Opinion: A new challenge for people wanting to clear up public life

What do Bob Quick, Damian McBride and Den Dover MEP all have in common? They have all been caught up in a public scandal (security lapse, smears, expense claims). They all have or are being booted out (Quick has resigned, as has McBride; Dover was expelled from the Conservatives and is stepping down as an MEP in June). But they all also may well do rather well financially after their departure.

Bob Quick is getting a generous pension (£110,000 a year according to Paul Waugh). Damian McBride, as – technically, if not in his day-to-day behaviour – a civil servant is also likely to be due a significant financial pay-off, as Iain Dale has noted. As for Den Dover, the Daily Telegraph reports:

There is growing anger among MEPs that after five months the Parliament has failed to take any action to recover the money involved in the most high-profile scandal involving allowances in Europe.

Despite having not paid back the funds, Mr Dover, aged 71, will also be entitled to six months pay, worth up to £79,000 with allowances and a full pension, worth up to £35,000 a year, when he stands down as a North-West MEP on May 7.

Last November, the Conservatives suspended and then expelled Mr Dover for “gross misconduct” after the parliament wrote to him asking him to pay back over £500,000 in “unjustified” allowances…

Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat Euro-MP, has written to the parliament’s secretary general Klaus Welle demanding action.

All three cases highlight how, to clear up public life, it’s not just a matter of improving expense rules or putting an end to the McBride style politics of personal destruction based on people’s private lives, but also a matter of dealing with the post-scandal finances.

Particularly at a time when so many people face reductions in the terms of their own pension scheme, struggle to make their own contributions and have seen the value of their pension pots slashed, the idea that someone can walk away in disgrace but into a comfortable financial future is likely to come back again and again and again.

It’s a point that Norman Baker has made in the past too with Cabinet ministers, particularly those who resign in disgrace, getting a pay off, and getting to keep it even if they then subsequently get another government job.

We shouldn’t be unduly hair shirt about it – something that is deserving of a resignation may not also be deserving of putting someone into poverty for decades to come – but at the moment, as the Den Dover case highlights, the rules far too often are too generous.

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