Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Scotland's Westminster Members of Parliament claiming £100,000 plus,in expenses. Are they worth it ?

Scotland's Westminster MPs are busy yet again, ripping off the public by claiming a whopping £100,000 plus in their annual expenses accounts.

Hands up who wants a £100,000 + expenses account ? .. it could be YOU, earning nearly £175,000 a year in expenses along, on top of a salary of almost £60,000 with pension, perks, company directorships, foreign travel & more .. now that's a job !.

What else can MPs take home ? well .. their expenses account is but the tip of the iceberg at both Westminster and at Holyrood.

Company Directorships, preferential property & land deals (where politicians have been slipped up the property ladder for doing favours), interest only, or even interest free mortgages & loans .. some never intended to be paid back ... such as what has recently been exposed in the loans & cash for peerages scandal affecting all the Westminster political parties ... 'fact finding' trips abroad .. which are anything but ... jobs for relatives & friends, you name it, it happens .... politicians in the UK can generally claim for whatever they want, and get away with it.

Hands up who believes all those declarations of interests by politicians ?

Well, I for one sure don't. I know for a fact some of these politicians have a lot more coming in than they declare .. and are tied to a lot more corporate or foreign funding than is ever declared in their returns to either the Parliament or even the Inland Revenue. Just look, for instance, at the recent revelations of political party funding in the UK ... where everyone from foreign dictators, to criminals who have flown abroad but are wanted in the UK on charges, to military conglomerates, to secretive international 'think-tanks' & finance groups bent on imposing their own politics & ideas in the UK .... Do I need to go on ? .. and don't leave any political party out of the debate .. they are all at it .. getting money from wherever they can .. and then have to bow down to their donors when it comes to giving out peerages, changing or improving the law in certain areas (especially pro consumer legislation), handing out contracts for supplying the Health Service .. etc.

Take for example what has recently happened to Labour Party funding, where the legal profession & the Banks have warned the Government that too much pro-consumer reform will dent any donations to the Labour Party .. and might even just see the Tories gain office next time around !

Look at some of the examples we have close to home, where Henry McLeish was caught out renting office space to a well known firm of lawyers - Digby Brown Solicitors .. who have some former partners at the very heart of Government .... and the likes of David McLetchie ... who famously fiddled his taxi expenses (and a lot more) ... but didn't declare it ... However McLetchie was caught nicely and had to resign as leader of the Tories in Scotland .. although the spectre of his re-appearance as Scottish Tory leader looms large over the party, with the current infighting & whispering campaign against Annabel Goldie started by allies of Mcletchie who want him back ... plenty of that support seems to come from his colleagues in the legal profession - who are well versed in political dirty tricks & rehabilitating some of the worst elements of society back into political life .. from fire raisers to fraudsters ... we sadly have them all.

How about some more examples ? well, look at who we got for the first Speaker of the Scottish Parliament - David Steel .. formerly an MP at Westminster, now Lord Steel of Aikwood ... but he took a significant donation from the Countryside Alliance .. about £93,000 and as you can see, Sir David was judged to have broken Parliamentary rules in his lobbying for the Countryside Alliance

The then Sir David Steel was subject to further complaints further complaints from a Labour MP, Mr Dale Campell Savours, also relating to his lobbying activities for the Countryside Alliance.

Sir David as he then was, 'retired' from the Westminster Parliament .. and we poor Scots ended up with him as the Scottish Parliament's first Speaker ... just going to show the quality of representation we have had in our Holyrood politicians since it began .. his involvement with the Corporate Body which 'controlled' the runaway $1billion expenditure on the Holyrood Parliament, is now legendary .. although any blame on him or anyone else in the whole Holyrood funding inquiry was never apportioned.. as is of course, traditional in inquiries into scandals in the UK .. no one gets the blame .. it was all a muddle .. not a fiddle .. but as we all know, when it comes to politicians & money .. it's always a fiddle and never a muddle !

As far as my own experiences with Westminster MPs go .. well, I can only attest to those I have used who represented the Scottish Borders. I was saddled with Archy Kirkwood .. who has now retired from Westminster, having been made Baron Kirkwood of Kirkhope .. being made a Knight Bachelor in 2003 and then being made a life peer in 2005.

I had to write to Kirkwood over the scandal of crooked Borders lawyer Andrew Penman of Stormonth Darling Solicitors, Kelso and how he & his firm looted my deceased father's funds.

Kirkwood was also supposed to be helping me with my efforts to bring the other crook in the affair - crooked Borders Accountant Norman Howitt of Welchs Accountants, Hawick & Galashiels who even stole my mother's pension & Bank books .. and tried to set up secret trusts to take the rest of the money for his own control.

Kirkwood wrote the usual letters one would expect from an MP helping a constituent .. you know .. oh .. I've had a constituent on to me .. he has problems with a lawyer .. blah blah .. but of course, Kirkwood, was a lawyer himself ... and was well known to Andrew Penman and Norman Howitt .. who's services I'm sure Archy Kirkwood valued much more than mine .. after all, I was just a constituent .. but Howitt & Penman it is rumoured, are great friends of Kirkwood .. so no wonder nothing was done to help me .. actually, I was told, Kirkwood would have a laugh when he received letters from me.

Kirkwood was involved in my case from 1994 - 2005. He did nothing for me. Nothing at all. The result of his involvement was actually a negative for me - as you can see ... and this is common to anyone like me who takes on the likes of crooked professionals and tries to use their elected representative to do something about it. I wonder how much by way of expenses goes on stuff like this ... messing a guy around for 11 years and getting nowhere .. that should rank high on the list of claimed expenses me thinks.

It got a lot worse though ... When the Scottish Parliament came into being, Kirkwood suggested I write to his MSP colleague Euan Robson MSP.

Euan Robson demanded that I drop any complaints I was making against the crooked lawyer Andrew Penman AND make sure the Law Society of Scotland ceased their investigations into Penman, BEFORE he did anything for me ... which I thought was, shall we say .. a wee bit crooked !

What business was it of Euan Robson to insist, even, demand, that I stop making complaints against a crook lawyer who had robbed me, robbed my family, defrauded a Bank, defrauded the Inland Revenue .. fiddled & faked up files, fiddled evidence - even to the Law Society of Scotland ... well ... no surprise again .. Andrew Penman was very familiar with Euan Robson .. and very familiar with the Lib Dems .. and of course .. Robson's colleague, Kirkwood.

I then tried Christine Grahame MSP.. yes, the SNP member for the Scotrish Borders .. she didn't want to know me .. perhaps . I just wasn't Scottish enough for her maybe .. and after all, she was Convener of the Justice 1 Committee of the Scottish Parliament .. and maybe couldn't be seen to be representing someone who was intent on bringing some much needed reform to the way crooked lawyers fleece their cleints in Scotland.

I then went to Murray Tosh MSP to help me with the fight against the hospital where my mum died.. a complete waste of time .. I remember he once claimed he had forgotten what was said in a meeting he allegedly had with Hospital officials on my complaint, and he utlimately turned against me, after I revealed the crooked dealings of one of his political party colleagues in the Scottish Borders - Councillor Hugh Wight who deamded I be run out of Jedburgh.

Finally I turned to Phil Gallie MSP- who was the ONLY politician at the Scottish Parliament who ever helped me .. Mr Gallie helped get the 2001 Parliamentary inqiury into regulation of the legal profession going .. and I would say played a major part in starting the process which has seen the Legal Profession & Legal Aid (Scotland) Bill proposed as a remedy to bring independent regulation and much needed pro consumer reforms to Scotland's legal profession. Thank you, Mr Gallie. So, one MSP helped me. Phew .. I'm lucky I think, considering what I have seen on other people's cases.

So, while these high expense claiming MPs get up to £3000 a week, and their Scottish counterpart MSPs are getting over £1000 a week, the rest of us rot in mortgage land, bereft of decent pensions, wages not matching the rise in property prices or the cost of living, not being able to get health care, dental care, etc .. while these politicians get whatever they want.

I say quite a few of them aren't worth it ... let's find out a lot more on what this gang of expense claiming MPs are up to .. and how big that 'wee bit on the side' has now become ... and it just so happens, I'm working on a political story which should rock some people's boats ... you can look forward to that appearing in other parts of the media soon ...

Read on for the article, from the Scotsman, at : http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/politics.cfm?id=1588622006

Scots MP tops Westminster expenses

* 55 Scots MPs out of 59 claim over £100,000 in expenses
* MPs claim £86.5m in total in expenses between April '05 and March '06
* Westminister does not release expenses details unlike Holyrood

Key quote "[I'll] do something about it"- Eric Joyce, Scottish Labour MP and the Commons highest expenses claimant

ERIC Joyce, the Labour MP for Falkirk, was yesterday named the highest expense-claiming MP in Britain, clocking up larger travel costs than colleagues who fly to far-flung Orkney and Western Isles constituencies.

Mr Joyce cost taxpayers nearly £175,000 - of which £45,000, or £865 a week, was for travel - on top of his salary of almost £60,000.

The travel claim is enough for two economy return tickets a week to Australia.

As a loyal ministerial aide, Mr Joyce attended 90 per cent of Commons votes in the past year but spoke in just 13 debates, well below average.

Last night he admitted that his travel costs were too high and vowed to "do something about it".

Three of the five costliest MPs are Scottish - mainly because of high travel costs - with Alistair Carmichael, the Liberal Democrat Orkney and Shetland MP, in second place and Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, in fifth.

Mr Carmichael, whose expenses were £161,815, attended 69 per cent of parliamentary votes - below average - but he asked more written questions and participated in more debates than the average MP.

Mr Salmond has attended fewer than one in three votes in parliament - Nationalists refuse to vote on matters that pertain to England and Wales only - but has participated in more debates than average.

Last night, he told The Scotsman he was "surprised and puzzled" that he was the fifth most expensive MP, at £157,844.

"I will get my staff to investigate. I can explain the travel costs, because it is expensive to fly to Aberdeen."

Mr Salmond added that he put all of the SNP's parliamentary staff costs under his expenses, bumping up his bill by more than £5,000.

Details of the expenses claimed by MPs, published today, show they claimed £86.8 million between April 2005 and March 2006. This compares with £80.8 million in 2004-5.

The increase this year is in part due to the inclusion of £5.8 million in winding-up allowances for MPs who retired or lost their seats at the last general election. Meanwhile, high staff costs for Margaret Beckett, the Foreign Secretary, were questioned. Her staff bill was £99,589. Ms Beckett employs her husband, Leo, as one of her assistants.

Sinn Fein's five MPs claimed £206,721 in expenses last year, despite never taking their seats in the House of Commons. The Irish Republicans' bill included £7,500 claims by each of the MPs for staying away from their main homes.

Unlike in Holyrood, where journalists and the public can scrutinise receipts and detailed breakdowns of expenses, Westminster authorities release the figures under broad categories, refusing to provide a "total".

Nick Harvey, the Liberal Democrat MP and spokesman for the Members Estimate Committee, which released the figures, insisted MPs represented "excellent value for money".

What your MP claimed

THE list of Scottish MPs and the expenses they have claimed is:

Eric Joyce, Falkirk, £174,811; Alistair Carmichael, Orkney and Shetland, £161,815; Alex Salmond, Banff and Buchan, £157,844; Ian Davidson, Glasgow South West, £155,521; Angus Robertson, Moray, £155,189; Nigel Griffiths, Edinburgh South, £153,570; Frank Doran, Aberdeen North, £152,852; Michael Connarty, Linlithgow & East Falkirk, £151,854; Jim Murphy, East Renfrewshire, £149,846; Mohammed Sarwar, Glasgow Central, £149,310; Russell Brown, Dumfries & Galloway, £148,136; Anne Moffat, East Lothian, £148,072; Anne Begg, Aberdeen South, £147,274; Malcolm Bruce, Gordon, £146,281; Charles Kennedy, Ross, Skye & Lochaber, £145,366; Jim Sheridan, Paisley & Renfrewshire North, £145,134; Brian Donohoe, Central Ayrshire, £145,014; Rosemary McKenna, Cumbernauld, Kilsyth & Kirkintilloch East, £144,899; Rt Hon John McFall, West Dunbartonshire, £144,336; David Mundell, Dumfriesshire, Clydesdale & Tweeddale, £143,159; Frank Roy, Motherwell & Wishaw, £142,948; Tommy McAvoy, Rutherglen & Hamilton West, £141,898; John MacDougall, Glenrothes, £141,773; Tom Clarke, Coatbridge, Chryston & Bellshill, £141,603; Tom Harris, Glasgow South, £140,831; Michael Moore, Berwickshire, Roxburgh & Selkirk, £139,621; Alistair Darling, Edinburgh South West, £139,105; Sir Robert Smith, West Aberdeenshire & Kincardine, £138,938; Gordon Banks, Ochil & South Perthshire, £138,885; John Robertson, Glasgow North West, £138,838;
Mark Lazarowicz, Edinburgh North & Leith, £137,360; Gordon Brown, Kirkcaldy & Cowdenbeath, £134,586; David Hamilton, Midlothian, £133,007; Pete Wishart, Perth & North Perthshire, £132,825; Danny Alexander, Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch & Strathspey, £132,742; Des Browne, Kilmarnock & Loudoun, £131,187; Jim McGovern, Dundee West, £130,792; Mike Weir, Angus, £130,312; Jimmy Hood, Lanark & Hamilton East, £129,461; Douglas Alexander, Paisley & Renfrewshire South, £128,313; Gavin Strang, Edinburgh East, £128,247; Sandra Osborne, Ayr, Carrick & Cumnock, £128,225; John Barrett, Edinburgh West, £126,343; John Thurso, Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross, £125,217; Anne McGuire, Stirling, £124,400; Ming Campbell, North East Fife, £123,617; Ann McKechin, Glasgow North, £122,906; David Cairns, Inverclyde, £121,457; David Marshall, Glasgow East, £120,428; Katy Clark, North Ayrshire & Arran, £119,818; Stewart Hosie, Dundee East, £117,667; Jo Swinson, East Dunbartonshire, £116,382; Angus MacNeil, Na h-Eileanan an Iar, £113,101; John Reid, Airdrie & Shotts, £108,908; Alan Reid, Argyll & Bute, £107,096; Adam Ingram, East Kilbride, Strathaven & Lesmahagow, £103,613; Jim Devine, Livingston, £92,297
Michael Martin, Glasgow North East, £66,954; Willie Rennie, Dunfermline & West Fife, £37,670 (by-election winner) *Figures compiled by Bloomberg

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