. I could live by myself for less than 10 quid a day shopping at M&S.

I won't go onto say what else he has claimed , no I will, according to The Daily Telegraph he was also said to be claiming regular £200 monthly bills for repairs and maintenance, plus £250 a month for cleaning, without any receipts. Amazing that, just under the limits for no receipts for MP's.

Never mind Nick says

"I am working flat out for the people that I represent and the politics that I believe in.
A true porky there.

Nick Brown defends expenses claims (From The Northern Echo)

Scottish Pravda Propaganda

Read the attached piece from Scottish Pravda. It is stunning how a supposedly non-partisan broadcaster paid for by us can get away with posting this as news. They have no other stories like this and it is the top story for Scotland this morning. I can only think that it is as Morus twittered

The award for most-brazen-publishing-of-press-release-by-lazy-hack-ever (politics prize)?
The only consolation is the image on the page which is possibly not quite what Labour would like as according to the story
Scottish Labour is launching its European election campaign with a pledge to fight for jobs
The story continues with this gem

Scottish Labour's lead European candidate, David Martin, said: "The overwhelming desire is for politicians to work together through this economic crisis.

"That is what defines the Scottish Labour Party - passionate about Scotland, determined to help middle income and modest income families, and always prepared to work internationally to solve the great problems of the world."

Mr Gray said the Scottish National Party was not doing enough to help people through the recession, adding: "To overcome this economic crisis, we need to work together - MSPs, MEPs, MPs all working in harmony.

"There is no division of responsibility for getting out of recession, because there are no Scotland-only solutions. We have to work together across the UK and across Europe, and focus on jobs."

This is just straight fantasy politics. Perhaps this is why they have come third in two recent Scottish sub-samples of national polls after the SNP and Tories

BBC NEWS | Scotland | Scottish Labour in Euro poll push

MPs Expenses - Make Poverty History

Short but Sweet

Video is from Beau Bo D'or.

Hattip to: well he knows who!

YouTube - MPs Expenses - Make Poverty History

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Voting Tory in Scotland - Michael Gove

Micahel Gove writes in the Scotsman about getting people to vote Tory in Scotland. His final paragraph is

It is, of course, part of my job to convince them that the only way they can get the Cameron-style policies on education they might like, on eliminating illiteracy or dealing with poor discipline, is if they vote to get them implemented in Holyrood as well as Westminster. Voting Tory, as Annabel Goldie pointed out this week, is still a big ask for some Scots. But, increasingly, the question many Scots are asking themselves is, why not?
This is the question, why not vote Tory at the General Election. Since 1997 when no Tory was returned to Westminster both Scotland and the Conservatives have changed significantly. A new optimism and confidence has come to Scotland with the start of Devolution, a belief that we are as big, if not better, than our nearest neighbour and with this has come a realisation that we can aspire to bigger and better things, not caught up with the tribal beliefs of a stagnant and dying Labour Party. This has already been seen with the SNP being the biggest party in Holyrood, but now the Tory Party is seeing the beginning of a renaissance with the polls showing that Labour is now in third place in Scotland with the Tories a strong second. Michael Gove gives some of the reasons this might be true
Under David Cameron, the Conservative party has changed in a way which brings it more closely into alignment with mainstream Scotland. The Cameron policy instruction to test every idea to see if it helps the poorest first, the Cameron spending decision to protect the NHS at this difficult time, the Cameron campaigning injunction to defend public-service professionals from attacks on their independence, all place modern Conservatism and middle Scotland back in synch.
He is right the Tory ideals are now as much Scottish ideals, a desire to become better but also to ensure that no-one is forgotten as we grow. This is in distinct opposition to Scottish Labour who are still stuck in the 70's thinking and their tribal warfare.

Let us hope that Gordon Brown is soon forced to call an election and Scotland can get the representation in Westminster it deserves.

Michael Gove: Tory vote is a big ask for Scots, but nation and party are changing - News