British Politics’s Blog

The ravings of an individual, UK voter frustrated with our politicians

Posts Tagged ‘politics

MP’s to use new ‘Reasonable Discretion’ law to avoid prosecution

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A draft Bill is due to get its second reading in Parliament on the 24th April 2009. This Bill is designed to exempt all public servants from prosecution, civil or criminal, if they can demonstrate Reasonable Discretion. In spite of the fact that this Bill, if drafted into law, will provide public servants with virtual immunity from prosecution, has anyone actually heard of it? Not me, that is for sure, so I would like to thank political blog, Power to the People, for highlighting this issue.

He is a summary of what the Bill (Exercise of Reasonable Discretion Bill 2008-09) aims to achieve:

The Bill aims to ensure that public authorities and public servants would not be subject to any criminal or civil penalty as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion in the performance of their functions. Its provisions would cover public authorities, public servants and contracts for public services. The term public authority is defined by the Bill and includes the NHS, the police, local and central and devolved Government and non-departmental public bodies. The formal intent of the Bill is to indemnify public servants, central government, local government and other public agencies from legal action if they take decisions in good faith, as a result of the exercise of reasonable discretion, in the public interest.

The author of Power to the People says:

I would urge all fellow bloggers with an interest in justice to use their blogs to publicise this outrageous attempt provide public servants, especially MP’s with a ‘get out of jail free’ card. If this legislation gets through, as it undoubtedly will, then no public servant can truly be held accountable to the public, because a ‘good faith’ defence will always be available!

I am happy to oblige. Little wonder that more and more people believe that our Members of Parliament hold the public in such contempt.

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G20 Summit, Sarkozy needs to grow up

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Over the past few days, there have been a number of press reports that French President, Sarkozy is unhappy with the projects on the table for discussion at the G20 meeting in London. Yesterday, there was even a suggestion that he may walk out. Sarkozy is acting up like a spoilt child that must be humoured by his hosts, he is demonstrating an immense lack of maturity and in my view at least, he is embarrassing the people he is supposed to represent. Of course we are all used to political posturing, but this is normally couched in a form of words which does no reflect badly on the country or its representatives. Not for Sarkozy, he appears to be incapable of seeing how his actions reflect negatively on him and France.

I would suggest that he stops sulking like a spoilt child and does his job. The place for the negotiations is at the Summit, not in the press prior to the meeting. Has he learnt nothing from his time in business? Personally I would tell Sarkozy that if he doesn’t grow up, he will be relegated to a creche and given a dummy to suck….assuming that is, Gordon Brown is not too busy!

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1 April, 2009 at 9:08 am

Tony McNulty and an expense claim too far

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I am angry with Tony McNulty, because, although I disagree with most of his party’s policies, I always considered him to be sincere and committed to the policies adopted by New Labour. He was believable and one of the few ministers who could hold his own when challenged by the likes of Jon Snow’s  on the Channel 4 News programme, without sulking. Therefore, to find out that he was one of the members of parliament exploiting the rules related to second home allowances (which was designed to cover rent, mortgage interest payments or hotel expenses) was a great personal disappointment. I do not suggest that McNulty has done anything in contravention of the rules or regulations, but to claim as much as £60k in expenses for a home his parents live in, when it is just a few miles from his home, is truly stretching what could be termed, at least in my judgement, reasonable.

Members of Parliament are supposed to set an example to the rest of us, they are in a privileged position and as such, we are entitled to expect the very highest standards from those who are elected to serve the people. By and large, MP’s tend to vote and decide on their own salaries, perks, pensions and expenses, therefore is it essential that they are seen not to put self-interest first. It is quite clear, to anyone with half a brain cell, that second home allowances were intended to assist those MP’s who lived in their constituency and needed to cover their additional costs in terms of travelling or overnight accommodation in London. It was never intended to be a tax free perk, but that is precisely what it has turned out to be for many. They know that and we know that. Can Tony McNulty really justify his claim, when his permanent home is so close to Westminster, not in terms of the ‘rules’, but in terms of the spirit of the allowance? He may be an excellent debater, but even he will not be able to come up with a set of words that would convince me, let alone the public at large. To his credit, however, he has suggested that the home allowance rules ought to be reviewed.

This discredited expense system, that has become a method for MP’s to boost their earnings, needs to be overhauled NOW! Not by members of parliament, because most of them have demonstrated that they cannot be trusted to demonstrate objectivity, much less intelligence and independent thought, but by a committee of lay people. No longer is it acceptable that MP’s should receive benefits that those in the private sector could only dream of. MP’s need a reality check, they are so insulated from the people they govern, that they seem to have no idea how to act responsibly or appropriately. There is a recession going on out here, people are losing their jobs, companies are closing, families are becoming homeless, personal wealth is falling at an alarming rate and no-one in power seems to give a toss, so long as they are okay.

Ask the average MP why he decided to go into politics and you will get dozens of different answers, but I guarantee that they will not say they did it for the money, yet on closer analysis, it appears that greed (if lawful greed) is the order of the day. If MP’s earnings are so low that they feel they must maximise expense claims whatever the morality, then I suggest they step aside and let ordinary people take their place at the next election. God knows, this country needs people that are in touch with reality, rather than on a different planet.

Gordon Brown needs to get his house in order and Cameron needs to come off the fence and make some recommendations regarding a review of expense allowances, not simply insist that MP’s publish an account of their past expenses. Sometimes I think Cameron is even more removed from reality than Gordon Brown, now that is scary, especially given he may be our next prime minister. The bottom line is, however, that there are few people in this government that deserve their positions, starting at the very top, but I am becoming more and more concerned that there are an increasing number MP’s, from all side of the house, that do not deserve to be described a honourable nor are they fit to represent the good and predominantly honest people of this country.

UPDATE:

Anyone that is angered by the information contained in this post may also like to be aware that there is a new Bill going through parliament which seeks to provide MP’s and all other public servants with what amounts to an immunity from prosecution (civil and criminal) with a legal definition of the term ‘reasonable discretion’. You can find out more here: Bill to Exercise Reasonable Discretion

Have the bank directors failed in their fiduciary duties?

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Whilst doing my rounds today, I came across this article which points out that all directors have a legal duty of care or, if you prefer, a fiduciary duty. The author then asks why it is, that bank directors have been allowed to resign, rather than be sacked, given the government are suggesting that these bank directors have failed? It is a compelling argument.

Theoretically at least, if any director failed in their fiduciary duty, acted recklessly or without due care then, not only could they be sacked, but they could find themselves liable to a civil action. That notwithstanding, it is clear to me, that if ‘trust and confidence’ is an integral part of a fiduciary’s duty, then there has been a failure.

I cannot argue with the sentiment, so lets be clear, one government minister after the other has been heard to repeat the term used by Gordon Brown, that there must be “no reward for failure“.  Similarly, there must be no amnesty for anyone that has failed in their fiduciary duty or that has acted recklessly or without due care.  The author goes on to say;

These individuals have either failed or they have not, ministers must be careful in making damning statements, yet failing to back them up with appropriate action.

Surely government ministers understand that if they are going to step up the rhetoric, then they need to follow these statements with firm action? Anything less would be unacceptable to the general public who are now massive stakeholders in these banks. Moreover, if I were a former bank director, I would welcome the opportunity to clear my name, assuming of course, that I had a defence to the charge.  The article is pretty well summed up as follows;

I am not qualified legally or otherwise to determine whether or not any individual director has failed in their fiduciary duty. Therefore I am not suggesting anyone (bankers or otherwise) has acted improperly, I am relying only on the governments own words, that there should be no reward for failure, which implies that there has indeed been a failure. However, in the “court of public opinion” I would like to state for the record, that I believe there is merit, perhaps even a duty, for the government to seek legal advice on this matter, because they, as a majority shareholder in these banks, have their own fiduciary duty to the shareholders, you and me!

I agree! So lets see some action from government ministers instead of hot air.

SNP to solve the drinking problem in Scotland!

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The SNP, in their infinite wisdom, have decided that they can curb the “alcohol misuse” problem by increasing prices. If only it were that easy. It is a laudable initiative to want to address the excess drink culture that has become the blight of many neighbourhoods over the past 10 or so years, but experience suggests that putting up prices or imposing additional duties/penalties is not the way to go.

We all know that a car can be a very dangerous weapon in the wrong hands, but no-one has suggested that they shouldn’t be discounted. Why? Because it is the driver that is ultimately responsible for the car becoming a weapon. Therefore, perhaps the SNP should consider increasing the penalty on the minority that cause trouble as a result of their bad behaviour, rather than using a sledgehammer to crack a nut and punish everyone as if they were all naughty school children? I have long believed that alcohol fueled troublemakers should be arrested, held overnight in an uncomfortable cell, then the following day they should be fined in proportion to their income/earnings. Perhaps 2 weeks income or wage, which should be paid before they are released. This is a reasonable deterrent, given it reduces the available income to the individual, hitting the problem at source.

Instead, the SNP are suggesting a ‘penalty’ for ALL Scottish drinkers, which the responsible people are likely to find insulting. Furthermore, how on earth do the SNP believe it can be enforced? Are they going to have border guards at every entry point to Scotland to prevent alcohol smuggling? What is to stop people living in Scotland from travelling just over the border to buy their booze? I think this could be a massive opportunity for any entrepreneur with a penchant for retailing and living a stones throw from Scotland.

 We are of course having the usual suspects wheeled out to lecture us on how alcohol is bad for our health and adds to the cost of the NHS. We know that, but we still drink, it is legal and, we are for the time being, in a ‘free’ society. But it is also worth noting that if everyone stopped drinking tomorrow, the loss to the Treasury would be £3obn a year…anyone want to see their direct taxes go even higher? I don’t think so. The reality is, drinking is not about price or availability, the binge drinking problems are the preserve of the minority. Better policing, enforcement and higher penalties would be a better, or if you prefer a more targeted method of dealing with the issue. Raising prices is good for headlines, but it is not a solution, in fact it is likely to lead to more crimes being committed, this time, perhaps, it will be smuggling.

Mind you, if I heard daft ideas like this coming out of my government, I suspect I would start drinking, perhaps even to excess.

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3 March, 2009 at 8:17 pm

RBS Pension scandal or attempt to divert attention

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Perhaps it is the cynical side of me, but, I can’t help wondering whether the release of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension entitlement is a bit too convenient. Bear with me if you will.

Sir Fred has complained that his pension arrangements have been made public. Now lets face it, given the scale of the losses at RBS, it is not inconceivable that this particular obligation could have been ‘lost’ in the malaise, but it wasn’t. Why is that? At time of public anger over bankers, a nice juicy pension to a former banker was bound to get the blood pressure rising, with the masses venting their anger at the recipient. Yes, yes, the government must have known about it, but they have got away with other issues in relation to due diligence, so why not this. Added to which, the government will have known that the public, for the most part, would target the recipient not them. Then there is media commentators, the vast majority of whom have fallen for it, stating that the if the government did know and released the details then, it must have been an own goal. But was it?

Take a look at the headlines and you can get a feel for what has captured the public imagination. Not the fact that RBS is about to receive another £13bn of taxpayers money (on top of £20bn last year);  not the fact that a bank that is 70% owned by the tax payer has just announced losses of £24bn, 70% of which is ours; not the fact that we, the taxpayer, are about to underwrite £325bn of ‘toxic assets’ in return for a premium of just £6.5bn; and not the fact that our ownership of this company is now likely to rise to 84% in economic terms, if not voting shares (75%).

You would expect something of this magnitude to lead the news stories, but is has not, instead, in a classic New Labour ‘smoke & mirrors’ game designed to dupe the public, our attention is turned to Sir Fred Goodwin and his obscene pension. The bailout of the banks, the underwriting of inter-bank loans and the public guarantees on toxic assets have all but bankrupted this country and here we are kicking up a big fuss about Sir Fred’s pension arrangements. Instead of Gordon Brown having to defend the fact that he has just spent way in excess of our expected tax receipts for this year, he could go on television and say that the government were considering legal action to challenge Sir Fred’s pension entitlement, in other words, he (Gordon Brown) could appear to be in tune with the public mood.

Please people, stop falling for these classic New Labour, cynical moves to wrongfoot the public, they are laughing at us and in a way, we deserve it. As for the political commentators that have fallen for this trick, they should hang there heads in shame. Before anyone accuses me of supporting Sir Fred’s pension arrangements, I will state for the record that I firmly do not, I just believe that this government has used the pension to divert our attention and boy, has it worked!

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27 February, 2009 at 3:59 pm

Stop banks from carrying forward losses to offset future profits

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Most analysts forecast that most, if not all of our high street banks will shortly announce record breaking losses, as many re-value their assets and take the write-off’s on the chin. In fact, informed pundits are suggesting that this will continue for another 2-3 years. Well, there is little or nothing we can do about that.

However, any bank that has been in receipt of state aid, support or taxpayer sponsored insurance schemes must not be allowed to benefit from a double whammy. That is to say that, whilst the taxpayers of this country take on much of the risks associated with their recklessness, the banks carry forward these massive losses, to allow them to offset past losses against future profits. That would most certainly rub salt into the wound. Under current taxation rules, business can carry forward past losses, to set against future profits. This concession made sense for most businesses that have a difficult year or two, or those that are in a start-up phase. It should not be used to reward banks and their shareholders, when they have had to rely on a state bailout or support programme to allow them to survive intact.

Government ministers and opposition parties must provide the assurances, here and now, that the banks will not be permitted to carry forward past losses, to offset against future profits where these banks have been in receipt of any state aid. A failure to do this will allow banks and more specifically their shareholders to receive handsome ‘tax free’ rewards at the very time that the taxpayers will being having to accept higher taxes as a direct conseqeunce of the banking crisis and the largesse, or indifference of our government and ministers. This would be completely unacceptable. If the banks were not so integral to our economic well being, they would not have been treated as a ‘special’ case and received such massive state aid. But they are and they have been. MP’s must now undertake to identify the banks as a special case in the future, given the racing certainty that they would, under existing rules, be rewarded with future tax breaks/concessions.

Once we come out of the other end of this recession, taxes will rise and if the past is anything to go by, the public will be expected to pay the lions share through direct and indirect taxation. This country will need banks and industry to pay their fair share. We cannot afford any bank or any business to use 2 or 3 years of losses to offset against the following 2 or 3 years profits. Everyone needs to make a contribution. If business, such as the car industry are in receipt of state aid, then they must also be prevented from offset past losses against future profits, similarly, if these businesses are not registered in the UK for tax purposes, then they must undertake to do so before any taxpayers funds are advanced and for a period beyond, to make sure that taxpayers benefit in the future. Now is the time to be negotiating tough terms and looking ahead in terms of these banks and businesses making a real and tangible contribution in the future. A failure to do so will result in a massive public backlash in the future.