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MPs Expenses Latest Shame

Mail on Sunday Newspaper - August 2010

This latest story on MPs expenses came from a whistleblower who was upset at the treatment of Parlimentary staff in charge of paying out the money.

The whistleblower alleged that the MPs were being abusive and rude.

This latest shame for MPS was published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper.


Named: The MPs whose angry outbursts forced expenses chief to quit for his 'health and sanity'

Mail on Sunday newspaper

Details of shocking claims that MPs swore at and bullied staff in charge of a crackdown on expenses can be revealed for the first time today. 

The conduct of some MPs was so bad a soccer-style 'yellow-card' system was created. The alleged worst offenders could communicate only in writing with expenses chiefs. 

Senior figures at the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) even discussed 'naming and shaming' the culprits. 

The roll call of MPs reportedly involved in clashes with IPSA, set up after public outrage at the expenses scandal, includes Cabinet Ministers Theresa May and Vince Cable, and Labour's ex-Europe Minister Denis MacShane.

Today's revelations follow the resignation of IPSA operations director Nigel Gooding in June after rows with MPs over the tough new expenses regime. Mr Gooding, 46, said he left 'for the sake of my health and sanity'. 

Outraged by MPs' conduct, he devised the 'yellow-card' system. The unofficial sanction was used on MPs including ex-Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth, fellow Labour MP Brian Donohoe and Tory Daniel Kawczynski, but they were never informed.

The disclosures come as MPs continue to attack IPSA as a 'shambles'. David Cameron echoed the complaints, urging the authority to 'get a grip'. 

But privately officials say the campaign is a smokescreen for MPs' fury at losing perks.

When IPSA was set up, MPs were told not to contact staff directly to stop a repeat of the old system, when officials were said to have been pressured to approve doubtful claims. 

But some MPs did get through and The Mail on Sunday has obtained accounts of heated exchanges with MPs. 

IPSA even put up a sign at the Commons office: 'Abuse of staff will not be tolerated' - the kind of notice used to deter attacks on hospital staff by drunks.

Ayrshire Labour MP Brian Donohoe, rebuked after a row at a delay in paying his wages, told The Mail on Sunday: 'I had many a run-in with IPSA but I didn't threaten anyone. I said they owed me £6,500 and if they didn't pay it I'd sue them. Hey presto, I was paid in days.' 

A two-hour lesson was arranged for Dennis Skinner to overcome his aversion to computers, but the veteran Labour Left-winger said: 'I can't bloody do this.' 

Told his staff could do it for him, he said: 'None of them use computers either. Why can't we use paper like before? What a waste of money.'

Business Secretary Vince Cable is one of hundreds of MPs to complain to IPSA. 'How can we be expected to run our office and pay staff under the new system?' his office emailed.

Tempers flared when IPSA policy director John Sills had a two-hour showdown with massed Labour MPs that colleagues say left him 'shaking with shock'. 


One said: 'It was like the Somme. Poor John was a nervous wreck.'

MPs lashed out as he defended paying for only 85 per cent of phone calls, saying it was fair to assume 15 per cent were personal calls. 

They shouted 'You're lying' as he said: 'Personally, I don't make personal calls on my work phone.' 

The MPs demanded: 'How much do you earn? Come on, tell us.' 

As he defended an £85,000 salary, MPs (on £65,000) shouted: 'That's more than us.'

Pointing at wheelchair-bound Aberdeen Labour MP Anne Begg, MPs cried out: 'Anne will never cope with the expenses cuts.' 

Mr Sills pleaded with her: 'But we've promised we'll look after you, you know that don't you?' 

He said there was extra aid for disabled MPs but was drowned out. One MP quipped: 'If we'd had a rope, he'd have been hanged.' 

IPSA sources say Mr Gooding told Labour ex-Minister for Veterans Kevan Jones to be less belligerent after a clash over having not given his bank details for payments. 

Mr Jones said last night: 'Mr Gooding told me I wouldn't get paid. I said in that case, I'd take legal action. You have to be persistent to get things done. But I'm always polite - and you don't shoot the messenger. 

'IPSA is flawed. Many of the problems were caused by its decision not to allow MPs to talk to staff. They were overwhelmed by emails and took weeks to answer.'

Some MPs worried about new restrictions on employing 'connected parties', such as family members, as secretaries or researchers. 

They included married Romsey Tory MP Caroline Nokes, who was caught spending a night in a hotel with young Tory activist James Dinsdale soon after the Election. 

She asked if a county councillor could work for her. IPSA said the rules did not stop an MP employing someone politically active. 

IPSA even put up a sign at the Commons office: 'Abuse of staff will not be tolerated' - the kind of notice used to deter attacks on hospital staff by drunks

Her father Roy Perry and Mr Dinsdale are county councillors, but she did not say if she was considering either.

Diane Abbott, the Labour leadership hopeful, tried to claim hundreds of pounds in pre-Election expenses, despite a rule that IPSA can only pay post-Election expenses. 

The claim was rebuffed.

Asking why all expenses details had to be submitted in writing, Orpington Tory MP Jo Johnson, Boris's brother, was told it was to ensure it was all properly recorded, unlike the previous regime.

And Lib Dem whip Alistair Carmichael demanded £4,000 loans for MPs to pay staff, saying: 'Our MPs are skint. They spent all their money getting elected.'

IPSA mooted a plan to 'name and shame' MPs who were rude or tried to block its work, but board members decided it would be 'too controversial'.

A Commons insider said: 'There's no defence for shouting or swearing. We're talking about taxpayers' money. Plenty of MPs still don't get it. They still think they deserve special treatment.'

An IPSA spokesman said: 'We've had thousands of conversations with MPs, the vast majority cordial and professional. Our experiences, particularly recently, show IPSA and MPs are focused on getting on with their jobs.' 

IPSA operations director Nigel Gooding objected to 'aggressive' comments when Mr Ainsworth told him to 'stop screwing me around' over constituency expenses cuts. 

IToday Mr Ainsworth said: 'Mr Gooding promised to return my calls but never did. I told him it was unacceptable and he had no right to screw me around. He claimed that was abuse, so then he did get some abuse. He was incapable of doing the job.' 

The ex-Defence Secretary denied demanding an exemption from the MPs' ban on free first-class rail travel on the grounds that bodyguards could not protect him in second class. 

The Labour MP was reportedly 'abusive and foul-mouthed' to an IPSA staff member teaching him how to claim expenses, who burst into tears after Mr MacShane 'tore' into her. 

Today he said: 'A nice young intern was trying to explain it but I could have learned Chinese quicker. 

'I kept saying, "This is impossible, you can't expect middle-aged MPs to learn this stuff". 

'I wasn't rude. She was upset because I was upset. 

'I said, "We've got to stop", and went and bought her the biggest box of chocolates I could find.'

Home Secretary Mrs May clashed with IPSA when she went for a training session designed to show MPs how to use the new computerised expenses system.

'She was very aggressive and said the new system was rubbish,' said a source. 

'She kept saying, "This is not good enough", and "I don't see why I need to put this in writing".'

Mrs May was reported to IPSA bosses who are said to have condemned her 'unacceptable' conduct. 

A spokeswoman for Mrs May said: 'Theresa has always taken this issue very seriously and like everyone else wants the system to work well.'

Tory Daniel Kawczynski, at  6ft 8½ in the tallest MP, complained that staff addressed him as 'Danny' and not 'Mr Kawczynski'. 

Parliamentary sources said a female aide refused to deal with the MP after he was rude. 

Mr Kawczynski said today: 'The people on the IPSA switchboard kept addressing me 
as Danny. I think it is a common courtesy that when you speak to someone you don't know, you address them by their surname.'

He confirmed he had complained but denied being rude