When you volunteer your services for non-remunerated work, be it a local charity shop or the House of Lords it should be a self-evident fact that this means you should not expect a pecuniary return beyond approved expenses.
In Lords Taylor and Hanningfield’s defences, they were aware that their expenses claims were contrary to the rule framework: it is just that they decided they deserved some pecuniary return from non-remunerated work. Whilst I can find sympathy or even approval for someone unable to find full-time work so augments a meager unemployment benefit with a few hours of undeclared work, this vanishes for highly wealthy individuals like Taylor and Hanningfield who were filing claims for the sake of it. Especially Taylor who, as a qualified barrister, who jolly well should have known that he was conducting false accountancy.
Well, they both have been released after serving under a quarter of their sentences. The House of Lords Standards Committee has no obvious means to expel – a de facto form of which happened to some (but not enough) of those (but not enough) sticky-fingered MPs who were identified either, so has settled on an additional punishment by suspending both for the periods their respective sentences.
Taylor’s vow to maintain contact with some of his fellow inmates and use his position of influence within Parliament to effect penal reform is admirable enough, but it seems an idiosyncratic definition of “paying [one’s] debt to society” for both him and Hanningfield to view continuing to sit in the House of Lords as a civic right. With expenses, presumably.
That said, at least they have paid some debt to society. The same cannot be said of Baroness Uddin whose has thus far refused to repay any of the £125,000 from false claims – including £40,000 after she was exposed – as ordered on her 18 month suspension in October 2010.
And it would appear that there is nothing which can be done to prevent her returning to the House of Lords as an unrepentant cheat. I try not to encourage Paul Staines (including not calling him “Guido”), but he offers an appealing suggestion: demand that she sell one of her properties and, if she refuses, apply for bankruptcy and bar her that way.
In news about other fraudulent claims from government officials, former Inverness City councilor John Holden has been released after three months of a 12 month sentence. Holden had claimed £43,000 from unemployment benefit, council tax rebate and single occupancy discount over a nine year period whilst a councilor. His defence at his trial suffered a humiliating blow when his own son testified against him.
What I noticed about his insistence that he will appeal and return to local politics (assuming anyone would vote for him) is that his solicitor is Amer Anwer who previously has represented high profile cases.