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Thursday, 14 May 2009

Labour MPs and Peers are Suspended

The Lords Privileges Committee has recommended that two Labour peers be suspended from the House for up to six months after an investigation into allegations made against them. Ex-trade minister Lord Truscott and Lord Taylor of Blackburn were accused by the Sunday Times of being willing to change laws in exchange for cash.

Labour MP Elliot Morley has been suspended from the party after he admitted claiming £16,000 expenses for a mortgage he had already paid off. According to The Telegraph, Mr Morley claimed £800 a month for a Scunthorpe property for 18 months after the mortgage ended.

In a statement, Mr Morley said: "I accept that I have made a mistake in this case and have rectified it in full. I deeply apologise for such sloppy accounting in a very loose and shambolic allowance system but there is nobody to blame but myself and I take full responsibility for this," he added.

The Telegraph also alleges Mr Morley rented out a London flat designated as his main residence to another Labour MP, Ian Cawsey, a close friend and former special adviser. Mr Cawsey named the property as his second home, allowing him to claim £1,000 a month to cover the rent which he was charged by Mr Morley. In November 2007, the newspaper claims, Mr Morley "flipped" his designated second home from his Scunthorpe property to his London home and for four months the two men claimed expenses on the same property.

Of course, Morley is one of a large number of MPs who has been fiddling their expenses. If they did any other job they would be sacked and would face police prosecution. However, the MPs, took great care in drafting the rules in such a way that prosecution for fraud is highly unlikely. Of course, if they had been unemployed workers who had claimed money based on lies they would have ended up in prison.

Morley and most of his fellow MPs, including Gordon Brown and David Cameron, have fought like mad against Norman Baker's campaign since January 2005 to force disclosure of the details of MPs' expenses under the Freedom of Information Act. I the courts had not ruled against the House of Commons, this current political scandal would never have been exposed.

However, this is only the tip of the iceberg. When will the media tackle the fact that 28 former New Labour ministers have gained lucrative corporate jobs on the back of their Whitehall connections, and who then help bid for government contracts.

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