Thursday 21st of October 2021

shoe bait .....

shoe bait .....

Anthony Steen said public "jealousy" was fuelling the furore and claimed that taxpayers have no right to see the details of individual MPs' claims.

Mr Steen made his comments in a BBC interview shortly after announcing that he would be standing down at the next election. His decision came after it emerged that he claimed £87,729 over four years to maintain his Devon country house. The payments included money to inspect some of the 500 trees surrounding the property and to guard his shrubs from rabbits.

But his attack embarrassed Conservative officials when he claimed that public outrage over MPs' expenses was unfair and misplaced. "I think I have behaved impeccably. I have done nothing criminal. And you know what it's about? Jealousy.

I have got a very, very large house. Some people say it looks like Balmoral, but it's a merchant's house from the 19th century," he said. "We have a wretched Government here that has completely mucked up the system and caused the resignation of me and many others, because it was this Government that introduced the Freedom of Information Act and it is this Government that insisted on the things which caught me on the wrong foot."

on the other foot ....

yes Gus, but if you think Steen was a stinker ......

In a week where the MP expenses scandal has unravelled faster than a ball of string in the paws of a kitten, it's time to recap some of the highlights.

Best resignation speech

The Guardian applauds outgoing House of Commons Speaker Michael Martin on the rare brevity of his resignation speech, which came in at just 34 seconds. Apparently, the Gettysburg Address was a "rant" by comparison. Right, yes, but a slightly different historical moment...

Best use of inappropriate funds

from Crikey reader Gavin ....

I've been in Pommyland for the duration and have joined the locals in watching with fixed horror this story develop (unfold?). The latest amaaazement is some Tory grandee who got reimbursed £1,645 for a duck house. Apparently this is a sort of kennel 1.5 metres high floating on the estate lake out of foxes and other harm's way.

See The Telegraph's pic of Sir Peter Viggers and his floating duck island .....

Incidentally, The Guardian recently reported that the University of Oxford got £300,000 to research ducks' preference for water. They gave ducks access to a pond, water trough and shower. "They discovered that the ducks spent an awful lot of time under the shower, sometimes just standing there, others drinking from it.' So p'raps the next duck house comes with a duck shower.

Dullest reason to get caught out

Conservative Peter Luff is the latest MP to make it into the headlines -- for claiming three toilet seats, three food mixers, two microwaves, four beds, five tables, two ironing boards, three kettles and 10 sets of manchester.

Best idea for reform

Everyone knows reform must follow but there is plenty of debate about the form it should take. Today's Guardian editorial, musing on reform, identifies the rare chance on offer: "These are exceptional times. And this is an exceptional opportunity." If Gordon Brown needs inspiration he should look to The Guardian's open thread forum where readers are pitching their own reform ideas, although the first one does mention Guy Fawkes.

Thank God that awstralyan politicians aren't like the wicked Poms!!!

expense claims...

from the BBC


MPs are facing a further challenge to their expense claims when Parliament resumes after the summer recess.

Many will receive letters from an official investigator who has been looking at MPs' claims dating from the past five years, the BBC has learnt.

The MPs will be asked to justify their claims, and may be asked to provide further evidence to back them up.

In an interview in the Daily Telegraph, Gordon Brown has said he thinks "the worst offenders" should be prosecuted.

After the publication of hundreds of claims earlier this year, several MPs announced they would stand down.


see toon at top.

gardening retrospectively...

Fourteen senior Conservative MPs have been asked to repay some of their parliamentary expenses.

Auditor Sir Thomas Legg has reviewed claims on second homes since 2004 and applied new retrospective limits on allowances for gardening and cleaning.

Shadow business secretary Ken Clarke, shadow foreign secretary William Hague and shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley are among who must repay money.

Sir Thomas has also asked some cabinet ministers to repay money.


see toon at top.

in the duck house...

An MP who was forced to stand down after claiming £1,645 on expenses for a floating duck house has now sold it for charity, it was confirmed today.

Former Conservative MP for Gosport Sir Peter Viggers, 72, was criticised for his expenses claims which totalled £30,000 for gardening costs.

These included the 5ft duck house which acts as a floating island to protect ducks from being attacked by foxes.

Now Sir Peter, who quit his seat at the General Election on the orders of David Cameron, has sold the Stockholm duck house at auction.

It sold to a business centre in Wolverhampton for £1,700 and Sir Peter donated the proceeds to Macmillan Cancer Support.

A spokesman for the charity said: "Macmillan Cancer Support relies entirely on public donations to provide practical, emotional and financial support to the two million people currently living with cancer.


Gus: but what about the ducks and the foxes????

illegal leaking?...


July 2021...

Official Secrets Act: home secretary’s planned reform will make criminals out of journalists


The UK government has proposed new legislation to counter state threats, including an overhaul of the Official Secrets Act. According to the Home Office, the new legislation is necessary because “the existing legislation does not sufficiently capture the discernible and very real threat posed by state threats”.

If passed, this new legislation has serious consequences for journalism and its ability to hold governments to account. This is because the proposed bill includes a major crackdown on “unauthorised disclosures”, or leaks of sensitive information. 

Much hard-hitting investigative journalism is based on such leaks. High-profile examples of stories based on unauthorised disclosures include Edward Snowden’s revelations in 2013 of the activities of US and UK spy agencies, including major global surveillance programmes, in 2013. The leaks led to a broader debate about the role of the state in facilitating mass surveillance. 

Unauthorised disclosures also paved the way for the 2009 MPs’ expenses scandal. This provided evidence of widespread abuse of the parliamentary expenses system, including MPs taking advantage of a generous second home allowance, and charging the public purse for £1,700 floating duck houses and £2,000 for moat cleaning.

These leaks brought to light important information in the public interest, and led to widespread resignations and legislative and policy change, including the establishment of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

The Official Secrets Act has been used in the past to prosecute individuals responsible for disclosing sensitive information. For example, David Shayler, an MI5 agent, was found guilty of releasing documents about the spy agency’s activities to the Daily Mail in 1997. 

However, as the Home Office consultation makes clear, the proposed law enables harsher punishments for journalists and their sources. In a remarkable twist, it equates investigative journalism with spying. The consultation suggests that the Home Office does “not consider that there is necessarily a distinction in severity between espionage and the most serious unauthorised disclosures”.

At the same time, the Home Office takes a dim view of the need to protect journalists. In response to the Law Commission’s proposal to introduce a “public interest” defence which would provide protection to journalists, the consultation document argues that “these proposals could in fact undermine our efforts to prevent damaging unauthorised disclosures”.

To highlight the serious threat posed by such disclosure, it proposes an increase in prison terms for such offences, from two years and up to 14 years. 


This represents a direct threat to the ability of journalists and their sources to make public information about wrongdoing in the public interest.

Press freedom under threat

The legislation arrives at a fraught moment for press freedom around the world. Recent years have seen growing physical and legal threats to journalists, against the backdrop of a rise of authoritarian and populist regimes. In that context, national security laws often provide the grounds for prosecution of journalists and others who may hold governments to account. 

Over the past two decades, scholars have identified the rise of “securitisation” – a process whereby claims about national security come to override any other concerns, and are used widely to limit the scope for dissent and challenge. 

The new law should be seen as part of a broader project on the part of Priti Patel’s Home Office to cut down civil liberties by legislative means. For example, the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, which was recently passed in Parliament, allows for police to shut down protests in England and Wales at will. 

Such laws are not merely pieces of paper. Instead, they are frequently used to crack down on critical voices. In 2019, 15 activists were convicted of a terrorism offence after chaining themselves around an immigration removal flight at Stansted Airport. While the conviction was later overturned, the case highlighted the potential for creative and politically charged interpretations of security-related laws. 

The Official Secrets Act reforms, if passed, are likely to have a significant chilling effect on journalists and their sources. As research has shown, the threat of prosecution and prison makes sources more reluctant to share sensitive information in the public interest, and makes journalists less likely to pursue such information in the first place. 

The Home Office has responded to concerns about the chilling effect of the proposed legislation, stressing that journalists will “remain free to hold the Government to account.”


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See also: 

freedom of the press UK style...


the king of slanted news was having fun...




a soi-disant global defender of journalistic freedom...