Hey there! Sign in to join this conversationNew here? Join for free
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    Surely it is fraud, and not theft?
    • TSR Community Team
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Community Team
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    In other words the Labour Party wants to have a long drawn out inquiry which will report in six months or more when everything has calmed down. As I see it, if an MP has paid back their claims then they know that what they claimed for was wrong. And if you have a policy to deselect those people then deselect them now.

    This is just dishonesty from the Labour Party, as I see it, pretending to be doing something to punish people but in reality not going to, or at least not punish those who aren't entirely expendable.
    Can I ask if you see a difference between these three situations:

    1/someone who has claimed a small amount of money that may have been an oversight or an accident to claim. For example put in a lot of legitimate recipts and this one got included with them by mistake. Then then pay this back

    2/ someone who makes a regluar claim for an expense or a moderate one off claim, maybe cleaning or gardening or repairs, because it was considered to be something you claim for. It is then decided, looking back, that this is no longer suitable for claiming in expenses and they pay it back.

    3/ someone who has played the system to claim large amounts of money or for their own personal gain such as someone who swaps which house is their second home throughout the year or those who renovate a house on expenses which they are then likely to sell on for a personal profit/have sold on for personal profit.

    Do you consider all these situations need to be deal with the same with the anyone who pays back any money in any of these situations needing to be deselected?
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    Considering that I believe that MPs should only be able to sit for a limited time anyway and that they ought to be both honourable and at least semi-intelligent I would make the following observations.

    In the first example if they made the mistake in the first instance that's a bad start. The money isn't theirs and they should be extremely careful when claiming our money to cover their expenses. Having said that, if they noticed quickly and repaid the money as soon as they found out with no external pressure then a case could be made for leniency. However, I do not believe that there are many such cases in the current scandal and certainly those paying back are giving every impression that they are doing so under duress. Finally, if one or two MPs do lose their jobs when they did make genuine mistakes then that's a price I'm more than willing to have them pay given the unique circumstances of the job they're currently doing.

    In the second case if the rules changed after their claims then they should have no reason to pay anything back. I believe that those paying back money for repairs and gardening are doing so because they know that these claims were never reasonable in the first place. They are paying back after having gotten caught. They should go.

    Definitely should go and in this case should face criminal charges as well.

    My specific question was about the claims of Hazel Blears branded "totally unacceptable" by Gordon Brown. He has boasted about being the "only Party leader" to suspend people for their expenses claims. She should go too. I am suggesting that the reason she won't is because she is senior and only the expendable back benchers will go as scapegoats similar to the Speaker.

    In any event, I would argue that any MP that has made dodgy and indefensible expenses claims should stand down at the next election if not immediately.
    Offline

    0
    ReputationRep:
    Even if there was no technical breach of rules, those that have made ‘dodgy’ expense claims should still by investigated and charged with Fraud accordingly.

    The Fraud Act 2006 says that it is an offence to dishonestly make a false representation where the person intends, by making it, to make a gain for himself or another.

    The expense claiming rules do give guidance, which explicitly state that claims should only be made for expenses that are necessary and wholly for political duties. By claiming expenses for extraneous costs, the M.Ps have gained for themselves.

    The test for dishonesty is whether the representation was dishonest according to the standards of a reasonable person and that the defendant had realised this. The M.Ps may argue they didn’t think it was dishonest but that would be for the jury to decide if they were genuine or not.
    Offline

    13
    ReputationRep:
    UoL - not to go into it too deeply, but there are 'cultural' factors in all workplaces that change.

    For example, my entire office came to a halt for about half an hour today while we discussed planning for a colleagues birthday party. Now, that's okay because we work hard and the culture is such that those sort of things are allowed.

    If in six weeks time, we get new management and they look at (hypothetical) CCTV tapes of us doing that and give us all a rap on the knuckles, should we apologise? Probably, despite the fact that 'we did nothing wrong'...
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    Your example is not analogous to this situation. You're trying to defend MPs based on changing "culture" or management. But the plain fact is that their management hasn't changed (it is still us the people) and their culture hasn't changed. The only difference between now and 4 years ago is that we know what they've been up to now and we didn't then. But you can be sure that had they asked us then if it was OK to charge for moat-cleaning, swimming pools, second homes in Southampton, flipping etc we would have said no.

    So while it is true that the rules can change this is not the case in this instance. All that has changed is that they've finally been found out.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    It is true that the rules can change this is not the case in this instance. All that has changed is that we now know how much they've been abusing the system.
    My change in bold.

    I don't know about your area or peer group but around here we knew perfectly well that a lot of MPs were doing this kind of thing. What got us was the amount of money in some cases or the exotic/idiotic claims e.g. a few homes in one year.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Thunder and Jazz)
    My change in bold.

    I don't know about your area or peer group but around here we knew perfectly well that a lot of MPs were doing this kind of thing. What got us was the amount of money in some cases or the exotic/idiotic claims e.g. a few homes in one year.
    Yes, OK.
    • TSR Community Team
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    TSR Community Team
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    Considering that I believe that MPs should only be able to sit for a limited time anyway and that they ought to be both honourable and at least semi-intelligent I would make the following observations.

    In the first example if they made the mistake in the first instance that's a bad start. The money isn't theirs and they should be extremely careful when claiming our money to cover their expenses. Having said that, if they noticed quickly and repaid the money as soon as they found out with no external pressure then a case could be made for leniency. However, I do not believe that there are many such cases in the current scandal and certainly those paying back are giving every impression that they are doing so under duress. Finally, if one or two MPs do lose their jobs when they did make genuine mistakes then that's a price I'm more than willing to have them pay given the unique circumstances of the job they're currently doing.

    In the second case if the rules changed after their claims then they should have no reason to pay anything back. I believe that those paying back money for repairs and gardening are doing so because they know that these claims were never reasonable in the first place. They are paying back after having gotten caught. They should go.

    Definitely should go and in this case should face criminal charges as well.

    My specific question was about the claims of Hazel Blears branded "totally unacceptable" by Gordon Brown. He has boasted about being the "only Party leader" to suspend people for their expenses claims. She should go too. I am suggesting that the reason she won't is because she is senior and only the expendable back benchers will go as scapegoats similar to the Speaker.

    In any event, I would argue that any MP that has made dodgy and indefensible expenses claims should stand down at the next election if not immediately.
    Interesting response. I'd perhaps be a little more leinent than you.

    Interesting also that David Cameron falls in to the middle group over his repairs claims of about £680 which I believe he's said he'll repay. Under your rules he should go too.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by RK)
    Interesting response. I'd perhaps be a little more leinent than you.

    Interesting also that David Cameron falls in to the middle group over his repairs claims of about £680 which I believe he's said he'll repay. Under your rules he should go too.
    If he stole money from us then he should lose his job. There's no reason why he should be treated differently. He's our employee just like all the rest.
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    I liked Stephen Fry's take on the matter.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Melancholy)
    I liked Stephen Fry's take on the matter.
    Surely he has missed the point. It's not the money that bothers us as much as the fact that this group of people who were ostensibly working for us with our best interests in mind and who are supposed to be honest and trustworthy have been shown to be in it for the money, uninterested in what we want and now that they've been caught are more concerned about their own reputations than whether they've done right or wrong.

    Surely we wouldn't have had so many bad decisions in the past if our MPs were not the kind of people who would try and take as much money as they can get hold of (the same goes for journalists too).
    Offline

    12
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    Surely he has missed the point. It's not the money that bothers us as much as the fact that this group of people who were ostensibly working for us with our best interests in mind and who are supposed to be honest and trustworthy have been shown to be in it for the money, uninterested in what we want and now that they've been caught are more concerned about their own reputations than whether they've done right or wrong.

    Surely we wouldn't have had so many bad decisions in the past if our MPs were not the kind of people who would try and take as much money as they can get hold of (the same goes for journalists too).

    I agree with this - I like Steven Fry but he's wide off the mark in my opinion on this topic. Sure he's fiddled expenses, the journalists have fiddled expenses - they aren't in charge of running the bloody country though, are they? They aren't in positions that automatically portray integrity, that command respect and opens so many doors.

    On another albeit similar matter, I think the two lords selling amendments are far worse than any MP that's fiddled expenses. They've abused their power beyond belief; caught red handed personally profiting from amending a law which affects the entire country. It's one thing to listen to lobbyists, it's another thing entirely to accept bribes from lobbyists and act on that. It's open corruption in a democratic country, and all they've received is a paltry suspension - corruption should be an imprisonable offence.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    Agreed, the Lords who have been suspended are in far greater breach of trust than most MPs in recent happenings.
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    Uni et. al.: It's often intellectually easy to compartmentalise our thoughts such that the illegitimate taking of public money seems directly opposed to working for the public's best interests. I don't think that one necessarily negates the other. I don't think that the people who took money are necessarily immoral people, but some undoubtedly are; yet I think Fry makes a clear point about incentive structures. He claims that a lot of people have cheated expenses. If everybody else is seen to use expenses in a legal but improper manner, then the act is given a certain legitimacy. It is a tradition which has descended down the years - almost seen as an entitlement as part of their wages. I sincerely doubt that MPs truly realised the consequences of their actions, nor truly knew the rules. It was simply something which was legal, and which pratically everyone did. In hindsight, and on closer inspection, it was a rather nasty practice of using public money which continued to take place; but I think it's easy to get caught into that type of system which occurred as compensation for cuts in MP wages. Indeed, MPs have always declined wage increases and, according to question time, would prefer a clear and set wage. The motivation for preserving the public's best interests doesn't necessarily interfere with their motive for taking money, but it does necessitate a re-examination of the system (which, funnily enough, is what is now occurring).

    The whole scandel just shows the vulnerability of unregulated systems, in the same way that whole populations (regardless of their morality) can be sucked into systems created by their dictators/illegitimate governments. This time it is the MPs that have been led astray by their own system. lulz :p: This frenzy was exacerbated by the media which naturally wants to criticise MPs. That fine insofar as you can choose not to vote for them in light of your knowledge of their [legal but immoral] actions. That said, is stealing private documents (some of which have private bank account details of people working in the civil service for MPs on them) and leaking their contents completely justified? Though I would say "yes" in this case, though Michael Martins had a point, albeit unpopular in the current climate (hence his removal).

    I guess the issue depends on whether you blame masses or societal structures; on whether you attribute blame to individuals or acknowledge the existence of group mentalities (e.g. in pyschology one talks of "spreading the blame around" if you act as a group); whether you blame people, or the system, framework and incentives in which they're placed; it's comparable to those sort of debates.
    Offline

    19
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by Indievertigo)
    I agree with this - I like Steven Fry but he's wide off the mark in my opinion on this topic. Sure he's fiddled expenses, the journalists have fiddled expenses - they aren't in charge of running the bloody country though, are they? They aren't in positions that automatically portray integrity, that command respect and opens so many doors.
    I honestly don't believe that Fry's point had anything to do with who the journalists were working for (stealing off anybody is immoral, in my opinion). We're all human beings, and if systems are ill-defined and ill-regulated then we might blindly be led into an unjust system if the incentives are there. Regardless of what they did, their intentions are almost identical. I doubt they recognised the full extent of their actions, and I can only judge them and their morality on their intentions, which seem common to most human - easily led away by systems which are seen as offering legitimate entitlements. "Legitimate" because historically it had been going on and abused for decades, seen as being nice entitlements as a compensation for wage cuts. Somebody said that some MPs earn less than GPs (fair enough)...and headteachers.

    Yes, they cocked up; as we all do. However, there are more sinister intentions and more expensive consequences resulting from MPs' actions in the past - not to mention intentions of and consequences resulting from other individuals in society. I blame the system (arguably created by Thatcher :p:) which has been allowed to grow, and which individuals have, regrettably, been led astray into and finally (thankfully) woken up.

    On another albeit similar matter, I think the two lords selling amendments are far worse than any MP that's fiddled expenses. They've abused their power beyond belief; caught red handed personally profiting from amending a law which affects the entire country. It's one thing to listen to lobbyists, it's another thing entirely to accept bribes from lobbyists and act on that. It's open corruption in a democratic country, and all they've received is a paltry suspension - corruption should be an imprisonable offence.
    Yah, I agree with you.
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    In the first example if they made the mistake in the first instance that's a bad start. The money isn't theirs and they should be extremely careful when claiming our money to cover their expenses.
    This is where I strongly disagree. I absolutely do not want my MP spending loads of time worrying about what they can or cannot claim. I want them spending their time worrying about the state of the economy or terrorism or schools or any of the other responsibilities they have. All of a minister's claims would be done by an aide (previously). All this does is mean that a minister spends less of their time running the country and more of it doing paperwork. For the tiny amounts of money involved, I'd rather they just didn't have to think about it. Most ministers, when it came to their work, probably wouldn't worry about policies that only cost a few million, as they'd be dealt with by civil servants. It wouldn't hit their radar when they have so many decisions that involve far larger amounts of money to make.

    I understand there's a principle at play and we want MPs to behave like reasonable people. But I can't help but think having MPs spend time worrying about their expenses or about what the rules on them should be is an incredibly inefficient use of their time. Time they could better spend clearing up the current mess we're in.

    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    My specific question was about the claims of Hazel Blears branded "totally unacceptable" by Gordon Brown. He has boasted about being the "only Party leader" to suspend people for their expenses claims. She should go too. I am suggesting that the reason she won't is because she is senior and only the expendable back benchers will go as scapegoats similar to the Speaker.
    While I could understand an arguement that she should go, your claim before was that it is a contradiction to say "anyone who has broken the rules must go" and then allow people who've paid money back to stay. The statement Brown made referred specifically to the rules. Hazel Blears' claims have not broken those rules. They're legal, but it seems in Brown's view they're not morally ok. As such, since she hasn't broken the rules, it is not contradicting his earliern statement to allow her to stay.

    Personally, I'd feel how good she was at her job would be more important than her expenses. The difference between a minister who makes good use of their resourses and one who's just a little bit worse would be millions.

    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    Paying it back is an admission of guilt and the choice should be to pay back what was stolen and resign/lose your job or else face a criminal prosecution for theft.
    What if you haven't broken the rules? If you stick by the rules but feel, in retrospect, than certain things don't look good and thus you pay them back, where do you fit in?

    The main issue here, IMHO, is not people breaking the rules, it's that the rules were far too generous.
    Offline

    4
    ReputationRep:
    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    Surely he has missed the point. It's not the money that bothers us as much as the fact that this group of people who were ostensibly working for us with our best interests in mind and who are supposed to be honest and trustworthy have been shown to be in it for the money, uninterested in what we want and now that they've been caught are more concerned about their own reputations than whether they've done right or wrong.
    While most of it is opinion, this is a huge jump of logic. Almost any MP, and certainly any minister, could earn far more than they do now (even including expenses) doing a different job. As such, it's very hard to say they're in it for the money.

    They've shown that they care about the money, but not that this is their reason for going into politics. No-one goes into politics for the money. It's just not very good, compared to comparable jobs.

    (Original post by UniOfLife)
    If he stole money from us then he should lose his job. There's no reason why he should be treated differently. He's our employee just like all the rest.
    And you have your way of removing him - an election. Plus he's not your employee, unless you live in his constituency. His job as an MP is to represent his constituency and only his constituency can fire him.
    Offline

    2
    ReputationRep:
    I'm not a fan of multi-quoting so I'll try and deal with your points as best I can.

    On the point of the amount of time spent on expenses claims. I would sympathise more with this idea if the claims that were erroneous were for small items included on a larger receipt or whatever. But most of the ones we are hearing are large one-off claims. Things like moat cleaning, repairs, decorating and the like. These things cannot be reasonably considered expenses made erroneously while filing others. The MP had to specifically decide to claim for those expenses on their own.

    Moreover, this is backward. They should be starting from the situation of wanting to be as careful as possible with their expenses claims. If it turns out that that is taking too much time then the response should be to change the system to make it more efficient or hire someone to handle their expenses for them (I can't imagine they're making so many claims that they would need someone full-time per MP or that they really couldn't spend the time dealing with the claims but that's beside the point). Instead, the reaction (according to your theory) is to say "let's forget about this being careful lark and if I end up taking far more money than I'm entitled to well that's just unfortunate". And that's not really acceptable.

    On the point of the contradiction, yes she probably didn't break the rules. But that is more a result of the rules being crap then of any attempt on her part to stay within them. We've seen lots of ludicrous claims that were not technically in breach of the rules. If the NEC of the Labour Party made their new rule with intent to only apply to those in technical breach of the expenses rules then my original accusation, I feel, stands that they're attempting to pretend that they're taking this seriously when they are not. This new rule about expenses from the Labour Party only has any real value if it applies to those who made "totally unacceptable" claims.

    I would also argue that no MP is worth far more than any other. Perhaps I'm naive or overly-cynical but as I see it these people have no real expertise in their fields. They are moved around from department to department and have thousands of civil servants there to tell them what to do and what they can do. They may have some ideas that they would like to get done but they do not give me the impression that they are qualified particularly for the job. And that's the ministers. The back-benchers are even less as far as I can tell. With that in mind I can't see that the country would be any worse off if we got rid of those who had cheated the system.

    As for the generosity of the rules I think this is a nonsense excuse peddled by the MPs. They appear now to be falling over each other to say how terrible the system is and basically how horrible it was to take so much money from it. I don't buy it. And the main reason for that is because the claims they made are no less acceptable now than they were 5 years ago, 10 years ago etc. Had an MP asked the public years ago whether he could flip his home or whether he could claim for repairs to his swimming pool the public would have told him where to go. So to claim that the system has become wrong or that attitudes have changed is disingenuous.

    My comment about being in it for the money was somewhat hyperbolic. I'm not sure that all of them could have made more money elsewhere especially if you take into account all the other incomes that come from being an MP and former MP or minister. But the key point is that their abuse of the system and their terrible attitude afterwards has revealed to the public (perhaps for the first time, perhaps on a larger scale than ever before) that our MPs are not there simply to do what is best for the public and what the public want them to do. They are not there simply to serve. And that is the furore I think, or should be. So when Stephen Fry complains that the real issues are things like wars and the economy I believe that he is missing the point. If our MPs are not in that job in order to serve the public then that is what leads to the kind of bad governance we witness.

    As for the last point, yes we can elect someone else and obviously I'm not suggesting that there be some kind of coup. It's merely the case that if these people could show no honour before they might at least show some now by resigning as MPs. Unfortunately, under Labour governments resigning has become a thing of the past and now it's all "I should be the one to fix this" and "I'm just going to get on with the job". In more honourable times (well, this wouldn't have happened perhaps but) we might have expected a large number of resignations or people retiring from the House at the next election.
    Offline

    1
    ReputationRep:
    So instead of people actually trying to sort out a problem, they should just give up and resign?
 
 
 
Reply
Submit reply
TSR Support Team

We have a brilliant team of more than 60 Support Team members looking after discussions on The Student Room, helping to make it a fun, safe and useful place to hang out.

Updated: December 8, 2017
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • Poll
    Brussels sprouts
  • See more of what you like on The Student Room

    You can personalise what you see on TSR. Tell us a little about yourself to get started.

  • The Student Room, Get Revising and Marked by Teachers are trading names of The Student Room Group Ltd.

    Register Number: 04666380 (England and Wales), VAT No. 806 8067 22 Registered Office: International House, Queens Road, Brighton, BN1 3XE

    Quick reply
    Reputation gems: You get these gems as you gain rep from other members for making good contributions and giving helpful advice.