I sent this letter to Kevin Barron on May 14th. He still hasn’t replied. I went in to his office in Dinnington yesterday to ask some questions, and I have been told by his staff there that they will get back to me – get this – by email.
Fortunately I’m quite patient.
Dear Kevin Barron,
I’ve thought a bit about this letter in case my response was just the sort of knee-jerk response the press were after – but after some consideration I feel I still need to ask some questions about how you as my representative feel about the revelations that some MPs expense claims have been excessive.
I would appreciate a response I can use on my blog as I feel this is an issue that will interest your electorate. I would also prefer a response via email – not simply so I can post it on my blog as the format makes little difference as I can easily type up or scan in your reply – but for reasons of cost and the environment which I have explained to you on several occasions.
And so to the question – a quick google search has turned up all sorts of stories about people who have been jailed for benefit fraud – for claiming money to which they were not entitled.
For example, this story http://tinyurl.com/q9wzvc is about a man from Barnsley jailed for five months for fraudulently claiming £36,000 in benefits. He had lied about the details of his living arrangements on forms he submitted in order to receive money from the public purse to which he was not entitled.
Can you explain the difference between this ‘benefit fraud’ and an MP signing an form claiming expenses that did not arise as a result of their parliamentary business? I understand the ‘Green Book’ says the following about expenses claims:
“the MP’s signature verifies that the expenditure was wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred in the performance of their duties”
To this observer both ‘benefit fraud’ and claiming expenses that were not ‘wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred’ whilst fulfilling ones role as an MP seem to be exactly the same crime, committed in the same way – obtaining money from the state to which one isn’t entitled by lying when filling in the claim form.
Although most MPs seem to be using the defence that their claims – however excessive or immoral – were within the rules, this is simply not the case. The statement from the Green Book could not be clearer. ‘Wholly, exclusively and necessarily’ does not stretch anywhere near enough to accommodate some of the claims that have come to light.
I wonder if you could comment on the difference in the treatment of these two types of fraud? For whilst ‘benefit fraud’ is punishable by a prison sentence, it seems the punishment for expenses fraud is nothing more than a recommendation by ones party that one returns the money. Does this seem fair and just to you?
I have posted a copy of this letter on my blog at http://tinyurl.com/o83jsu I will post your reply there also, or you can comment directly on the blog if you prefer, or take up my invitation to create your own post on the blog in temporary lieu of your own website.
I would, however, like some feedback on this issue by whatever means you chose to deliver it.