Friday, June 19, 2009

MPs' Expenses : What Is The Answer?

Nothing can seriously move and develop in parliamentary politics in the United Kingdom until the current utterly discredited expenses system is replaced by an open and clear alternative. Yet I see little detailed discussion taking place as to what that alternative should be. Perhaps I have missed out on this and have instead just been carried away by the deluge of negative criticism about MPs which has appeared in the media. I am not for banning this outcry. But I do feel that when the media shouts and yells, it also has a responsibility to analyse, debate and recommend.

Everything in the meantime is being left in the hands of the Inquiry into MPs' Expenses which is being run by Sir Christopher Kelly's Committee on Standards in Public Life (see above photo). Perhaps the media and those who see themselves as "opinion leaders" are just following the leaders of our existing three main parliamentary parties in saying that they will accept whatever Sir Christopher's Committee comes up with.

This does, however, mean that we should be focusing our attention on the Committee's investigations and seeking to influence its outcome. The three main parliamentary parties have, of course, put in their own submissions and their spokespersons have given evidence at the Committee's opening hearing. I don't know whether the Daily Telegraph, the rest of the outspoken media, Esther Rantzen and our network of noisy opinion leaders have done the same.

One problem has arisen since the Committee made 5th June the closing date for submission about MPs' expenses. Up to then it had published 71 such submissions on its web-site. Two more appeared on the morning of 8th June - as these were from the Government and the Lib Dems who were appearing before the Committee that day. But although the Committee holds more than 500 more submissions none of these have emerged although they were all received at least 2 weeks ago. Perhaps Esther's and the rest are in the backlog.

My own submission is certainly held up in the back-log, so I posted it here. Essentially, I propose getting rid of the expenses system altogether and replacing it with the provision of essential services for MPs to be run (or supervised) by an independent outside body. We are now in an age of key-board technology and such a system is by no means beyond us.

To get the debate at the level it needs to be, we need to concentrate on Sir Christopher's enquiry and get him to update his web-site. If you are desperate, there is always my comment box to turn to.

Note 25 June : The first eight comments on this thread have nothing to do with the above subject matter and can fruitfully be ignored.

Note 28 June : There is now a ninth comment which fits the above pattern and given the obsessions of the "Coventrian" (whoever he or she is) there could in time be more.


Coventrian said...

Slightly off-topic but I would like a reply.

Harry, you are President of Labour Friends of Iraq and as such I think you should answer my question.

How can Gary Kent be director of Labour Friends of Iraq AND a paid advisor to Maliki's Islamic Dawa Party?

Other questions I'd like answers to are:

How much does the Islamic Dawa Party pay Gary Kent?

What do they get for their money?

I have tried to get answers from Mr Kent, but he doesn't seem willing to provide anything other than a brush-off. I am surprised at you doing the same.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : A minor point to start with, I have not been a President of Labour Friends of Iraq for some time. The current Joint Presidents are both sitting MPs, Ann Clwyd and Dave Anderson. I was the person who suggested the change which led to Dave's appointment. He had been the Chair of LFIQ. For old time sake they made me Vice-President.

Dawa is of great significance in Iraq and is in need of good advice, which is something that I would trust Gary to provide. I don't see that this is compromised by Gary receiving payments to compensate for the time and effort involved. As it happens, the arrangement he had with Dawa ended. But not as a consquence of the type of criticisms you have been making.

I don't see that Gary's individual arrangement had any adverse impact on the work of LFIQ. Our organisation has itself maintained a wide area of contacts with numerous politicians and interest groups in Iraq.

It’s perfectly possible for Gary to be the voluntary Director of LFIQ and have other jobs. How else would he be able to live and provide for his family? These links are also declared in the Register of Interests. I don't think that it is reasonable for you to demand his payment details for any of these. He always makes a clear distinction between the work he does for LFIQ and the other bits and pieces he engages in for the purposes of making a living. I don't for instance demand to know who your are. You are welcome to comment on this blog even though you seem to have no functioning blog of your own.

Coventrian said...

'Coventrian : A minor point to start with, I have not been a President of Labour Friends of Iraq for some time.'

From the LFIQ website

Who we are

Presidents Harry Barnes and Rt Hon Ann Clwyd MP

Chair: Dave Anderson MP. Director, Gary Kent

'He always makes a clear distinction between the work he does for LFIQ and the other bits and pieces he engages in for the purposes of making a living.'

The LFIQ website links to the Islamic Dawa Party and the Kurdistan Regional Government, both of which employ Mr Kent - no distinction there.

As search of the website shows that the 'news' contain many positive references to the Islamic Dawa Party and the Kurdistan Regional Government, 'good news' items from Iraq and attacks on the antiwar movement.

I have seen nothing about Nouri al-Maliki's connections to death squads.

For example:

Iraq's New Death Squad By Shane Bauer


Bush surrenders Iraq to Maliki’s death squads by Ahmed Amr
Saturday November 4, 2006

I think it is perfectly reasonable to expect Gary Kent to be completely open about how much he is paid by Maliki's party. What has he got to hide?

Let's hope he does for Maliki's career what he did for David Trimble.

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : I was an initial President of LFIQ at the time of the issuing of our Foundation Statement in October, 2004. I think that it was late in 2006 (when I was no longer an MP) that I became Vice-President.

You are wrong to say that Gary still has an agreement with Dawa. Check his current record of interests.

If he influenced David Trimble into signing the Belfast Agreement, then he really has something to be proud about.

If you want something for your sectarian scap book what about his one?

Ian Paisley in the Commons on 23 November 2004 - "I am glad I followed the hon Member for North-East Derbyshire (Mr. Barnes) because he has always taken an interest in Northern Ireland. We do not see things the same, but he has always been in his place, and I regret the fact that he is not coming back after the general election. Maybe after this debate he will be persuaded that he should come back and finish the job that he feels he should do".

You can always edit out that "we do not always see things the same" or argue that this means that that we did sometimes see things the same. Please yourself.

Coventrian said...

'You are wrong to say that Gary still has an agreement with Dawa. Check his current record of interests.'

I have

This is the latest as of today

Mr Gary Kent a) Parliamentary Researcher for Dave Anderson MP & Stephen Hepburn MP
b) Political Consultant for:
i) Kurdistan Regional Government
ii) Independent Children’s Homes Association (a not-for-profit organisation)
c) Advisor to:
i) Islamic Dawa Party of Iraq;
ii) Crystal Umbrella, an employment management company.
Visit: 8-12 May 2008 to Baghdad, as guest of the Islamic Dawa Party who paid cost of travel and accommodation.

Wher does it say he no longer takes money from the Dawa Party?

You haven't dealt with why the LFIQ Website links to The Dawa Party but no Iraqi socialist (or other) parties.

Nor do you explain the uncritical approach of the LFIQ to the Dawa Party given its appalling human rights record

NEW YORK, May 4 (IPS) - Iraqi prisons are torturing detainees, locking people up for months without charges and, in most cases, allowing the perpetrators of these human rights abuses to escape justice, according to a new United Nations report.)

and connections to death squads.

Finally for someone who claims to have opposed the war, why have you joined with a pro-war clique i.e. Anderson, Clwyd and Kent to support the occupation?

ps I see the LFIQ website has been amended to portray you as 'Vice President: Harry Barnes' so I assume you still have a role in that organisation.

Harry Barnes said...

Harry Barnes said...
Coventrian: Dave Anderson opposed the invasion of Iraq as I did, that is why he was considered to be a suitable replacement for myself as a President of LFIQ. It continued the pattern of having Presidents from both the pro-war and anti-war camps who felt that the prime concerns after the invasion had taken place were both humanitarian and seeking to work with potentially democratic elements in Iraq, especially their Trade Union Movements.
Following such a project is not a simple matter, as you will find from reading this -
Nor do those involved with LFIQ share a monolithic approach on adherence to a rigid dogma. We are allowed to have differences of opinion and emphasis. My views can be traced back on this blog under the label of "Iraq". But that does not mean that I disown Gary's efforts. If you find such an approach difficult to understand, then that is your fault and not mine.
I am willing to continue this debate on your own blog if you will provide me with a link to it. This thread was supposed to be about MPs' expenses.

Coventrian said...

Anderson supports the occupation and even voted against holding an investigation into the lies told by Blair and his government.

Since you quote Lenin, perhaps you should reflect on your role as the 'useful idiot' of the LFIQ, giving Kent some 'antiwar' cover for his well rewarded pro-war, pro-occupation policies.

It is telling that when a genuine Iraqi Trade Unionist, Hassan Juma'a, came to this country, the Labour 'friends' of Iraq became rather less friendly when he told them what they didn't want to hear.

I would like to know whether Gary Kent informed Hassan Juma'a that he (Kent) was a paid 'adviser' to the Islamic Dawa party before asking his views of the 'armed resistance'.

You will note that Juma'a was on a speaking tour with the Stop the War Coalition, none of which was advertised on the LFIQ website. Indeed why isn't the Stop the War website linked to when you linkl to the rabidly pro-war neo-con Democratiya?

Perhaps it's because of words like this

I call on supporters of freedom across the world to stand by the Iraqi people. And to the British anti-war movement I say thank you, but my final message to the British warmongers is: "good riddance". The curse of your Iraqi victims will always be with you, for you killed innocent people and you tortured captives. Go to the dustbin of history, and never forget heroic Basra and the great struggle of the Iraqi people.

Hassan Juma'a is president of the Iraqi Oil Workers Federation, based in Basra

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : If this was a newspaper column, I would add the words "this correspondence is now closed". You are incapable of understanding my replies and keep returning like a cracked gramaphone record.

Dave Anderson was not an MP at the time of the invasion, but he fully opposed it - as I did. I have met Hassan Juma at both a Campaign Group Meeting and in separate meetings with Gary. In fact it wasn't until I started to offer my arguments as to why Labour Against The War and most of the Socialist Campaign Group were adopting the wrong priorities after the invasion and pointed out the need to work with Iraqi Trade Unionists that they moved to get hold of Hassan.

I refuse to respond to any more of your ramblings until you tell me (and anyone with the staying power to read this thread) just who you are. You read like George Galloway and are foolish enough to think that that is a compliment.

Coventrian said...

You tell people not to read this thread and then say, 'I refuse to respond to any more of your ramblings until you tell me (and anyone with the staying power to read this thread) just who you are.'

Unfortunately you haven't responded to any of my questions.

For example how much Gary Kent receives from the Islamic Dawa Part and what services he provides for them?


Did Gary Kent inform Hassan Juma'a that he was an agent of the Dawa Party when asking him his opinion of the resistance?


Why the LFIQ website links to pro-war websites, the Dawa Party etc. but not to the Stop the War website or even that of Hassan Juma'a (General Union of Oil Employees in Basra)?

However your failure to answer these and other points confirms what I had suspected, that you are a 'useful idiot' providing anti-war camouflage for a pro-war, pro-occupation organisation run by, and for the interests of, Gary Kent.

Yet more proof of this is that on the current news page, the LFIQ links to two pro-war statements on the proposed Iraq Inquiry (which 'anti-war' Dave Anderson voted against holding in public). The articles are by Kent himself and the egregious neo-con Dennis MacShane.

As you allow your name to appear on the LFIQ website, the don't complain when you are asked to justify the contents.

p.s. Did your co-President Ann Clwyd ever find those infamous plastic shredding machines that she used to whip up war frenzy?

Harry Barnes said...

Coventrian : I suppose that I should be grateful not to be called a "useless idiot". My condolences if this link gives you a heart attack -