Pour encourager les autres

Er, no, this isn\’t just about you.

The MP for Hammersmith had used free Commons stationery to organise a Labour rally in January, falling foul of rules which forbid the use of prepaid envelopes and free headed notepaper for political campaigning.

“The file is two inches thick. I don’t have any criticism of the commissioner, who must investigate complaints whether they are £15 or £15,000, but clearly Greg Hands’s purpose is just to tie me up in paperwork.”

John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards ruled that the rally at the House of Commons was a partisan event and ordered Mr Slaughter to pay back the full cost of the envelopes and notepaper.

“The sum involved is just £15 but it probably cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds’ worth of man hours to investigate,” he said.

The shadow justice minister yesterday hit back at Greg Hands, the Conservative MP whose complaint triggered the investigation.

It\’s a line drawn in the sand which every other thieving bastard in the House will now be aware of.

11 thoughts on “Pour encourager les autres”

  1. I don’t think his statement goes against yours – he expressly pointed out that once the complaint had been raised, the commission had to investigate him and slap him down.

    Rather, he’s pointing out that the person who shopped him did so for reasons of low-down political bastardry rather than principle, which is true.

    (it’s also bloody ridiculous – using work stationery for personal purposes in non-pisstake quantities is completely acceptable at any other workplace in the country. Once again, we’re heading towards a situation where the only people eligible for parliament will have the sex drive of a castrato and the attitudes to pay of a ditch-dwelling hermit – which is unlikely to ensure we get the best candidates for the job…)

    Tim adds: The way I read it was not that it was the stationary, but the free postage. And that has long been a battleground for party political as against constituent use.

  2. “…we’re heading towards a situation where the only people eligible for parliament will have the sex drive of a castrato and the attitudes to pay of a ditch-dwelling hermit… ”

    I don’t think anyone cares much who they shag, or how much they shag – so long as we’re not paying for it. And seriously, more than twice the national average pay is comparable to that of a ditch dwelling hermit? That’s without taking into account their still considerable allowances…

  3. John, I’ve had at least two jobs where using headed quality paper at work would’ve been disciplinary offense at the very least. Using a few sheets of laser A$ to print summat off is something employers’ll normally turn a blind eye to, but actually costing the company money and using the specially printed high GSM quality stuff?

    Disciplinary, up to and including sackable depending on circumstances. Where it’s clearly, explicitly, against the rules, known to be so and asserted to be so, I’d expect more than a simple “pay the costs” ruling.

    He got off lightly. Headed paper is for constituency business only, not for political or fundraising purposes. I learnt that as part of my GCSE politics when I was 17, and that was way before any of the recent expenses abuses.

    Tim’s right, publicising such cases is part of the deal, many MPs are idiots (Dorries still thinks she did nowt wrong with her abuse of Comms allowance and site) but the rules on this are, and have always been, very clear.

  4. “…which is unlikely to ensure we get the best candidates for the job…”

    It hardly seems as though we are getting the best candidates for the job now, does it?

  5. RA – bugger the national pay. Any qualified or experienced professional will be taking a pay cut to go into parliament, which is what matters.

    MatGB – wow, you’ve worked for some arseholes. I stand corrected, and genuinely surprised.

    Julia – quite, so making the pool even worse isn’t gonna help.

  6. In my company, the restrictions on the use of headed paper is not a matter of the cost, but the implication that the company endorses the content. Misuse of company headed paper is far more serious than a mere matter of money.

  7. “will now be aware of”: oh, come. Thou shalt not use parliamentary writing paper for party purposes is a rule that’s known even to laymen.

  8. John b:

    Surprised at your attitude, actually. There are clear elements in such cases of two separate types of misconduct. First is the misappropriation of property–cadging of paper, envelopes, postage expenses, and worktime (or some combination of these things), all burdens upon the taxpaying public (and even the non-taxpaying, to the extent
    that legitimate expenditure is thereby curtailed, requiring higher tax rates than otherwise); second (and of at least equal importance) is the element of fraud involved in using whatever authority or “gravitas” inheres in the appurtenances of the State to command some increase in the level of attention which the missive might otherwise be
    afforded.

    The protest that the offenses are picayune are also misplaced. The plain fact is that many of the more egregious forms of corruption are harder to detect and more costly not only to police but also to prosecute (due to frequent paucity of clear, hard evidence); it’s far more effective (in combatting
    misbehavior) to increase the penalty from none at all (or a reprimand or “slap on the wrist’) to a really sharp rap across the knuckles).

    I don’t want to “pile on” with the charges but do want also to point out the general tendency for disrespect for the laws–all laws–seeming to increase when the simplest are disregarded.

  9. The Gravitas Of Parliament thing is fair. I guess whenever I’ve posted something from work it’s been to a landlord or a bank or a relative, not some kind of attempt to seek personal favour.

    And on the laws front – I’m a big fan of the jailing of T Sheridan, so I suppose trivial laws also need respected.

  10. Since Mr Slaughter is so concerned at the cost to the taxpayer of the investigation, and since he could easily have prevented it for a mere £15, should it not be for him to reimburse the taxpayer?

  11. @Johnb,

    Yes it is minor now but if they aren’t slapped down occisionally it soon takes on piss taking proportions.

    Same thing happens in the business world as anyone who has had to spend large amounts of time traveling and living on expenses will tell you. The occiaional beer becomes two becomes…the final abuse, or piss take if you like, is normally by someone who doesn’t usually have to travel and spoils it for the rest.

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