Friday, 11 January 2019

Should MPs be sanctioned as UC claimants are for "mistakes"?

Chris Davies, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire, maintains he made an "an honest mistake" by claiming for furniture and pictures for his constituency office.
I wonder if he now  will  recognise  that thousands of claimants on Universal Credit and its predecessors  who have been sanctioned have made   "an honest mistake"  in their applications even for minor errors.
The BBC reports that 
Police investigating the expenses of a Welsh Conservative MP have sent a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.
Prosecutors will now decide whether to bring criminal charges against Chris Davies, the MP for Brecon and Radnorshire.
Mr Davies has been questioned twice by police over allegations of a fraudulent expenses claim in 2016.
A CPS spokesperson said a decision will be made in "due course".
Mr Davies was first interviewed by officers in July.A Scotland Yard spokesperson said: 
"A 50-year-old man was voluntarily interviewed under caution on Tuesday, 17 July 2018. A further interview took place on Wednesday 24 October 2018."A file has now been passed to the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in relation to this matter."
Mr Davies is accused of manually creating two invoices for £450 and £250 rather than submitting the full £700 claim for the pictures by computer.
He has previously said that he repaid the £450 sum, which was charged to a start-up fund for new MPs to set up offices.
A CPS spokesperson said: 
"We have received a file of evidence from the Metropolitan Police relating to alleged fraudulent expense claims and a decision will be made in due course."
Mr Davies said: 
"I am happy that the investigation is now moving on and look forward to the police's conclusion which will clear me from any wrong doing.
"As far as I was concerned, the file was always going to be passed to the CPS and I believe this information was passed by the Metropolitan Police to the CPS in November.
"I will comment further once the case is concluded."

And there for reasons  of sub judice I will leave Mr Davies for now and as Iexpect nothing will come of it properly mot return to this case.

Because the fact is  that although ThUnited Kingdom parliamentary expenses scandal was a major political scandal that emerged in 2009, concerning expenses claims made by members of the United Kingdom Parliament over the previous years, several members or former members of the House of Commons, and members of the House of Lords, were prosecuted and sentenced to terms of imprisonment if the same rules applied by the Department  of Works and Pensions , to ordinary members of the public 

1] The disclosure of widespread misuse of allowances and expenses permitted to Members of Parliament (MPs) aroused widespread anger among the UK public and resulted in a large number of resignations, sackings, de-selections and retirement announcements together with public apologies and the repayment of expenses.

Some notable examples were 

  • Tony Blair's expenses were shredded 'by mistake' when they were the subject of a legal bid to have them published.[24]
  • Conservative Derek Conway was alleged in May 2007 to have paid his son, a student at the time, using public funds despite little evidence of his having done the work he was supposed to. The matter was forwarded to the House of Commons Standards and Privileges Committee, whose report dated 28 January 2008 concluded there was no record of such work. Conway was suspended for 10 days and ordered to repay £13,000.[25] Conway was also expelled from the party. A second case a year later found he had overpaid with regard to his other son.[26]
  • Chairman of the Conservative Party Caroline Spelman was alleged in June 2008 to have paid for her nanny out of parliamentary expenses during her early years in Parliament, between 1997 and 1998[27]—an allegation that became known as ‘Nannygate’. It was ruled that she had inadvertently ‘misapplied part of [her] parliamentary allowances’, but calls for her sacking were rebutted since she might not have been aware of the rules governing the use or purpose of parliamentary allowances. The committee recommended that Spelman repay £9,600.[28]
  • Married couple and Labour Cabinet ministers Ed Balls and Yvette Cooper were accused in September 2007 of exploiting the Commons' allowances system in order to pay for a £655,000 house in London. The complaint, centring on the gain made by allocation of their ‘second house’, was dismissed since it was held the couple had acted in accordance with parliamentary rules.[29]
  • Married Conservative MPs Sir Nicholas and Lady Winterton were accused in June 2008 of claiming back mortgage interest on a mortgage they had fully repaid, on a flat they owned in London, and then also placing the flat in trust and claiming for the rent on it.[30] It was held there had been a clear breach of the rules, but no repayment was ordered.[citation needed]
  • Labour Home Secretary Jacqui Smith was stated to have claimed for her main home by designating it as a second home, while identifying as her main home a location where she spent as little as 2 days a week, and despite also having access to a ‘grace and favour’ home in Westminster. No investigation was held, however, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards stating there was ‘not sufficient evidence for an inquiry’.
  • Labour minister Tony McNulty admitted claiming expenses for a second home in Harrow, 8 miles from his main home in Hammersmith, and asserted they were appropriate, but ceased claiming the allowances.[31] Under continuing pressure, he apologised to the House for expenses abuses on 29 October 2009.
  • Conservative MP Eric Pickles likewise was identified as claiming for a second home 37 miles from his main home.[

Areas of abuse[

Alongside specific allegations of incorrect claims such as claims for the cost of mortgages which it transpired had already been repaid in full] the Telegraph alleged[ that parliamentary ‘Green Book’ expenses rules] gave wide scope for a number of abuses, especially those related to costs of maintaining two residences, one in the constituency and one in London. Areas of questionable claims highlighted by the Telegraph included:
  • Nominating second homes: the Green Book states that ‘the location of your main home will normally be a matter of fact’. MPs and peers were able to ensure that their second home was the one which enabled them to claim more expenses. In at least one case (Margaret Moran) the nominated home was near neither constituency nor Westminster.
  • Re-designating second homes: MPs were able repeatedly to switch the designation of their second home, enabling them to claim for purchasing (e.g. Stamp Duty), renovating and furnishing more than one property] This practice became widely known as ‘flipping’.
  • Renting out homes: MPs were able to claim for their ’second home’ while they were, in fact, renting other homes out. In most cases the rented homes were ‘third’ properties,[49][50] but in Elliott Morley’s case, a second home was rented to another MP, Ian Cawsey who was claiming the rent on expenses.
  • Over-claiming for council tax on second home: MPs were able to round up actual amounts due, claiming for 12 monthly instalments where only 10 were due or by claiming up to £250.00 per month with no receipt required until those rules were changed. Over 50 MPs were alleged to have over-claimed council tax.
  • Subsidising property development: the Green Book rule that MPs could not claim for repairs ‘beyond making good dilapidations’ was not enforced and consequently MPs were able to add significantly to the value of a property. By implication some ‘second homes’ were effectively businesses (not homes) since they were renovated on expenses and then rapidly sold.[
  • Evading tax and inappropriate attempts at avoiding tax: MPs either evaded tax, or inappropriately deemed themselves not required to pay tax on reimbursements when it was likely tax was due. This covered two areas:
    • Capital gains tax: MPs were able to designate a property as their second home with the parliamentary fees office so as to claim the cost of renovating it on expenses, but a number of MPs had concurrently described a property as their second home to claim expenses, and to the UK tax authority HM Revenue and Customs as their primary residence in order to sell it without capital gains tax.] Some also designated a property as a primary or secondary residence for tax or expenses benefits which was apparently little if at all used by them in that role.
    • Income tax: a number of MPs were criticised for non-payment of income tax for benefits in kind or for reimbursed expenses considered under UK tax law to be of a personal nature. As of 31 May 2009, some 40 MPs had been identified as claiming for personal expenses such as preparation of their tax returns, despite UK tax law and ministerial guidance both of which had stated such expenses were not claimable for tax purposes;[57] of those claiming, only a minority paid tax on the benefit in kind.
  • Claiming expenses while living in grace and favour homes: ministers with ‘grace and favour’ homes in Westminster as well as their existing primary residence were able to claim for a further ‘second home’ in addition.
  • Renovating and furnishing properties when standing down: MPs were able to claim for renovations and furniture even when they had already announced their intention to resign from Parliament.Furnishing of other homes: MPs were able to claim for items of furniture that were actually delivered somewhere other than their second home.]
  • Exploiting the ‘no receipt’ rule: MPs submitted a large number of claims for just below £250, the ceiling under which they were not required to produce receipts, without being challenged as to their legitimacy. ver-claiming for food: under a rule permitting up to £400 for food each month (without receipts), MPs were simply able to claim the whole £400 every month, even when Parliament was not sitting.
  • Overspending at the end of the financial year: MPs were able to submit claims just before the end of the financial year, so as to use up allowances, without being challenged as to their legitimacy.[

Since then the rules have been tightened up abuses or "honest mistakes" continue and whilst accept that could happen MPs are also abusing the moral case even what they are doing is within the rules

In 20145 we were informed 

Dozens of MPs – including Rhondda’s Chris Bryant – have claimed expenses for London rent or hotels despite owning a property in the capital, a Channel 4 News investigation has found.
Analysis shows the expenses claims cost the taxpayer more than £1.3m since 2012.

The Channel 4 News investigation found many of the 46 MPs bought their London properties with the help of the taxpayer when the previous expenses system allowed mortgage claims.
But when mortgage claims were banned following the expenses scandal they switched to letting out their properties, in some cases for up to £3,000 a month. They then started claiming expenses for rent and hotels in the capital.
The list of 46 MPs include 25 Conservatives, 14 Labour, and four from the Liberal Democrats.

There is no suggestion of wrongdoing by any of the 46 MPs.
But you can wonder , if any of the MP's  who are so sharp to what many would see as legally abuse the system , would support any benefit claimant to do so.

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