Pyramid Comment

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Wednesday, April 14, 2010

MP Legal Aid

MPs applying successfully for legal aid on their salary: £63,291. The origins of the expenses system are revealing:

  • The BIG issues involve the Additional Cost Allowance (ACA), widely regarded as an indirect salary increase (Margaret Thatcher: 1985) and therefore to be had "as of right", although this public money is used to finance private property dealing. This would explain the apparent complicity of the fees office.
    • Margaret Thatcher in 1985 set the precedent by deluding the public into thinking public sector pay was being restrained yet pumping up MP benefits. An indirect 'salary' increase was cynically engineered. Salaries were hailed as being held back, but other tricks were going on. An Additional Cost Allowance change allowed MPs to begin claiming their mortgage costs rather than hotel bills and rent. So was created the property speculation monster. Tony Blair (Labour) extended this Thatcher (Conservative) concept to London-based ministers since they were always whingeing of not being paid enough.
MP Expenses - Windup And Misdirection
What can be claimed on expenses
What are the criterea to have legal aid approved?

This is demonstrative of the mentallity that enabled the situation that caused the accusations in the first place and illustrates the attitude of exploiting a system (expenses) and allegedly turning into personal advantage. The application for legal aid itself appears to be a self-damning action.


  • Legal aid in England and Wales was originally established by the Legal Aid and Advice Act 1949.[2][2] Today legal aid in England and Wales costs the taxpayer £2bn a year - higher per capita spend than anywhere else in the world - and is available to around 29% of adults.
  • Today, legal aid in England and Wales is administered by the Legal Services Commission, and is available for most criminal cases, and many types of civil cases with exceptions including libel, most personal injury cases (which are now dealt with under Conditional Fee Agreements, a species of contingency fee) and cases associated with the running of a business. Family cases are also often covered. Depending on the type of case, legal aid may or may not be means tested.
  • In July 2004 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that the lack of legal aid in defamation cases (which was the position under the Legal Aid Act 1988, which was the applicable Act at the time of the McLibel case, could violate a defendant's right. The Access to Justice Act 1999 has a provision which allows the Lord Chancellor to authorize legal aid funding in cases which are otherwise out of scope of the legal aid scheme under the exceptional funding provisions. A defendant in a position similar to the McLibel defendants could potentially have legal aid assistance if their application passed the exceptional funding criteria.
  • Criminal legal aid is generally provided through private firms of solicitors and barristers in private practice. There are a limited number of public defenders. Civil legal aid is provided through solicitors and barristers in private practice but also non-lawyers working in law centres and not-for-profit advice agencies.
  • The provision of legal aid is governed by the Access to Justice Act 1999 and supplementary legislation.
Three MPs + one peer to be charged:

  • David Chaytor 
    • Accused of dishonestly claiming £1,950 for IT services and also £18,000 in rent
      • Elliot Morley
        • Two criminal charges over £30,000 of mortgage interest
        • Former minister Elliot Morley was suspended by the Labour Party after admitting he claimed £16,000 in House of Commons expenses for a mortgage which had been paid off
      • Lord Hanningfield (Baron, Paul White)
        • Six charges of dishonestly submitting expense claims. Has denied the charges and said he would "vigorously" defend himself (though by "himself" means representation by legal aid lawyers)
      The three former Labour MPs and ex Tory
      peer facing expenses fraud allegations
      have lost appeals over a ruling
      that they are not protected from
      prosecution by parliamentary privilege

      Update: 30.07.2010

      The suggested progress of taking their case to the Supreme Court for a further challenge is likely since it's the attitude within the game when it's funded by the public purse of legal aid. There's nothing to lose, but potentially much to gain. Especially time since the national memory of the background to this affair will fade. Naïvely, a new (coalition) government could be expected to sweep clean, hopefully removing the mess and placing nothing beneath the carpet. But don't hold your breath. It's less painful to just forget it. Nothing can ever change for the better when politicians are involved.
          Update: 10.11.2010

          Ministerial Revelations Keep Coming
          MP Expenses Explained
          Expenses Repayments

          And On It Goes. And On...

          Alan Duncan, however, showed rather more self-responsibility and fell on his sword quietly (a politically advantageous act). Very unlike the  four who are accused. Perhaps they are innocent, but legal aid is still a major issue. Especially when claiming that this should not be held in a British court and that they 'enjoy' an archaic and mediaeval special form of parliamentary privilege.

          Yet still claim expenses aid

          • The attitude seems to be frozen in the mind set and demonstrates no self-responsibility. They claim to be in politics for the service they provide to the people and not for the money and other self-serving benefits?