George Young on SF expenses: “Ahem, that would be an ecumenical matter…”

This is very interesting. The line on Sinn Fein’s expenses for their abstaining MPs from Sir George Young today in Parliament is no longer a matter for the Government but for the newly Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA).

Why is that interesting? Well, because, so far as I can see, the IPSA’s only role is to decide whether the expenses are legitimate, not who can claim. The inclusion of funding for Sinn Fein was taken by Parliament under the direction of the then Secretary of State for Wales, etc. Peter Hain.

It’s also presumably what the current Secretary of State had in mind back in April, when he noted (H/T the DUP Press Office):

“I think that it is inconceivable that incoming Conservative MPs would vote to continue paying millions of pounds of public money to elected members who do not take their seats.”

Some Tories have previously suggested to Slugger that it’s being put on the back burner because it’s not a priority for the coalition. But Young’s line is close to implying (without quite saying it) that they cannot undo it, because its the IPSA responsibility is bizarre to say the least.

And pretty close to Father Jack Hackett’s immortal words: “That would be an ecumenical matter…

It will give the DUP another free hit against their local partners in the UUP. But that may not overly concern the Tories in London who may feel that the other end of UCU-NF barely returned an effort for all that lovely Tory money that was spent.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Kinda predictable.
    “We would loooooove to be able to do something but its not our re-mit…..blame those horrible namby pamby liberal types in the “idependent” commission”.
    Its interesting that people assume the carrots to SF-IRA which were so much part of the peace process can be withdrawn.
    What would be the effect.
    SF lose the expenses and race into the Commons to swear allegiance to Mrs Windsor?
    The process collapse?
    Its all part of the weakest link in the edifice of the Process….Creative Ambiguity……the expenses for being elected (and not taking seats) was just one aspect.

  • drumlins rock

    surely non sitting MP’s claiming expenses for London could not in any circumstances be counted legitimate, and they should also be made demonstrate that, as all their MPs are double jobbing, the office expenses must be only for work that the MLA expenses do not cover.

  • Since the bulk of work is done outside the HoC; Since Sinn Féin are democratically elected; Since those SF voters like me pay their taxes to the British Treasury; do we not deserve for our MPs to recieve expenses? The largest reciepient of these expenses seems to be staff to work for the constituency. This is not SF pocketed money. To deny SF their expenses is to deny the constituents themselves.

  • Itwas SammyMcNally whatdoneit

    It was quite obvious listening to Owen Patterson talking on Hearts and Minds that there was going to be some rowing back on this issue by the Tories using the simple device of saying that things are different now because they are in a coalition rather than in power on their own. LibDems are a nice blanket of convenience to throw over any thorny issue that needs to be convienently forgotten about.

    Usual stuff from the Tories, make the usual funny Unionist noises before they get into power and then one they get in carry on as usual.

  • The UUP must of being mad to of ever trusted the Tories.

  • USA

    This one is not rocket science.
    Fitzjameshorse and Mehawind have hit the nail on the head.
    It was part of the peace process combined with the legitimate right of elected representatives to perform constituency work on behalf of tax payers.
    The Tories would not have been successful and they probably know it.
    Unfortunately too many Unionist commentators and political “leaders” are driven not by reason but by tribal flag waving. They do themselves and the wider community no favors with this kind of confrontational garbage.
    Same old, same old from sections of Unionism.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    well the definition going the rounds for expenses “is wholly necessarily and exclusively” which is apparently the definition for self employment expenses in the Tax Offices. It would certainly limit expenses…if that was enforced.
    For examplea Blackberry might be claimed by a MP (or indeeda journalist) as a tool of his trade…..but a message from his wife to pick up a pint of milk and a loaf on the way home….would invalidate the claim.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    And vice versa LOL

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Exactly its not a real political issue.
    Politics is about the POSSIBLE not the IMPOSSIBLE.
    Its about “image” and a “touchstone issue” for unionists.
    The tribal scream that themmuns is getting expenses and they are not even taking up seats… something that they cant do much about. ……but it rallies the troops.

    Just like Gay Marriage, Abortion, Womens Rights, Prayer in Public Schools and all that nonsense works up the American conservatives on FUX News.
    Conservatives will use these issues to get some cheap votes but are safe in the knowledge they dont have to actually DO anything……because the Supreme Court or the Constitution will rule it illegal.
    And basically the English Tories are pulling the same con trick.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    But a slight curiousity in the BBC footage.
    I can understand the BBC referring to Ian Paisley MP as “Ian Paisley Junior” in the case of the Assembly……but isnt it slightly odd to see him so referred now that his daddy is retired from the Commons.

  • Drumlin Rock

    its disgraceful, he should be “Paisley The Younger”

  • Mick Fealty

    That’s not what the original inquiry into the oath that Pete linked recently said. It’s a fudge, to keep people (ie SF) happy. But we know they’ve been using it as a facility to make dubious claims: ie, the rental of two flats their MPs barely used. And, even now, we still don’t know identity of the real beneficiary(s) of that little caper.

    As I say, its yet more Stormont fudge. Which is fine, but we should try not to delude ourselves too much about what that money gets spent on. At the very best it funds the party, not the constituency work the sitting MPs already have funds as MLAs to pay for.

    All of which would be viewed as highly unsatisfactory in any open democracy.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    But there might be more actually lost thru this expenses thing which YOU “know is ….fraudulent” than was lost in the Northern Bank robbery.
    But again I suggest that if SF-IRA claimed double the amount they actually claimed, not a single SF-IRA voter would have had a change of mind going into the Polling Station last month.
    I dont think any of them or us are under any delusion about where the money goes. Your best case scenario is party funding (and the worst case????).
    Surely the Open Democracy is something every man woman and dog in the street knows.
    But nobody actually cares.
    No SF-IRA voter actually views this as “highly unsatisfactory”.

  • redhugh78

    Correct me if I’m wrong but were any SF MP’s convicted of fraud over claiming expenses?
    The anti-SF mask of Mick slips again.

  • Mick Fealty


    That was a poor choice of words. I’ve redacted it, and replaced it with dubious instead.

  • jim

    they must have forgiven the tories n all the money there copping. how can they dine in the cheap canteen in stormont n think about the vol.bobby sands.hope they choke on their sirloins

  • socaire

    Beats tea and white bread, eh jim?

  • Anon

    Or maybe the extra funding improves services to constituents; you are making somewhat dubious assumptions.

    But if they took their seats then they would be entitled to expenses without question? What would the money go on? A bit would go on travel / accomodation but the vast majority would go to….. constituency work and associated staff. Or are you suggesting ti takes a vast amount of extra money to ask a few written questions?

    Second, have you any proof that the flats where used for anythign other than authorised usage? Have you any proof the money was siphoned off somewhere dubious? Any evidence that money was siphoned for personal gain? If not, then it could be as simple as the money was there for accomodation so they used it. I’m not saying there isn’t something worng, but the burden of proof seems very heavily on you as opposed to the party. And

    I’m not sure that throwing up smoke and claiming fire is satisfactory for an open democracy either.

  • Rory Carr

    It should be remembered that Sinn Féin’s abstention from the House of Commons is an active abstention. In refusing to take their seats and in refusing to swear an oath to a foreign monarch they actively represent the desire of their electorate to resist the power of a foreign parliament to determine how their lives be ordered.

    It was for this principle that Sinn Féin was established and for which its candidates have been consistently re-elected. That there are those who don’t like this is no reason why democratically elected M.P.s should be denied the reimbursement of their legitimate expenses while pursuing their constituents interests in the manner which they promised to pursue them and for which they received electoral mandates.

    p.s. Fitzjameshorse has it wrong about the Blackberry -a personal message would not negate a claim for usage. The Revenue have calculated a clawback for personal usage on many such items including motor vehicles, mobile phones, pc’s and the like. The assumption is that there will be an element of personal usage of such amenities and this is taxed accordingly.

    I can’t however answer for how the IPSA will view personal usage although I expect it will be much more liberal than the Revenue and indeed that it is unlikely to seek a reduction in claims for personal usage.

    I once successfully argued with the Revenue that the mobile phones supplied by a leading charity to its agents should not have any consideration for personal usage as a benefit-in-kind applied to the employees as the charity had, upon issuing the phones, also issued a stern memo forbidding their use for personal calls. I then privately advised the affected employees that if they happened to call their partner towards the end of a day they were calling to inquire whether there had been any business messages left at home and were not asking if anything needed picking up from the supermarket. I am quite sure that they all heeded my stern warning.

  • fitzjameshorse1745

    Rory Carr,
    I guess youre right as Ive already had three emails telling me I need a new accountant (actually Im retired so I dont need one).
    I knew that there was personal usage deduction but I always assumed that the actual purchase had to be wholly necessarily and exclusively as it would be very hard to say taht a journo/politician ONLY owns a blackberry for business use.
    Still I guess that the you and the three emailers (one of whom works for the Tax Office) actually know more than I do.

  • jim

    socaire……ask young sands n his mates

  • socaire

    I think if Bobby Sands had lived he would now be at least a minister in the Assembly. What do you think, jim? Seeing as you can communicate with the dead.