Sinn Fein dragged into Westminster expenses row…

Whilst at the heart of this story there is a question over why the UK taxpayer should be shelling out on rent for 2 flats in London for MPs who are rarely there and never take there seats, again there is nothing illegal about the £437,405 Sinn Fein’s MPs have claimed over the last eight years.. Still David Cochraine does raise one interesting question arising:

If they are not travelling to London to take their seats, what are they using them for? If it’s for party use, are their questions raised as a result, or, worse, are they being use for personal (ie, non-representative) work?

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  • Scaramoosh

    I have on three occasions in the past five years, seen various Sinn Fein representatives coming back together on the plane from London.

    They looked very much as though they had been on “official” duty …brief cases, “minders” etc, and not as if they had nipped over for the weekend for a lovefest.

    Is it not the case, that whilst the party does indeed not take up its seats, it uses the facilities at Westminster. Indeed, did Gerry Adams not recently have Lunch with the FT in the Terrace Cafeteria of the Palace of Westminster?

    On a broader level, one assumes that the expense claims are justified, in the same way that the Provos justified their supporters claiming the dole..a case of using the Brits’ own money, to subvert the British state?

  • blinding

    Sure how could it be right to let them Irish Republicans (despite this parliament doing its utmost to keep them british) ride the gravy train like everyone else.
    That gravy train is only “if you are one of us”

    Perhaps they should remove the necessity to swear allegiance to the Monarch if they want “others”to also ride the gravy train.

    I miss the late Tony Banks for his views on this issue alone

  • bob wilson

    Mick I guess they are making hay while the sun shines at the taxpayers expense.

    I dont see this situation continuing next year if the Conservatives

    Owen Paterson:
    “It is completely unacceptable for Sinn Fein representatives, who won’t even sit in Parliament, to claim hundreds of thousands of pounds at the taxpayers’ expense.

    “That is why the Conservative Party has consistently opposed members who refuse to take their seats receiving the accommodation allowance.”

    CLAIMS:

    · Gerry Adams has claimed £91,659 since 2001/02 in ACA. He claimed £21,131 in 2007/08 (joint 343rd claimant).

    · Martin McGuinness has claimed £93,261 since 2001/02 in ACA. He claimed £21,000 in 2007/08 (joint 343rd claimant).

    · Pat Doherty (West Tyrone) has claimed £109,296 since 2001/02. He claimed £21,000 in 2007/08 (joint 343rd claimant).

    · Conor Murphy (Newry & Armagh) has claimed £46,500 since 2005. He also claimed £21,000 in 2007/08 (joint 343rd claimant).

    · Michelle Gildernew (Fermanagh & South Tyrone) has claimed £104,689 since 2001/01. She also claimed £21,000 in 2007/08 (joint 343rd claimant).

    Gerry Adams also claims:

    · £90,278 in staffing costs

    · £22,905 in office running costs, stationary, postage and IT provision

    · £1,506 in air travel

    · 2,123 on employee travel

    Martin McGuiness claims:

    · £89,087 in staffing costs

    · £22,358 in office running costs and IT provision

    · £1,530 in car travel

    · £955 in air travel

    · £1,306 on employee travel

  • Fair Deal

    The Mirror is trying to drag the shadow cabinet into the row too.
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/top-stories/2009/04/08/tories-in-the-trough-115875-21262293/
    However, the only case that looks immediately comparable is the Shadow Welsh Secretary as far as I can see all the others listed represent non-London constituencies.

  • Pete Baker

    According to the Sinn Féin spokesman quoted in the Guardian

    “We rent two houses in London.”

    5 x £21,000 = £105,000

    So rental per property per month = £4,375

    How does that compare to the rest of the market?

  • Dev

    I live in zone 2 which is pretty central & pay around £2,200 a month for a four bedroom house, but I’d imagine the Shinners’ rental accomodation is slightly more plush than that which is found in Brixton. Heard someone on the Today programme saying SF view their ability to claim these allowances without sitting in Parliament as part of the deal they negotiated with the British. As someone else pointed out, I’m sure they are not overly fussed about ripping off the British taxpayer.

  • blinding

    Is Sinn Féin being used as the “distraction Witch hunt” here.

    A little Witch burning is good entertainment while the other culprits continue on their merry way.

  • Mick Fealty

    Indeed Dev. Though it raises an issue of ‘claw back’ for future government who wants to take this matter seriously.

  • Brian Walker

    These of course are not new facts and have been chewed over many times. The fun will really start when all MPs’ receipts for the last three years are supposed to be disclosed in July. Many MPs are opposed to this as the revelations will be used as fodder for a drip-feed of endless embarrassment, even when they are within the rules – which they will be, in most cases.

    As a London resident, I would say that the rental value for two houses and 5 MPs is middle of the range. The right to expenses was won after a long tussle with the Speaker who initially wanted them to be paid nothing and was of course politically influenced. They acquired Commons offices staffed by an organiser and PR assistant in 2002. I would say that successive staffers have been as busy as any employed by the DUP. And to be fair to SF MPs, while they don’t take their seats, at least one of them is in London to lobby or hold a press briefing at least once a month and often more. This doesn’t include the many “secret” visits to Downing St etc., during the years of negotiations. Now that NI politics are normalising after a fashion and top level talks are much fewer, it’s fair that SF Commons expenditure should come under greater scrutiny.

    As already noted, SF MPs’ expenses are mysteriously uniform – you might for instance have expected Gerry Adams’s –
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/gerry_adams/belfast_west#register
    to be much higher than Michelle Gildernew’s –
    http://www.theyworkforyou.com/mp/michelle_gildernew/fermanagh_and_south_tyrone#expenses
    But they are well down the table of all MPs.

    All SF MPs should now give an account of what they actually do at Westminster and Whitehall, to justify that expenditure while continuing to abstain from Parliament. But I don’t see it being scrapped under any reformed scheme for MPs’ compensation, do you? How about asking them to foreswear rights to claim for expenditure not fully receipted? Adopting a system of daily rental allowance based on actual use and salaries for staff actually paid? A full audit of staff and staff costs at Westminster and the constituencies, shared between the Commons and the Assembly, followed by the introduction of a a cash limit?

  • Belfast Gonzo

    If anyone thinks this is in any way embarrassing or damaging to SF they need their head examined!

  • BG – SF will actually command more kudos for dipping their beaks as far into the British government as they can. The issue is that they should be prevented from doing so.

  • Mick Fealty

    Gonzo,

    You’re missing the point of Cochrane’s question. It’s not about one party’s embarrassment, it’s about accountablitiy. With sitting MPs we know what they do for their money. It is less obvious with non sitting MPs.

    Now look at Gerry and Martin’s air travel, and ask yourself how many nights a year they can possibly be using those two rented houses?

    If you were generous to Gerry you’d say maybe 15 return trips. Be generous again and say two nights each trip. that’s 30 nights in a year. I can get BnB in London for as cheap as £50, but again if you were generous you’d say it cost £100 a throw. £3k for the year.

    Martin’s doesn’t even break £1k in air travel, so Cochrane’s question begs an answer to what they are using TWO houses for?

  • DC

    Well SF are nothing if not good to themselves.

    The visionaries in SF often talked about a democratic socialist republic but if that’s the lifestyle they aspire to it’s going to be a very costly socialist republic.

    Who said good men can’t be bought? But expense claims are not much food for thought re SF, I’m still trying to get my head around how they can justify the havoc caused here over the last 35 years, at a cost yet to be determined. Some churchmen got together recently and tried to put 12k on it for certain ‘affected’ individuals.

  • willowfield

    What’s the difference between availing of office facilities, etc., at Westminster and actually going into the chamber? Not much. The former still involves de facto recognition of the Parliament.

  • Great to see you back Willow.

  • Mick,

    Fair enough, you post about the shinners expenses, but why no mention of the Viceroy Sean Woodward’s.

    Woodwards take is mentioned here,

    http://www.organizedrage.com/2009/04/jacqui-smiths-vain-attempt-to-talk.html

  • kensei

    willow

    What’s the difference between availing of office facilities, etc., at Westminster and actually going into the chamber? Not much. The former still involves de facto recognition of the Parliament.

    An oath, for a start.

  • kensei

    If you were generous to Gerry you’d say maybe 15 return trips. Be generous again and say two nights each trip. that’s 30 nights in a year. I can get BnB in London for as cheap as £50, but again if you were generous you’d say it cost £100 a throw. £3k for the year

    Sitting MPs are highly unlikely to stay in the accomodation for the average pleb; there are flexibility and security issues also. You could argue for one house rather than two, but get a BnB is pushing it I think.

  • Mick Fealty

    Ken, even if my suggested hotel figure were doubled to £200 and the air flights calculated at the lowest rung), it’s a fair old shortfall between that and the 21g being claim…

    Mick as for Woodward, I didn’t mention the shadow secretary of state for Wales either, who also has a whopping property portfolio… Did my Telegraph colleague (links are always handy) mention that the SoS does the NI job for an MP’s salary?

    I would not have picked this story up either if it were not for Cochrane’s angle.

  • willowfield

    An oath, for a start.

    Rather disingenuous. Whether or not they take an oath, they are still recognising the parliament and its jurisdiction by availing of office accomodation within the parliament accommodation, to which they are entitled only by reason of being members of said parliament.

    By availing of the accommodation, the Bon Jovis are demonstrating their lack of principle.

    On Mick’s point, I agree with him that hotel accommodation would be cheaper than renting accommodation. By renting, the Bon Jovis have are also contributed to the collapse in the capitalist property market which has resulted in economic disaster, to the exclusion from the property market of the less well-off, and to the inefficient use of property that might otherwise be used to provide housing to those in need.

  • Belfast Gonzo

    Since SF got this perk under Blair (and presumably Powell, trying to bribe the Shinners into Stormont or policing o sthg), now might be a good time for UCUNF to lobby the probe into expenses to link all allowances to an MP taking their seat. In the current climate, and with Blair and his henchman out of the way, if no action is now taken, unionists and Tories will have no-one to blame but themselves if the SF allowance continues.

    Should be relatively straightforward.

    (Ever notive how your finger hovers over the ‘T’ button when typing the new Tory/UUP group’s name Still can’t get over how crap it is; why not quietly drop it, now that the link actually looks like it’s starting to pay its way in the media? Although, the Tories seem to have taken the lead on SF-bashing in today’s stories. Odd.)

  • fin

    Willowfield, either you or I are misinterpeting Kensei’s comment regarding the ‘oath’ recognising the parliament is one thing, however, how could any party Irish, English, Scottish or Welsh which describes itself as been republican take an oath of allegiance to a monarch, the very act of doing so would make a mockery of its republican credentials.

    This in itself raises issues as to the democratic nature of parliment, why can’t a republican or anti-monarchist MP sit in parliament without compromising their beliefs, why should an individual voted and paid for by the people and elected to speak for the people pledge their allegiance to a single unelected unrepresentative individual.

    This issue has raised its head several times within Labour, one of their many promises was to amend it while in government, for which there is a sizeable amount of support within the party.

    Apart from that issue there is a disturbing aspect to this thread insofar as it only concerns wanting SF to take the oath and their seats and a complete absense of detail on how it would benefit them or their voters. What impact has the presense of any other MP from NI in parliament been, the DUP have been the only ones visible and that has been to endear themselves to the English people by propping the goverment up on 42 days detention (thankfully thrown out by the Lords) and the 3rd runway at Heathrow (which is back in court.

    If taking your seat in parliament makes so much sense simply run against SF in Westminister elections on that very mandate and explain to voters why it will be of benefit to them.

  • padraic

    This is a complete non-story. If anything these ‘revelations’ are more a “badge of honour” for the Shinners as in “aye, we’re extracting every last penny from the Brits – so what?” SF don’t care for one moment about being held accountable to the British taxpayer, much less to the British establishment.

    If the Tories are so outraged by Gerry and the Gang’s claims then why don’t they threaten to change the rules if and when they are elected next spring? SF would be a very easy target and could act as a convenient distraction from the fact that the vast majority of British MPs have their noses firmly in the trough. That would be interesting. And think of the fun a Cameron/Kenny double act would be for the future of the peace process! The Chuckle Brothers-lite must be worried that the concession gravy train might be coming to a very sudden halt.

  • Seceder

    The issue in raising the SF expenses helps provide cover for the the DUPpers and their expenses.

    So maybe it would be a fair guess that some DUPper has “highlighted” SF expenses to draw away the hostile fire they were attracting.

    So back to the real issue, if Diane Dodds gets elected to Europe what will the combined Dodds household salaries and allowances be?

  • Mick Fealty

    Gonzo,

    Someone at Tory central office obviously picked up on your suggestion. Paterson stated at five that the next Tory administration would not continue the practice.

    I guess that gets it off the non story spike again?

  • padraic

    [i]I guess that gets it off the non story spike again?[/i]

    Only if Parliament actually votes the Tories’ proposals into legislation although, as I’ve already suggested, anything that directly targets Sinn Féin’s trough (i.e. one must take up one’s seat in order to receive allowances and various perks) is unlikely to win the support of Labour/Lib Dem/Nats/SDLP. Could put the DUPers on a sticky wicket too.

  • Frustrated Democrat

    People are starting to see that the ‘Conservatives and Unionists’ partnership (the registered name will probably become just that) makes sense.

    They will have the power to take the decisions that other parties here can’t and they can make a real difference in cases such as SF not taking up their jobs properly.

    I expect them to do well in the upcoming elections as people from all backgrounds realise their votes can at last make a real difference to the things that matter.

  • redhugh78

    Alot of hurting current buns on this subject.

    Using the enemies resources to usurp their government sounds quite revoloutionary to me,
    of course it’s ok for the lackies and the rest of the silverspooned politicians from the unionist pool to be milking it for decades because they are one of ‘us’.

    If one were to disect the expenses of unionist/sdlp mp’s over the years I think their ‘personal’ expenses would leave alot to be desired but as I say, that would’nt count as they are’nt uppity fenians…now where’s that claim form for my mileage….?

  • Dave

    “Using the enemies resources to usurp their government sounds quite revoloutionary to me”

    That’s the funniest spin I’ve ever heard. I’ve saved it to Notepad. Thanks.

  • willowfield

    FIN

    Willowfield, either you or I are misinterpeting Kensei’s comment regarding the ‘oath’ recognising the parliament is one thing, however, how could any party Irish, English, Scottish or Welsh which describes itself as been republican take an oath of allegiance to a monarch, the very act of doing so would make a mockery of its republican credentials.

    1. That wasn’t my point – regardless of any “oath”, the Provos are recognising the sovereignty of Parliament by availing of facilities there which are available only to members of it. And the Provos are members of said Parliament by virtue of NI being part of the UK and said Parliament exercising sovereignty over it.

    2. As for your question, the answer is quite easily. It is an undisputed fact that the UK is a monarchy, and that the wish of the democratically-elected parliament is that it should remain so. There is no conflict between recognising that fact – and the “oath” that goes with it – but wishing to change it (and therefore to change the “oath”). Plenty of republican MPs have sat in Parliament and taken the oath – it didn’t make them any less republican.

    This in itself raises issues as to the democratic nature of parliment, why can’t a republican or anti-monarchist MP sit in parliament without compromising their beliefs, why should an individual voted and paid for by the people and elected to speak for the people pledge their allegiance to a single unelected unrepresentative individual.

    Taking an “oath” doesn’t compromise anyone’s belief. You can take the oath in acknowledgement of present constitutional arrangements, which are democratically legitimate and popular, while still believing that those arrangements ought to change.

  • redhugh78

    “That’s the funniest spin I’ve ever heard. I’ve saved it to Notepad. Thanks.”

    Dave if you think it’s funny I’m glad I cheered you up.
    The Shinners make no bones about what they stand for, which ultimately is the ending of partition in Ireland by the said Westminster Govt.
    Using that same Government’s financial resources to further that aim?..now that IS funny.

    Put that in your notepad and smoke it.