Tuesday 19 February 2008

Mr Martin - what are you up to?

I thought that the current hunting season on Labour MSPs would have them all cleaning up their acts and tightening up their declarations.


Sunday's newspapers carried the first rumblings, but me old mucker Grant Thoms the Tartan Hero has pointed out that the Speaker of the House of Commons, one Michael Martin esquire has been reported to the Standards Commissioner type down in old London Town for his *ahem* imaginative use of Air Miles obtained on official business. He diverted those freebies (that we all paid for) away from official business and into the sweaty palms of his nearest and dearest - including, of course, his son Paul.

Why's that important? Well, Paul is an MSP and as Louise pointed out in a comment left on Grant's blog, Paul Martin MSP should have declared the gift on his Register of Member's Interests.

Eh what says you, surely this is a gift from his father? Couple of things on that - no it wasn't, it was a gift from his father's office which is, of course, a public office, so it was our money - and even if it had been a gift from his father, he would have had to declare it.

Let me take you to a piece of legislation you may have heard the odd thing about recently - the Interests of Members of the Scottish Parliament Act 2006. A fine - and very short - piece of legislation which governs what MSPs have to declare.

'Ere you go, squire - section 2:

2 Registrable interests
(1) In this Act, a “registrable interest” means a registrable financial interest.
(2) The schedule sets out the circumstances in which a member has, or had, a registrable financial interest.
(3) A financial interest is defined for the purposes of paragraph (a) of section 39(2) of the 1998 Act as a registrable financial interest.

Paragraph 6 of the schedule is the bit that says that gifts have to be registered if they exceed 1% of an MSP's salary rounded down to the nearest £10 (£520) - and it meets the prejudice test. The prejudice test? Allow me:

An interest meets the prejudice test if, after taking into account all the circumstances, that interest is reasonably considered to prejudice, or to give the appearance of prejudicing, the ability of the member to participate in a disinterested manner in any proceedings of the Parliament.

Even if it looks like you might not be disinterested (as distinct from uninterested) in the proceedings of Parliament you should declare it.

Important question - did the gift taken from the pockets of the taxpayer exceed the £520 threshold? Paul Martin, his wife and two children @ £360 each - £1,440 (gross times ten don't you know and nearly three times the limit - and note the proper use of the @ symbol, that's my smugness quotient increased).

Hang on, says a Labour voice - the schedule specifically excludes flights paid for by the MSP's father (or mother or child or spouse, civil partner or cohabitant and so on). Fair enough - but that's only for travel outside the UK.

Guilty on all counts, m'lud - I think that's a £5,000 fine and exclusion from Parliament.

You know what strikes me - Labour members truly don't intentionally break the law, they just don't bother finding out what the law is in the first place. I'm sure that saves their consciences.

All together now -

Those magnificent men in their flying machines
They go up tiddly up-up, they come down diddly oun-down
They entrance all the ladies and steal all the scenes with their up tiddly up-up and their down diddly oun-down.

1 comment:

Indygal said...

A fine post indeed Mr Cashley - and not just because you're getting stuck into my last and my current opponent :-)