Tuesday, October 13, 2009

MPs are crap, but so is retrospective application of the law

This piece is not going to win much agreement, so first, let me make my basic position clear. I am not an admirer of MPs as a genus. They are ineffectual and supine, submitting too easily to their party line. They got where they are by the outrageously archaic and unrepresentative First Past the Post electoral system, and they are unwilling to change it. They are happy to let corporations take over domination of the world. They do not understand where money comes from. They are like sheep. They do not give straight answers. And so on and so forth. Get it? I am not a friend of MPs.

Having said that, it is a principle in law that new laws are not applied retrospectively. If the expenses system administered by the Civil Service previously was crap. We all deserve a better system. But applying a better system retrospectively is dubious, and I for one will not criticise an MP that challenges the ruling of "Sir" Thomas Legg.


Dorothea said...

I know you love agreement, so I'm going to disappoint you again I'm afraid Doctor. How about some creative conflict instead?

Got to disagree with you on two counts.

Firstly, not all MPs fit your description. I have a great fondness for Frank Field, but there are some other thoroughly decent people with integrity around. These MPs need to be celebrated and nurtured, not just lumped in with the rest.

Secondly, from what I gather, many MPs were blatantly abusing the trust that they were accorded under a system which treated them as "honourable members" rather than the skiving, thieving schoolkids that too many of them have turned out to be.

The dodgy deserve everything they get and more. Whoever is prepared to stand up and call for penal servitude with hard labour for the worst miscreants will get my vote, and the vote of hundreds of thousands of outraged fellow citizens.

Dorothea said...

Simon Heffer spells it out.

Nothing less than democracy, and the trust it relies on, are at stake here.

DocRichard said...

Well, you may disagree with me, but I don't disagree with you. There are decent MPs out there, and on the other hand some of them are indeed crooks.

But laws cannot be applied retrospectively. Fraud charges can be brought retrospectively, but the fact is that the rules were loose, and should be made clear and simple. MPs from all over the country have to have some place to live in London, and so merit a London living allowance.
I favour a flat rate for an average living, which they can improve on from their own means if they choose.

Dorothea said...

"Well, you may disagree with me, but I don't disagree with you."

How does that work? Sounds a bit sophistic.

Rules can be, and are, applied retrospectively, especially by this government. What else are windfall taxes?

However, I don't believe that "retrospective application" is really the issue here. It's just a smokescreen being thrown up by desperate people who know full well that have done wrong. The rules relating to MPs' expenses included the following: “…expenditure for which reimbursement is claimed under the provisions of the Green Book should be wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred for the performance of a Member's parliamentary duties…”

The rules were not loose. To a certain extent they relied on a resource perfectly accepted in English law; reasonableness. That and a sense of honour and decency. These were all violated.

The key issue now is to bring these people to book for their disgraceful behaviour, and to ensure that all public servants are made to understand that they will be made accountable in future.

DocRichard said...

Dear Dorothea
You're right, insofar as you are right, and I am wrong, insofar as I am,
Yours truly

Dorothea said...

You seem to be getting tired of this debate!

DocRichard said...

I never tire of debate. It's just that I have a feeling I may be on the losing side. Especially after reading about the idiot MP who took £100,000 for his business.

Mainly, I am preoccupied with the Trafigura campaign.