Sir Thomas Legg, the MPs expenses claims auditor, is reported as claiming that many MPs are purposefully obstructing his enquiries in order to maintain the status quo until they have left parliament next year. A core of MPs appear to be on a ‘go-slow’ as they respond to Sir Thomas’s requests for further information. They are either withholding paperwork or claiming they can no longer find it. Some are claiming that the fees office has lost the relevant documentation.
The earlier Kelly report had recommended that any MP found to have acted fraudulently should have their resettlement grant (worth up to a year’s pay) withheld. So, if an MP can steer their way through by stringing this out until they have left then the bank balance will be safe.
The Commons Standards and Privileges Committee does, it is believed, have the power to withhold resettlement grants. But this has never been done before and could be challenged in the courts causing more problems and confusion.
With the way these things pan out it is hard to see how Sir Thomas can catch up with many of these people before they leave. Many MPs still believe they have done nothing wrong and are determined not to give anything back unless there is, in black and white, cast iron evidence or documentation that they should not have claimed it in the first place.
The deselected Labour MP Frank Cook has repaid some expenses but is ‘exasperated and frustrated’ and said that he ‘…won’t pay up without justification and, of the one they provide is not good enough, i will tell them to p*** off.’
Time is definitely not on the side of Sir Thomas and those of us who wish to see 'the right thing' done.
There is though one very large silver lining to all of this, that is that there are many MPs who are now going who would otherwise have stayed to continue milking the system. And the Golden Thread that runs through it is that it will keep future MPs on the straight and narrow, as long as we keep monitoring them that is.