(This is a guest post by tim)
Now here’s a headline you didn’t expect to see.
‘Time for openness over Parliamentary expenses’ says Respect MP George Galloway
It relates to this
Luke 15 : 7.
Or what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a lamp, and sweep the house, and seek diligently until she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth together her friends and neighbors, saying, Rejoice with me, for I have found the piece which I had lost. Even so, I say unto you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.
Well actually it relates to this.
Respect MP George Galloway has written to the House of Commons authorities disassociating himself from legal moves to overturn a ruling by the Information Commissioner in favour of greater disclosure of MPs’ expenses.
Mr Galloway was named as one of the high profile MPs information about whose expenses a member of the public wanted disclosed. “I have no reason to hide the information,” says Galloway. “The House authorities have pursued a particular route in opposing the Information Commissioner’s ruling. Whatever the claimed merits for that on the grounds of privacy, there is no way it can be justified, especially in the new climate of public concern over these issues.
“Whatever other parliamentary colleagues decide, I have told the House authorities that I have no objection to the disclosure of the information pertaining to me. I don’t claim for a second home; I don’t have family members on the payroll and I don’t claim for travel.”
For further information contact Kevin Ovenden on 020 XXX XXXX or 07XXX XXX XXX
Everyone knows about Galloways long struggle with lost coins. His history of missing accounts and abusing his Parliamentary Office goes back a long time.
Only last summer the Parliamentary Standards and Privileges Committee
Mr Galloway’s use of his Parliamentary office and staff, provided from public funds, in support of the Mariam Appeal constituted therefore, in my view, a further breach of the Rules of the House.
The report also sheds light on the relationship between Mr Galloway, financial records and his staff. The Charity Commission investigation found “proper accounts were not available”. What happened to the accounts remains unclear
The commissioner for Parliamentary Standards wrote to Galloway.
In their letter of 13 April 2004 to the Charity Commission your solicitors, Davenport Lyons, said on your behalf:
“. . . the majority of the documents relating to the Mariam Appeal and the treatment of Mariam Hamza are not currently in the possession of Mr Galloway or Dr Amineh Abu-Zayyad. The documents were handed to Fawaz Zureikat by the Mariam Appeal’s Vice Chairman, Stuart Halford, when he took over the role of Chairman from Mr Galloway and the Appeal’s London office was closed down and moved to Baghdad in mid 2001. The documents are now in either Baghdad or Amman and are not currently traceable due to the unsettled political situation in Iraq and Jordan.”
However The Commissioner continues:
In a letter to me dated 23 February 2006, Mr Halford said:
“I would like to reiterate that at no time were the records of the Mariam Appeal handed over by me to Fawaz Zureikat or indeed sent by me to him. As far as I can recollect only two or three A4 envelopes were ever sent by me to Fawaz Zureikat by FedEx to his business address in Jordan. These contained letterheads and basic campaign literature but nothing that could be deemed ‘records’ of the Mariam Appeal. As I previously said Mr Galloway himself may well have handed over records/documents of the Mariam Appeal to Fawaz Zureikat but again I reiterate that if this was the case the records/documents in question did not include any material that I ever knew about or was in my possession.”
Galloways second account makes an attempt to clear it up
Several of your questions about the campaign’s expenditure must therefore be beyond the scope of your rights as Parliamentary Commissioner. This must include what I did with paperwork relating to the campaign except where this touches on the provenance of its income. Nonetheless I have tried to be helpful to you in explaining that upon his assumption of the position of chairman of the Mariam Appeal I caused to be passed to Mr Fawaz Zureikat such documentation as I described in my last letter to you and in subsequent answers in our meeting. Exactly who passed the documentation to Mr Fawaz Zureikat is less relevant than the fact that I take responsibility for its having been done.
Is that clear now?
So, is yesterdays press release a delayed response to the exposure of Galloways abuse of offices, staff and facilities? Perhaps not. In the weeks that followed the report George was busy setting up a new media business. Miranda Media Limited. Miranda Media was arranging Galloways “Mother of All Talk Shows Annual Convention” in Blackpool.
And what a surprise. His business was using Parliamentary Staff, offices and facilities. And his constituency office was being used as a forwarding address for cheques. Telephone enquiries regarding the business to his constituency office were referred on to one of his Parliamentary Staff. Enquiries regarding Miranda Media business to his Westminster office were handled remarkably efficiently by one of his Parliamentary staff. Emails answered within 30 minutes. A surprise, as Galloway’s office is notoriously poor at that sort of thing as a survey into MPs offices showed:
George Galloway, the Respect MP who was accused of neglecting his constituents while taking part in Celebrity Big Brother is among the worst, listed as responding to only 7.6% of messages, leaving him ranked 681st in a league table of 688 MPs.
He even went so far as to urge listeners to his radio show to send cheques “made out to Miranda Media” to him at Parliament from where they would be “forwarded on to those organizing the Convention”
An odd choice of words given that Galloway,who is the only director of the company and the company secretarywho was handling enquries about tickets were working in his Parliamentary Office.
None of Galloway’s staff have declared an interest in Miranda Media Ltd in the Parliamentary register.
I am sure there is an innocent explanation for all of this. Perhaps in his new spirit of transparency Mr Galloway could tell us what was going on in his offices.
Then we can rejoice that George has found the coin.