Sunday, 15 September 2013

Grayling Update

Following on from my recent piece on Chris Grayling, I notice he got a mention in the Daily Telegraph last week concerning MP's expenses. It won't come as any surprise that they are now claiming more than before the scandal broke a couple of years ago. If nothing else, our elected representatives have proved to be remarkably canny at getting to grips with the supposedly more rigorous system introduced following exposure of their widespread fiddling.

The piece in the Telegraph focused on how 155 MP's put family members on the payroll at our expense, including Chris Grayling who in the last tax year was employing his wife to the tune of £35,000 per annum. Although within the rules as presently in force because all attempts at trying to stop this dubious practice have failed, many would nevertheless feel it amply demonstrates bare face cheek by a senior Minister of the Crown.

But it seems Chris Grayling has a track record regarding bare face cheek and I'm grateful to a regular reader for pointing me in the direction of a story I missed from May 2010, again in the Daily Telegraph. It would seem that many of our politicians back then were so intent on us not discovering the full details of their expenses they they got into the habit of ensuring their wikipedia entries were doctored regularly:- 
When the extent of MPs' spending on parliamentary allowances was finally exposed in the Telegraph's Expenses Files investigation, a year ago this weekend, the details aroused public anger and caused embarrassment at Westminster.
Yet now politicians have been accused of attempting a further "cover-up" by trying to delete references to their expenses from Wikipedia, the user-edited online encyclopedia.
An investigation has uncovered at least 10 cases in which MPs' biographical pages on Wikipedia were altered to remove information about their expenses which had been added by members of the public after it was revealed by the Telegraph.
MPs whose entries were "cleansed" include Chris Grayling, the senior Conservative who is set to become Home Secretary if his party forms the next government.
An analysis of the website's records reveals that in each case, the change was made by someone working either within the parliamentary estate, or in a party office, or by a user who appeared to have links to one of the MPs involved.
The records do not show whether the changes were made by the MPs themselves, their staff, or others.
In some cases the ploy worked and the current version of the online biography makes no mention of expenses. In other cases, the details were reinstated and the people who tried to delete them were reprimanded by the website's managers.
Last night, critics claimed that the underhand tactic showed that some politicians "still haven't accepted the principle that the public have a right to know all of this information".
Wikipedia's own rules of conduct discourage editing by individuals with a "conflict of interest" - which would include the MPs themselves, their staff and family members.
In June and July 2009, Mr Grayling's entry on the website was changed five times by a user with a parliamentary Internet Protocol (IP) address.
An assertion that he used taxpayers' money to renovate a flat in London despite owning three properties within the M25 and living less than 25 miles from Parliament was deleted from the website, even though it had been supported by references to Telegraph news reports.
After the deletion was detected, a Wikipedia administrator sent a warning to the IP address about the removal of the material. Eventually the information was allowed to remain on the page.  


  1. A Probation Trust Board Chair writes as a BIG week begins.

    Might this be the most important week EVER for the future of the true spirit of Probation in England and Wales?

    Come what may I hope the work of Joe Kuipers is long appreciated.

  2. Jim,

    Echo Andrew's comments...JK Blog provides much needed tonic for open & fearless insights from atop into the shameless gadarene rush to sell off the PS...

    As an amusing aside on today's post how about this from that well known ' left leaning' blog on the corrupting influence of patronage evinced by amongst other politicos CG-

    Guido Fawkes

    REVEALED: List of Cabinet Ministers Shagging Their Secretaries
    Cabinet Creaming Taxpayer for Household Income Top Up


    1. 'left leaning'? Have i missed some irony? Guido fawkes is a proto fascist.

  3. When MPs can claim for oak toilet seats, flat screen tvs, hair dryers, potatoe peelers and shaving mirrors (sunday telegraph), then there are serious issues with the expense system that need addressing.
    And the tight fisted b****rd who claims a £1 for a cup of horlics in the commons already subsidised lounge should be given 200 hours community service.
    We are it seems drawn only to the large amounts they (MPs) pocket. But I reckon a vast amount gets missed with a few bob here and there.
    What was the total amount of MPs claims for the last 12mths say? No by individuals, but in total?

    1. Between 2012 and 2013 the total paid in expenses to MPs was just under a £100m. That obviously does not account for family members not on the expense list but on the payroll instead.
      The expenses paid to MPs is roughly equivelent to what the government predict to save by the introduction of the bedroom tax.

    2. Expenses or should that be Allowances?

      As a young probation officer 1975 - financially OK - just about - new entrant - wife working as secretary - not paid her worth, but we had enough to pay mortgage - go on camping holidays and go out nights occasionally - just about.

      I would go on a prison trip, be away from the office between 12 & 2, so think I am entitled to claim a lunch allowance - though if I had been in the office - I would not be entitled and could eat a pack of sandwiches bought from home in either case. But I thought OK I'll take a decent break I'll have a lunch - it cost (I've no idea) - say £1.37 (I think the allowance was about £1.60) Fill the form in claim £1.37 - sign 'I declare I have SPENT the money that I am claiming to which I am entitled (or words to that effect.)

      I don't really remember what the SPO who nurtured me through those early months with Scouse humour and wonderful good sense actually said - but he said something - I insisted I was not going to claim MORE than I actually spent.

      A few weeks on - ACPO visits - I don't remember the whole conversation BUT - it is OK and expected that I claim the WHOLE ALLOWANCE even if my lunches etc. were cheaper than the total. I was not confirmed - I wanted to be well thought of by the bosses - (well at least accepted as a 'proper' probation officer - even if they didn't actually like me) I changed my claims and thereafter always claimed whatever I was entitled so to do.

      I do not think I am qualified to criticise others who do something similar unless they are completely milking the system dry - which SOME MPs seem to have done and may still be doing.

      Later - about two years later - we were financially struggling - my wife was not working - taxpayer support for young families was less than now - I appreciated being able to claim every penny and also the unsocial hours stuff - like many others - I claimed that to which I was ALLOWED whatever I actually spent.

      I justified it because, salary rises were held back, many times - I think in the 1960s a PO earned about as much as a police inspector - it has gone down massively since then. After retiring in 2003 when I was on about £30,000 plus a bit more I met a contemporary from way back who was in the same bank as I had been before I became a probation officer - he had (like me) NEVER been promoted and did not manage others and earned £70,000 and had a non-contributory pension!



      In the early 1980s - Thatcher leaned heavily on MPs not to increase salaries and Parliament didn't but they compensated in other ways via ALLOWANCES - it was wrong and got way out of hand. Sadly we do not have a proper pay system for MPs. Like probation officers AND social workers (most) MPs are greatly underpaid - according to the effort expended, responsibility they carry and their value to society. We are not alone nurses and teachers etc.; also do poorly compared to some other public service workers NOT residential care workers, prison officers etc. who fair worse than us. As trades unionists we have not got to grips with it and as electors we have not ensured the MPs do either.

      As electors, if we vote for someone who fiddled the system in the past, we cannot be surprised if they do it again, the fact of re-election must seem like past behaviour is condoned.

      None of this is new, check out the first, so called Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole – at a time MPs were not paid a salary, and I am not sure about government ministers. It is easy to check out the extent of the wealth Walpole acquired by visiting the Houghton Revisited exhibition at his place near Kings Lynn (on only till November when his wealth in the form of paintings will be on their way back to St Petersburg)

      Somehow Walpole lasted as PM for over 20 years – despite his greed and corruption being publicised by satirists. There are no grounds for shock – horror reactions to the way MPs, still behave, the shock and horror is due to the electorate who allow this to happen.

      All the more reason for us NOW to impress on Parliamentarians that they must not deny the nation the security that the publicly run probation service(s) provide, developed from the good sense of THEIR predecessors.

      Andrew Hatton