10 signatures reached
To: MPs / Prospective MPs: The Westminster Gravy Train Has to Stop
GRaVi PaNE / Grass Roots against Venality in Parliament and Needless Expenses
I want my MP to sign up to the following and will not vote for any candidate who has not signed up.
Declaration by MPs
1) I am willing and able to live on a MP’s basic salary without moonlighting.
2) I will not continue my former profession or occupation or hold any directorships while being paid as an MP.
3) I see the job of MP as full-time in the sense of it not being appropriate to take on other paid work or hold another paid office other than those paid for by Parliament. I will specify any exceptions to this - see below.
4) Any fees for appearances, writing or advice provided during my term of office as an MP will be donated to charity.
5) I will not undertake any paid work for lobbying companies or any interest group while I am an MP.
6) I will not accept offers of paid trips abroad except when these are directly relevant to my work as an MP for constituents or a role assigned to me by Parliament or my party.
7) I will not exploit parliamentary expenses to purchase luxury items or to add to my personal wealth and assets, but claim only to cover genuine and reasonable costs.
8) I will not use money from Parliament to employ more than one member of my family.
9) I will campaign for and vote for reforms in Parliament relating to the above including meaningful independent oversight and appropriate sanctions.
10) I will resign if it is established that I have dishonoured any of these undertakings that I had not previously declared as an exception.
If an MP believes s/he has grounds for exceptions to the above, I expect her or him to declare these and their rationale before benefiting from the exception.
If a candidate believes s/he has grounds for exceptions, I expect her or him to declare these and their rationale well before any election.
Why is this important?
A succession of MPs and Lords have abused their positions to peddle influence for money and exploit expenses. Here are some highlights.
November 2002: Elizabeth Filkin resigns as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. She was forced out after launching scores of inquiries into sleaze or corruption by ministers and MPs of all political parties. Martin Bell, an independent MP elected on an anti-sleaze ticket said, "She is an outstanding public servant and should have been offered another term of office with her resources increased and her mandate unchanged… I was aware of a whispering campaign which did indeed start within weeks of her taking office and it was done by friends of people in high places.”
February 2010: Cameron attacks the lobbying industry. “It is the next big scandal waiting to happen. It’s an issue that crosses party lines and has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”
March 2010: Twenty politicians were approached by undercover reporters posing as people seeking to buy influence. Fifteen agreed to meet, ten arranged meetings, and nine secretly filmed. Labour MP Stephen Byers claimed to have influenced government policy in the past for money. Conservative MP Sir John Butterfill offered to lobby to benefit the fictitious company and use his political connections for a payment of £35000 a year.
May 2011: Liberal MP Mark Oaten took a £2,000 taxpayer-funded trip to Athens for a meeting of a body that was being abolished despite no longer being an MP. Politicians can remain as delegation members for six months after an election unless they replaced.
December 2012: -Then Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, shown to have claimed more than £90,000 for a second home where her parents lived. Although the Parliamentary Committee on Standards found that she had over-claimed mortgage expenses by £5,800, it did not uphold the key allegation – that she used public funds for her parents’ benefit – because she was already caring for them. However, she was forced to apologise for her “attitude” to the inquiry.
May 2014: Conservative MP, Patrick Mercer, exposed after tabling a series of questions on behalf of a fictitious group lobbying for Fiji to be readmitted to the Commonwealth. He had been paid £4,000 as part of a contract he believed would earn him £24,000 a year. The Parliamentary Committee on Standards recommended he pay the money to charity but admitted “We have no powers in this matter”.
September 2014: Long after the expenses scandal outraged the public, The Parliamentary Committee on Standards recommended no further action again Peter Bone, Conservative MP and accountant, for expense claims made while living temporarily in Essex. Although it was against the rules at the time – as the house was neither in his constituency or Westminster – the committee decided he had been “new and inexperienced” and did not know this.
November 2014: Mike Hancock MP represented the UK at a three-day meeting of the political affairs committee in New York City in November last year two months after he quit the Liberal Democrats over a relationship with a vulnerable constituent. His travel came to £4,356 and hotel and subsistence £1,096.
January 2015: Peter Lilley, Conservative MP, accused of failing to declare his directorship in an oil firm during a debate on energy prices and climate change laws. The Parliamentary Committee on Standards decided the rules had not been clear at the time and that it would “not be fair” to find him in breach.
July 2015: FOI request reveals that MP and Speaker John Bercow claimed £367 for going to Luton to talk about the expenses scandal. His car to Lady Thatcher’s funeral at St Paul’s Cathedral, less than two miles from the Commons, cost £158. An official car to Canterbury for Archbishop Justin Welby's enthronement had cost of £524.
September 2014: Sixty MPs spent £70,000 on new iPads, iPhones and laptops before the general election, prompting the expenses watchdog to express concern. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) wrote to MPs involved to seek assurances that they were using the equipment exclusively for parliamentary duties. Some of the MPs wrote back saying they took exception to the request.
September 2015: Parliamentary Committee on Standards clears Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind despite the public being appalled by what these men were filmed saying.
Rifkind had denied he was paid an MP’s salary. “You’d be surprised how much free time I have. I spend a lot of time reading, I spend a lot of time walking. I’m self-employed. So nobody pays me a salary.”
And Straw boasted of his covert influence in changing EU rules for a company that pays him £60,000-a-year. "...the best way of dealing with these things (lobbying) is under the radar.”
How it will be delivered
I invite electors to remind MPs, parties and candidates of the standards you expect and press them to commit to the above undertakings.
NB: The petition is not affiliated or intended to benefit any individual or party. I ask those promoting the petition and its standards to maintain the non-partisan approach.