‘All MPs should be subject to an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs’

FOLLOWING THE DISAPPOINTING ATTEMPT BY LEGG to thoroughly address the valid concerns of an embittered public, The Telegraph turned the heat up under the British establishment today by calling for MPs to be ‘subject to an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs and suffer the same consequences that would befall the rest of us.’

Bob Spink, our local MP, will be one of those whom will not be happy with the call, which includes ‘extending Sir Thomas’s remit beyond the additional costs allowance and letting him examine whether claims for office costs were legitimate as well.’

In its online editorial, The Telegraph says this:-

A bigger jeer than normal greeted Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday. The MPs of the two big parties delight in baiting Mr Clegg; but there was a new edge to their disdain that owed something to his calls in this newspaper for a wider inquiry into the issue of MPs’ expenses than has so far been carried out.

Sir Thomas Legg, the former mandarin conducting the investigation, has focused on what he judges to be excessive gardening and cleaning claims, together with any questionable mortgage payments and arrangements involving family members.

While Sir Thomas is to be congratulated, despite the efforts of some MPs to traduce him, Mr Clegg has a point: if it is left here, the worst offenders – the flippers, the tax dodgers and those who wrongly designated their homes – will get away scot-free.

This cannot be right; nor is it fair on those who might have transgressed only marginally. There is also a strong case for extending Sir Thomas’s remit beyond the additional costs allowance and letting him examine whether claims for office costs were legitimate as well.

If one thing has been learned from this extraordinary business, it is that only complete transparency will suffice. The voters, who in a few months will be invited to return their MP to Westminster, will want to know precisely what they were up to, what they claimed and whether what they did was within the spirit of the rules, if not the letter. We are not even sure that Sir Thomas’s report will be published in full, as it surely must be, or if it will contain enough information to allow voters to make a proper judgment.

All MPs should be subject to an investigation by HM Revenue and Customs and suffer the same consequences that would befall the rest of us if found guilty of tax evasion – or even fraud.

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2 Responses

  1. I’m sure the Telegraph’s call will be taken up by all the people but will that be enough for the HMRC to step in? Won’t the Telegraph need to hand over the evidence they have on MPs tax evasion, and make a formal complaint, before they can act?

    • As I understand it, HMRC, unlike the police, are not constrained by having to receive a formal complaint before launching an investigation of this type. But, perhaps, more to the point is that the organisation’s overseer is the Financial Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Timms, an outer London MP, who chooses not to claim the second homes allowance.

      As far as evidence is concerned, of course, it all resides in the public domain – having been fully published by the Telegraph. Those cases being investigated by the police, you will remember, were brought by members of the public using that newspaper’s published evidence.

      I think the Telegraph has called it correctly, particularly regarding ‘office expenses,’ and because there is a large body of HMRC preventive officers who are used to undertaking financial audits. (The same cannot be said of the police).

      HMRC also have wide ranging powers of arrest, entry, and seizure that the police do not. They only need ‘reasonable suspicion’ to enter a premises – and I believe that could also include Parliament (as well as MPs residences) where accounting records might be kept.

      The Telegraph last night exposed senior Tory David Wilshire for paying £100,000 to a company he owned with his girlfriend, through his office expenses.

      You can expect more revelations on the office expenses issue now…

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