‘Three Or Four MPs Will Be Jailed’

(Telegraph) – A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDARDS WATCHDOG has said he expects ‘three or four’ MPs to be jailed over the expenses scandal.

Elfyn Llwyd, a Plaid Cymru MP, sits on the parliamentary standards and privileges committee; but does not form a part of the official inquiry into expenses abuse.

Mr Llwyd, a former lawyer, speaking on BBC1’s Question Time programme last night, said: ‘I think Members of Parliament will end up in jail.’

He added that rigorous standards had to be applied to MPs who had broken the law and therefore punishment by a jail term were inevitable.

He said: ‘I’m not part of the investigation but I can assure you that there will be [MPs put in jail].’

Pushed by David Dimbleby, the host, he said he could not divulge any further information but, when asked how many MPs he expected to be jailed, he said: ‘Three or four.’

He added that such punishments were necessary in some cases, saying: ‘Unless and until some of the worst perpetrators are put through that mill, the public will never trust us again.’

In June, during The Telegraph‘s exposure of the MPs’ expenses scandal, it disclosed that members found guilty of filing ‘misleading or false’ claims will be punished with unlimited fines and up to a year in prison.

There will also be offences of ‘failing to comply with rules on registration’ and breaching rules on ‘paid advocacy’ (being paid by companies to influence legislation). These two offences will attract unlimited fines; but no prison sentence.

The new regime is expected to come into force early in the New Year. The plans were drawn up following cross-party talks and are likely to be unopposed by MPs keen to restore public confidence.

There have been concerns that the proposals for the three new criminal offences for the misuse of expenses will not be applied retrospectively, meaning MPs already exposed as having submitted bogus claims may seek to avoid prosecution.

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BBC Tightens Security For Griffin

(Reuters) – BBC BOSSES ARE BRACED for chaos and possible scenes of violence today after inviting right-wing nationalist politician Nick Griffin to appear on its flagship current affairs panel show, Question Time.

Security has been stepped up inside and outside the BBC’s West London studios, where hundreds of anti-fascist demonstrators are expected to take on the likes of the local British National Party (BNP), of which Griffin is national chairman, when the show goes on air tonight.

A last-ditch effort to take control of the situation by the BBC Trust, which met late last night to discuss rescinding the invitation, ended in impasse. The trust, the governing body of the broadcaster, said it could not take such action before the programme airs.

‘We have decided it would be wrong for the trust to intervene in a programme not yet broadcast — even one as plainly controversial as this,’ BBC trustee Richard Tait said.

‘To do so would undermine the editorial independence of the BBC — something we are strongly committed to preserve. Until it is broadcast, the content of Thursday’s Question Time is entirely a matter for the director-general.’

The decision to allow the head of the far-right BNP a berth on one of the U.K.’s highest-profile current affairs programmes has drawn fury from some political quarters who say the BBC is giving the party undue publicity.

It also has been attacked by anti-BNP campaigners who have threatened to demonstrate outside the BBC’s headquarters and attempt to disrupt the broadcast.

Griffin, who has questioned whether the Holocaust took place and attacked the U.K.’s tolerance towards immigrants, leads a political party that aims to repatriate immigrants and discriminate against blacks, Asians and other non-white groups. He has said that appearing on the BBC show will significantly boost his party’s profile.

‘This could be the key moment that propels the BNP into the big time,’ Griffin said. ‘Never before have we had the chance to present our patriotic, common-sense solutions to Britain’s nightmare situation to the public at large in such a prominent fashion.’

The BBC has defended its decision to invite Griffin, saying that because the party won seats in the recent European Parliament elections, it has a right to be represented.

… (Reuters, 22/10/2009) – UK far-right leader’s TV slot sparks protests

… (Reuters, 24/10/2009) – BNP leader gets mixed reviews in London stronghold

Hain Warns BBC Of Legal Action Over BNP Invite

(Reuters) – WELSH SECRETARY PETER HAIN warned the BBC today it could face legal action over its invitation to the leader of the British National Party to appear for the first time on one of its current affairs shows.

Hain, a leading anti-apartheid campaigner before joining parliament, said in a letter to the corporation that its action was ‘unreasonable, irrational and unlawful.’

The BBC announced last month that BNP leader Nick Griffin would be one of the guests on Question Time, a panel show where politicians and commentators discuss issues of the day in front of a studio audience.

The invitation for this Thursday’s programme has caused a political storm. Mainstream parties have previously refused to share a public platform with the BNP to avoid giving it credibility.

The BNP campaigns for a halt to immigration, voluntary repatriation of immigrants, and Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union.

It has no MPs at Westminster; but it does have a number of local councillors and in June won two seats to the European Parliament.

A BBC spokesman said the corporation had invited the BNP to appear in accordance with its public broadcast obligation to offer all political parties ‘due impartiality.’

‘Our assessment was that following the European elections [the BNP] had established a level of electoral support which meant it was appropriate to invite a representative on to an edition of Question Time,’ he added.

Hain, 59, who was born in Kenya and raised in South Africa during the apartheid years, said that as a result of a court agreement last week the BNP had accepted it was an ‘unlawfully constituted party.’

He urged BBC Director General Mark Thompson to suspend the BNP invitation until after a final court hearing in January.

‘If you do not review the decision, you may run the very serious risk of legal challenge, in addition to the moral objections that I make,’ Hain wrote.

The BNP agreed on October 15 to ask its members to amend its constitution to allow non-whites to join, in a bid to fend off court action from equality campaigners.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission had launched legal action against the BNP, arguing the party’s exclusion of potential members on ethnic grounds broke the Race Relations Act.

BNP deputy leader Simon Darby said Hain had been misinformed about the case and was writing ‘nonsense.’

‘At no time did we agree we were an illegal organisation,’ he told Reuters.

He said Hain was desperate to prevent the BNP appearing on Question Time, which regularly attracts an audience of 3 million viewers.

‘We are entitled to put our case to the public,’ said Darby. ‘Hain is denying the right of millions of people to listen to an alternative point of view.’

Protest group Unite Against Fascism said it would hold an all day demonstration against the BNP appearance outside the BBC’s west London studios on Thursday where the programme will be recorded shortly before its evening broadcast.