[email protected] … Nick Clegg: Sir Thomas Legg must re-open MPs’ expenses files

Over at the Daily Telegraph, Nick Clegg urges Sir Thomas Legg – heading the Parliamentary inquiry into MPs’ expenses – to go further than he has to date, and “take on the biggest abusers of the expenses regime”. Here’s an excerpt:

’ve instructed Liberal Democrat MPs to cooperate fully with Sir Thomas’ investigations, and abide by any reasonable requests for repayments. But when the Legg process was first announced, I think most people expected the worst offences to come under the toughest scrutiny – MPs who avoided Capital Gains Tax, claimed cash for mortgages that didn’t exist or ‘flipped’ their second home so they could claim for renovations on house after house. Legg’s review, which is still ongoing, will simply not be credible if it doesn’t do all it can to investigate these offences. It must, in particular, expose every single one of those MPs who ‘flipped’ their second homes, potentially making hundreds of thousands of pounds of profits through taxpayer subsidised property market speculation. …

… I’m writing this morning to ask him to re-open the files with a renewed emphasis on the worst offences. People need to know exactly what their MP did or did not do. Only when Sir Thomas has combed through the files for evidence of these serious offences will people have any faith in the system. Every single MP who flipped, avoided Capital Gains Tax or claimed for non-existent mortgages must be forced to repay the money, and held to account. At the moment, even those who are resigning in shame at the next general election will receive pay-offs of up to a year’s salary to help them ‘resettle’ into life outside Parliament. It’s a scandal: constituents should have the right to sack any MP who’s found guilty of serious wrongdoing, not be forced to pay them handsomely to disappear into the sunset. …

And of course, if we’re to sort out politics fully, we need to think about the future, not just the past. Britain needs voting reform to abolish the safe seats that make MPs complacent – those in safe seats were three times as likely to be identified as having abused their expenses by The Daily Telegraph. If we want to rebuild faith in politics, there can be no half measures. Only fundamental reform will be enough.

You can read Nick’s article in full here.

And here below is the full text of Nick’s letter to Sir Thomas:

Dear Sir Thomas,

I am writing to you with regard to your ongoing enquiries into MPs’ expenses.

I am, of course, glad that you are looking into cases where MPs have spent too much of taxpayers’ money and asking them to repay it. The British people have been deeply angered by MPs’ excesses and have every right to ask MPs to make amends. I have instructed Liberal Democrat MPs to cooperate fully with your investigations and abide by any reasonable requests for repayments.

But when your inquiry was first announced, I think most people expected the worst offences such as flipping to come under the toughest scrutiny. The letters sent this week, however, appear not to focus on these offences. If your review is to be seen as credible it must expose every single one of those MPs who claimed for a non-existent mortgage or ‘flipped’ their second homes purely for personal gain, some of whom then went on to avoid Capital Gains Tax. Some of these MPs appear to have made tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in profits with the help of taxpayer subsidies. They must be exposed and these illegitimate profits returned.

If we want to begin to rebuild faith in politics, there can be no half measures; full compensation must be paid by MPs who have abused their constituents’ trust.
Yours sincerely,

Nick Clegg MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

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17 Comments

  • Isn’t it revealing that NO Lib Dem London MPs claim second home allowances, but Labour & Tory London MPs do,

    Something voters in the capital need to be reminded of at election time.

  • Lol. Surely nobody believes this is nothing else than a clumsy piece of low politics and crass opportunism. I notice Clegg announced this AFTER he made sure none of the Liberal MPs could be implicated. He made no mention of this at all before that. Very, very principled, Nick. A bit like your changing stance on Afghanistan.

    Nothing to do with the fact public opinion is turning.

    Exemplifies perfectly why the Lib Dems are not taken seriously by the vast majority of the electorate.

  • The trouble with Clegg’s stance is he is a hypocrite. He lectures other MPs but doesn’t do the necessary himself.

    Has he released the tally of repayments from those he calls his ’shadow cabinet’?

    Has he got Rennard to repay for his troughing?

    Has he come down on any of his party ‘like a ton of bricks’ e.g. Alan Beith who with his wife (Member of House of Lords) claimed on the same property ?

    Has he refunded the donation to those that Michael Brown ripped off?

    Thought not.

  • Andrew Suffield 14th Oct '09 - 4:11pm

    Has he released the tally of repayments from those he calls his ’shadow cabinet’?

    Here you go. Since this whole affair is less than a week old and half of them are waiting for further examination of the particulars, there is no ‘tally of repayments’ to release. Clegg is entirely correct not to go releasing the initial estimates to the media when so many of them are still up in the air.

    Has he got Rennard to repay for his troughing?

    Rennard is neither an MP, nor a candidate, nor holds any internal post in the party. I don’t see how you think Clegg has any authority over him. As a life peer, he’s answerable to the government (via various obscure processes in the House of Lords), which effectively means Brown. Go ask him what he’s doing about it.

    Has he come down on any of his party ‘like a ton of bricks’ e.g. Alan Beith who with his wife (Member of House of Lords) claimed on the same property ?

    Beith and his wife split the expenses between them, they did not claim twice. See his detailed explanations, which the Telegraph didn’t bother publishing. There’s no case to answer here.

    Has he refunded the donation to those that Michael Brown ripped off?

    Money received and long since spent in the belief that it was legitimate, years before his fraud was uncovered. What would you have Clegg do, ask other party supporters to donate £2.4m so that he can ‘refund’ it to those people? This isn’t the Tories who can dip into their war chest for a few spare million – there is just no way for the Lib Dems to obtain that kind of money.

    Thought not.

    Or not thought at all? It only took me a few minutes to look those up. You can’t just believe what you read in the Daily Mail.

  • This is very good from Nick Clegg, and deserves applause for being ahead of the game.

    ollie – Clegg will be excused for having a better ear for public opinion on this, but of course he couldn’t have made this call any earlier because know one knew what was Sir Legg had said until the letters were opened on Monday morning. He would rightly have been labelled a hypocrite if some of his own MPs would be caught by his new proposal, so he’s not a hypocrite for making sure first – you can’t have it both ways my son.

    Mike – do keep up: Clegg has ‘done the necessary’ himself and repaid the monies suggested by Legg; LDV has been keeping a tally of the payments on-line; Rennard is being looked into (whereas, of course, the other parties haven’t really started to get to grips with the troughers in the Lords); Clegg has been firm with his MPs on issues like capital gains on properties supported by the ACA; and there is no cause for the LDs to pay money to anyone Michael Brown may have ripped off: there is no ruling that his donation was illegal, there is no way of linking his investors’ money to that donated to the LDs (good grief – if it was possible to link money like this, to people their donors have scammed conned or done over, and it was a legal requirement to do so, the Tories would have pay back practically every penny they’d ever had donated to them, and Labour would probably have to give back a fair amount too)!

  • Herbert Brown 14th Oct '09 - 7:59pm

    Rennard is neither an MP, nor a candidate, nor holds any internal post in the party. I don’t see how you think Clegg has any authority over him. As a life peer, he’s answerable to the government (via various obscure processes in the House of Lords), which effectively means Brown. Go ask him what he’s doing about it.

    What rubbish!

    Of course Clegg has the authority to get this properly investigated by the party, and the party has the authority to order disciplinary measures, including potentially the withdrawal of the party whip and even expulsion from the party.

  • Andrew Duffield 14th Oct '09 - 8:41pm

    Why hasn’t Nick gone for the moral jugular and asked Legg to demand MPs’ repayment of ALL taxpayer funded capital gains? He has taken this position previously – and quite rightly . Coughing for a mere 18% CGT is not good enough when many MPs are still pocketing 82% profits on property purchases made from the public purse. This is the big money scandal. Not cleaners, gardeners or anything else. Nick should be sticking to his previous line and calling for nothing less than repayment of 100% of the publicly funded proportion of MPs’ second homes.

  • Marcus, come on, don’t be so naive. Clegg knew exactly what he was doing when he called for “spivvy property speculators” to be investigated. He had already established none of his own MPs were culpable. Otherwise, he would not have mentioned it. Don’t try to make out he’s doing through moral indignation. He’s doing it because he wants to embarrass the Tories. If he had any balls, he would admit it.

    The Afghanistan question – everyone knows why Clegg is positioning his party to oppose the war being fought there – it’s called votes.

    Honestly, you cannot be that naive to believe that Clegg is any thing more than a desperate opportunist.

  • Grammar Police 14th Oct '09 - 11:04pm

    Ollie and Mike. *Hilarious*. Your response proves to me that Clegg is saying exactly the right things.

  • all these blatent crooks who have fiddled expenses should be taken to court just like a benefit fraudster would

    jackie smith is a classic example and a few libdems are not far off

  • Andrew Suffield 15th Oct '09 - 9:22am

    Of course Clegg has the authority to get this properly investigated by the party, and the party has the authority to order disciplinary measures, including potentially the withdrawal of the party whip and even expulsion from the party.

    You can’t withdraw the party whip from somebody who does not have it. Rennard is not an MP.

    Expulsion from the party is not one of Clegg’s powers. I forget exactly which committee handles that stuff.

    The guy resigned. He’s gone. It’s over. There’s nothing more to be done.

  • Andrew Duffield – how do you get 18% – is it the marginal rate? My dim and distant memory of CGT is that the gain is taxed as top slice in the year in which it is realised (after allowances and losses), which would (mostly) be 40% on the taxable gain.

  • Marcus, do you have any evidence that “Rennard is being looked into”, either by the Liberal Democrats or by the Lords? I’d really love to believe that it were true.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Oct '09 - 10:52am

    Andrew

    Surely you understand that as a Liberal Democrat peer Lord Rennard takes the party whip?

    And as for “The guy resigned. He’s gone. It’s over. There’s nothing more to be done.” Apparently you are of the opinion that – despite what we were told at the time by Rennard himself, by the party leader and by the party president – Lord Rennard’s resignation as Chief Executive was an implied admission of wrongdoing.

    If that were the case, then at the very least he should repay the money he wrongly claimed. And then there is potentially a question of criminal charges. We all know perfectly well what would happen to an ordinary person who claimed £40,000 of state benefits on the basis of a false declaration about their circumstances. But there seems to be a tacit assumption that some people are above such considerations.

  • Herbert Brown 17th Oct '09 - 10:54am

    Oh, and Andrew, you really need to acquire the habit of reading properly the comments you are replying to.

    I realise that the party leader doesn’t have the power to expel members. That is why I chose my words carefully: !Clegg has the authority to get this properly investigated by the party, and the party has the authority to order disciplinary measures, including potentially the withdrawal of the party whip and even expulsion from the party”

  • Herbert Brown 17th Oct '09 - 11:02am

    Dave

    If the following is accurate, then some kind of investigation is being carried out by the House of Lords (not by the party, of course, which has apparently decided there is no case to answer):

    “After writing as to the progress of the House of Lords investigation into Lord Rennard the Sunlight Centre for Open Politics has today received a repsonse from the Clerk of the Parliaments (Michael Pownall).

    We have been told that Lord Rennard is under investigation by the House of Lords authorities and we will be made aware of the outcome in due course.”

  • Herbert Brown 17th Oct '09 - 11:03am

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