Skinner Guilty: Time to change European Parliament expenses for good

Lib Dem Voice reported before on the trial at Southwark Crown Court of Peter Skinner (Labour MEP 1994-2014). He has been found guilty by the jury of around £480,000 of fraud.

The essence of the fraud was misusing funds assigned to him as am MEP for the employment of staff to assist him in his duties as an MEP.  There was clear evidence before the jury that a large part of these funds were diverted for personal expenditure or paid to people who were his family members (and cannot be employed) or did not work for him.  It appears that the matter came to light because a researcher who did work for him blew the whistle.  The misuse of funds was not detected by checks with the Parliament.  The court heard evidence from an official that the Parliament does not conduct pro-active checks and generally relies on the trustworthiness of MEPs.

This case is similar to the UKIP MEP Ashley Mote who abused a similar amount of expenses.  The judge has warned Skinner that he should expect to receive a custodial sentence as Mote received and almost every MP convicted of expenses fraud also received.

Many of us have control of public funds and are used to a high level of scrutiny and accountability for the decisions we make.

The current system in the European Parliament must not continue.

The European Parliament should aim to be no less than the leading example to the world of good practise.  Funds made available to MEPs should be reviewed.  No claim should be made that is not supported by documentation and receipts.  There should be pro-active inspections to confirm that documents are true records (as every business is used to being inspected by HMRC).  All the claims and supporting documentation should be published online.

Time and time again, MEPs from Eurosceptic parties in the UK who have been amongst those against maximum transparency. Liberal Democrats like Chris Davies pushed for reform.  The time for change is now long overdue.

This is a moral issue that Liberal Democrats should lead on.

* Antony Hook was #2 on the South East European list in 2014, is the English Party's representative on the Federal Executive and produces this sites EU Referendum Roundup.

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  • Richard Underhill 5th Apr '16 - 10:02am

    Not to be confused with an MP who has the same surname.

  • Robert Wootton 5th Apr '16 - 11:20am

    I proposed that all publicly elected officials, MEPs, MPs, Councillors should be classified Public Self Employed/Sole Traders and be required to publish annual audited accounts. Expenses must be “wholly and necessarily used for the purpose of carrying out their business” in order to be set against tax.

    This proposal is in my e-book that I have re-titled “Creating Responsible Capitalism”. The original title was “A Common Economic System Architecture for the EU”. It would also eliminate zero hour contracts for employees, create more full time (35 hour week) jobs and eliminate excessive interest charges made by financial/loan companies.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 5th Apr '16 - 11:56am

    No ammo for Brexiters as long as they refuse to publish their own expenses.

  • Mote sat as an independent from 2004-2009 after being expelled from UKIP for benefit fraud.
    He was jailed for nine months but was able to keep his seat because his sentence was under a year in length. He never took his seat as a UKIP MEP.
    Is it still the case that MEPs keep their seat if sentenced for under a year? Plenty of ammo for Brexiteers if this is the case.

  • Alex Macfie 5th Apr '16 - 1:32pm

    In that case, the expenses scandal should have led to calls for the breakup of the UK.

  • Antony Hook Antony Hook 5th Apr '16 - 2:01pm

    Sophie, the UK Parliament and local councils have no such rule.

    They probably should have.

    Let’s reform the UK and Brussels.

    I take it you think UKIP and Tory MEPS who have voted against transparency are wrong?

    But you aren’t even transparent enough to tell us your name so I expect not.

  • Antony
    Not sure why you need my full name but my surname is McDonald if you want to know. I am not against transparency. If you want any other personal details you only have to ask, I did not realise full name was a requirement to comment I will use it in future.

  • Sophie McDonald 6th Apr '16 - 9:37am

    Whoops! apologies just posted that without full name

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