John Hemming's Web Log John's Reference Website
Sunday, May 31, 2009
  Machine for Injustice
The link is to another article about injustice.
 
  Mental Capacity Issues in Sunday Times
The link is to a story in the ST about mental capacity and the family courts.
 
Friday, May 29, 2009
  Election Results 28th May 2009
Middlesbrough UA, North Ormesby and Brambles Farm date: 28/05/2009

Lab 549 (60.0 -7)
BNP 175 (19.0 +19)
Con 131 (14.0 -7)
LD John Michael Heath 63 (7.0 +7)
[New Nationalist Party (0.0 –13)]
Majority 374
Turnout 21.1%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2007
 
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
  Constitutional Reform
It is interesting to see the flurry of proposals for constitutional reform cropping up now.

I have been part of discussions in parliament about how to reduce the power of the executive/government/king and increase the ability of the representatives of the people to hold the executive to account.

We may end up with some important improvements to the machinery of government through this process. I would, of course, wish to see the introduction of STV. That would allow voters the ability to chose between the candidates of a party.

I don't think as yet we have managed to get support for this from other front benches. However, there are positive noises being made.
 
Saturday, May 23, 2009
  Nivea Handcream and various toiletries
This entry shows some of the futility of part of the debate about expenses claims. Back in 2005 a member of my staff who was an intern put in a claim for handcream. The claim was rejected.

I was phoned by a newspaper about this whilst driving to Devon. My wife spoke to them and we couldn't remember anything about the claim.

I have since arrived in Devon and checked the files. That is how I know the claim was rejected.

I have some difficulty in understanding why such things are stories that don't warrant the time that is needed to get the facts clear.

I have managed to extract (and redact) the letter now:
p257image
There are some serious issues about the way in which the ACA has been abused. However, by mixing up trivia with the more serious issues it sidetracks the debate.
 
Friday, May 22, 2009
  Southall loses
What we have in this particular case is the challenge of the interface between medical certainty (it probably is) and legal certainty (on the balance of probabilities). One is far less certain than the other.
 
  Election Results 21st May 2009
Rutland CC, Cottesmore
Con 389 (68.1; +1.1)
LD Joanna Mary Burrows 182 (31.9; +31.9)
[UKIP (0.0; -33.0)]
Majority 207
Turnout 26.4%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Barton on Humber TC, Bridge
Con 746 (62.6)
Lab 445 (37.4)
Majority 301
Turnout not known
Con hold

North Lincolnshire UA, Barton
Con 1576 (64.4; +15.6)
Lab 653 (26.7; +6.2)
LD Richard Alan Nixon 220 (9.0; -5.9)
[Others (0.0; -16.0)]
Majority 923
Turnout not known
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2007

Salford City, Irwell Riverside
Lab 606 (37.6; -13.3)
LD Steven Ian Middleton 293 (18.2; -1.1)
BNP 276 (17.1; +3.8)
Con 189 (11.7; -4.7)
Green 125 (7.8; +7.8)
UKIP 123 (7.6; +7.6)
Majority 313
Turnout 17.5%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

City of London, Bishopsgate
4 Candidates, all Ind 78 / 66 / 53 / 47
Majority 12
Turnout 21%
Ind hold

Cause: due to insufficient nominations in the full council elections on 16th March 2009.
 
  EDM 1545 in Session 6-7
That EDM relates to opposing the attempts to exempt MPs expenses from FoI.

That this House notes the Third Reading of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill on 18th May; believes that it is inconsistent and unprincipled to seek to exempt the affairs of the House of Commons and House of Lords from the obligations of the Freedom of Information legislation, which applies to all other public authorities and only took effect in 2005; believes that the passage into law of the Freedom of Information (Amendment) Bill would fundamentally undermine respect for both Houses of Parliament, all the Houses' hon. Members and officers, and most importantly Parliament's ability to have any authority or set any example on issues of accountability, openness or transparency in Government and public life; and believes that the argument that more laws are needed to protect confidentiality of correspondence between hon. Members and those whom they represent is not made out on the evidence, should only be introduced if careful and considered advice confirms an agreed need for changes to the law, and should not be used as an excuse, justification or distraction for a major attack on the rights of British citizens to hold to account all hon. Members of Parliament passing laws in their name.


Conservative Party
Shepherd, Richard
Open: 1 Closed: 0
Labour Party
Corbyn, Jeremy
Devine, Jim
Dobbin, Jim
Fisher, Mark
Hopkins, Kelvin
Jackson, Glenda
Jones, Lynne
Open: 7 Closed: 0
Liberal Democrats
Alexander, Danny
Baker, Norman
Barrett, John
Beith, Alan
Brake, Tom
Breed, Colin
Brooke, Annette
Browne, Jeremy
Bruce, Malcolm
Burstow, Paul
Burt, Lorely
Cable, Vincent
Carmichael, Alistair
Clegg, Nick
Davey, Edward
Farron, Timothy
Featherstone, Lynne
Foster, Don
George, Andrew
Goldsworthy, Julia
Hancock, Mike
Harris, Evan
Heath, David
Hemming, John
Holmes, Paul
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Hughes, Simon
Huhne, Chris
Hunter, Mark
Keetch, Paul
Kennedy, Charles
Kramer, Susan
Lamb, Norman
Laws, David
Leech, John
Moore, Michael
Mulholland, Greg
Oaten, Mark
Opik, Lembit
Pugh, John
Reid, Alan
Rennie, Willie
Rogerson, Daniel
Rowen, Paul
Sanders, Adrian
Smith, Robert
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, Matthew
Teather, Sarah
Webb, Steve
Williams, Mark
Williams, Roger
Williams, Stephen
Willis, Phil
Willott, Jenny
Open: 57 Closed: 0
Plaid Cymru
Llwyd, Elfyn
Williams, Hywel
Open: 2 Closed: 0
Respect
Galloway, George
Open: 1 Closed: 0
Scottish National Party
MacNeil, Angus
Open: 1 Closed: 0
Social Democratic and Labour Party
McDonnell, Alasdair
McGrady, Eddie
Open: 2 Closed: 0
Ulster Unionist Party
Hermon, Lady
 
  Scamalot - my historical position
I have had a constant position in respect to MPs expenses and salary. That position is that they should be determined independently of MPs. I have, therefore, generally not voted on these issues.

I managed recently (with the support of colleagues) to persuade my own party to take this position and subsequently the House of Commons has now agreed that the Committee on Standards in Public Life should work out the answer and then MPs stick to it.

In the mean time I have avoided charging the maximum and tried to be cost effective with tax payers money.

It is, therefore, a bit irritating to be criticised because my wife cleaned the flat and we didn't claim for a cleaner, but instead claimed for cleaning materials.

That, however, is par for the course in politics. Once there has been a complete trawl through the expenses I will do a final response to all criticism.

I have already dealt with the oddity that the fees office rejected a request for equipment to help me deal with constituents problems. Hence I could not have the computer part of a TV/computer. I just wish that they would have told me before I bought the thing.
 
Thursday, May 21, 2009
  Expenses comparison for Yardley
One other comparison that can be made is between my claims for personal expenses of £19,687 per year and those of Estelle Morris MP my predecessor who charged £5,040 more at £24,907 during the last year she was MP for Yardley.
 
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
  A general election is needed
Realistically the government are not going to have an election immediately. Hence following the speaker's announcement we need to work on fixing the problems in parliament.

Parliament's role is as the voice of the people. Hence people should not be threatened for talking to MPs. Furthermore Ministers should answer questions. We need to look at how we can make the operation of parliament more transparent, not only as far as expenses are concerned, but also as far as how legislation is written.

There is a lot of work to be done. Ideally we would also have an early general election. However, it is obvious that Gordon Brown will not have an election until he is forced to (or he thinks he might win).
 
Monday, May 18, 2009
  The care debate
The link is to a pair of articles in The Times about whether or not more children should be taken into care.
 
Sunday, May 17, 2009
  Independent proposes increasing MPs food allowance
I have linked to The Independent's proposals in respect of food.

The new flat-rate allowance should cover only utility bills and rent or mortgage interest. A new subsistence allowance of £40 a day, to cover food and drink, should be made available, but only when Parliament is sitting. There is no reason why the taxpayer should fund MPs' Christmas turkeys or summer lunches.

In a sense it shows in the flurry of what others consider really acceptable proposals that the fact that the old subsistence allowance of £32 a day (actually slightly less) which was then reduced to £25 was not that massive.
 
  The Speaker Must Go
I link to an article in the Mail on Sunday. To me the biggest concern about The Speaker is that he has hobbled parliament in its role as the voice of the people.

He has basically acted as a trades union convenor for MPs trying to get the best deal for MPs, but undermining parliament as a result.

I sent an email to all MPs about a week ago challenging the authority of the speaker. Then I agreed to sign Douglas Carswell's no confidence motion.

Nick Clegg has now endorsed the calls for the speaker to go.

Pressure on Commons Speaker Michael Martin dramatically escalated today
when Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg joined public calls for him to
quit.

Mr Clegg abandoned Westminster convention that party leaders avoid
criticism of the office holder to demand the exit of "a dogged defender
of the ways things are".

"I do not think the Speaker should be made a scapegoat...for the
individual failings of many MPs, he told BBC1's Andrew Marr Show.

"But equally I do not think we can afford the luxury of a Speaker, who
is supposed to embody Westminster, who has been dragging his feet on
transparency and greater accountability in the way MPs receive their
expenses."

His intervention comes on the eve of the tabling of a motion of "no
confidence" in Mr Martin and reports he is set to announce he will step
down next year.



Key points:
Parliament needs a thorough clean out in order to make a fresh start
Parliament needs a Speaker prepared to lead reform
Speaker Martin should not be a scapegoat but he must go now, before the General Election so the process of reform can start
As a first step in addressing the expenses issue Parliament must accept the Kelly findings in full
But the expenses issue is just the tip of an iceberg. The whole system needs to change
If MPs are shown to have done wrong by the Committee for Standards, voters should have the right to sack sitting MPs and cause a by election
We must cut back the size and power of Whitehall
Give new freedoms including money-raising powers to local communities
Make voting fair
Have a written constitution prepared by a constitutional convention
This is why we need leadership from a reforming Speaker
 
Saturday, May 16, 2009
  Expenses and Parliament
There are a number of issues that have been raised over the past week in respect to the expenses charged by Members of Parliament.

These do deserve some form of commentary. It is generally accepted that the system by which MPs charge for the costs of being in London is unacceptable. It was intentionally set up as a cash cow to be milked by MPs in preference to facing up to giving MPs a salary increase. MPs were encouraged to milk the system, but some of the abuses go much beyond this.

There are some really silly criticisms being made about some things which are really not wrong which conceal the fact that other things are wrong.

However, I feel that I should explain some of the points about my own claim for a second home. I took the view on being elected that I would not just try to claim the maximum.

The first point is that my priority in how I structured things was to try to get reasonably good value for the tax payer. I am a director of two companies and responsible for almost 360 employees in that way. Each company has different arrangements for expenses. I took the view that I would only do what is reasonable for one of the employees in one of my companies.

It is important to look at both travel and second home costs. On that basis the figures for Birmingham since 2005 are as follows:
John Hemming 59601
Lynne Jones 60163
Steve McCabe 61803
Gisela Stuart 73079
Clare Short 74500
Liam Byrne 84978
Richard Burden 86324
Roger Godsiff 90956
Andrew Mitchell 92822
Sion Simon 103259
Khalid Mahmood 104676

In being the lowest cost MP in Birmingham (I am not lowest on staff costs, but I will come to that) I think I have achieved the objective of being good value for money for the taxpayer. That really has to be the top priority.

Within that, then, there are questions about how things should be done.

One area I was unsure about was food costs. Food basically refers to subsistance. That is the cost of eating mainly in restaurants in the house of commons because I cannot fit in shopping and cooking into my schedules. There is a story told by Paul Flynn about another Labour MP who had friends visit who swiched on the cooker and set on fire the instructions which had been left inside the cooker which had never been used.

It is not realistic for MPs to go back their flats to cook. You could not imagine TV saying - "well we now have a 2 hour break in the budget debate whilst all the MPs go home and cook before coming back later tonight."

I live in Birmingham. I go to London on Monday and return later in the week. It is OK shopping at the weekend, but there is no time midweek for shopping in London.

The parliamentary authorities told my wife (who fills in the expense claims generally) that she should claim £400 per month for subsistance for every month.

There was some confusion about this recently because this includes August when the house does not sit. I had thought it was right because during the whole year things balanced out and most things operate on a financial year. However, the criticism of other MPs caused some confusion. I spend a lot more than this sum of money on eating during the year simply because of time pressures. I checked it out and I was right. It is the financial year that it is relevant to.

If you assume there are 150 sitting days (there are normally more). Then this works out at £32 per day. One of my companies allows staff £50 a day (Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner) so that seems entirely reasonable to me. It is what I pay other people.

In the interests of saving the taxpayer money I also travel Standard Class to London on the train. This means I need to pay for food on the train (or buy it in or close to the station). That adds to my costs.

Then there is the question of my flat. I own two flats in London. One in Covent Garden and one in Brixton.

The one in Covent Garden is like this in Martlett COurt it is a flat which was built by Westminster City Council and is in a housing co-operative.

Note that the rent on the one bedroom flat is £360 per week. Over the year this would add up to £18,270.

I have a two bedroom flat which would rent potentially for £24,000. The whole of the Additional Costs Allowance.

When flats are rented there are three elements to the rental payment. There is a cost of capital, a maintenance cost and a profit element. I believe it is reasonable for the taxpayer to fund the cost of capital and the maintenance costs, but not the profit element.

When I was elected I had a number of choices. I had a mortgage on another property in Birmingham at the time which needed payment and I knew that I faced a reducing income because of the time I spent on parliamentary business.

I could have rented out my Covent Garden flat (the Brixton one at the time was rented out) getting an income of £24,000 (taxable) and rented a flat for myself via the Additional Costs Allowance. Or I could have rented out my Covent Garden flat and then bought another smaller flat via the ACA. Instead I decided to live in Covent Garden and to put a mortgage on the Covent Garden flat which cost the ACA £9,900 per year as the cost of capital (now much less) and use the cash from that to clear the mortgage in Birmingham (on Osmond House for those people that know it). This has the effect of costing me £24,000 in income. It also allows the taxpayer effective use of my flat (admittedly for me to stay in it) for £5,000 below the market rental for a one bedroom flat.

From 2007 until recently I have had an alternating member of staff on a rota in London. They have stayed in the second bedroom in this flat. In 2008 my now 18 year old daughter moved to London. She now has the flat in Brixton, but from time to time sleeps on the couch in my Covent Garden flat (normally when we meet for dinner).

In the light of the criticism of Andrew George for having his daughter stay I make this clear. I see nothing wrong in allowing my daughter to crash on the sofa. I am saving the taxpayer something like £7,000 a year (in 2008-9) compared to other MPs who rent flats.

As far as the wider issue of expenses are concerned. I spend over £30,000 a year on providing a service to local residents out of my own resources. This includes me taking money from my parliamentary salary to pay extra money to my staff which has happened every year since 2005-6. Hence I spend more than the maximum on the staff/office budget, but it is not obvious because they do not report money taken from the MPs salary and put into expenses.

There are some fuzzy elements to the expenses system, but it is important to look at it in the round as well. There are those that argue because I am particularly wealthy that I should not claim expenses. I disagree. I have a job to do on behalf of the citizens of this country. It is entirely reasonable for me to have the costs of travel paid, for example, or to be paid a salary. I happen to put quite a large sum of money back into the pot from my own resources.

However, I have told the department of resources that I will make no further claims for a second home. That means also no claims for food as they go in as part of the second home claim. I went into politics to help others rather than to help myself to a cash cow. I haven't actually used the expenses system as a cash cow, but it is now tainted. There is no sense muddying the waters as to my motivations for about £10,000 a year (which is the difference between my 2008-9 ACA claim and the London Costs Allowance (the scheme for MPs who don't claim for a second home). My income including my salary from parliament has gone down by over £100,000 a year to have the honour of serving the people of Yardley. I don't mind this. I do mind people imputing the motivation of milking a cash cow.
 
Friday, May 15, 2009
  Election Results 14th May 2009
By-Election Results

Gateshead MBC, Chopwell and Rowlands Gill
date: 14/05/2009
Lab 1221 (53.2; -3.9)
LD Ray Callender 898 (39.1; +12.5)
Con 177 (7.7; -8.6)
Majority 323
Turnout 32.15%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Anglesey UA, Llanbadrig
date: 14/05/2009
Ind 255 / 201 (100.0; +0.0)
Majority 54
Turnout not known
Ind hold
Ind unopposed in May 2008
 
Friday, May 08, 2009
  Election Result 7th May 2009
Hartlepool UA, Rossmere
Lab 532 (42.3; +5.2)
UKIP 300 (23.9; -4.5)
LD Pamela Turnedge 166 (13.2; -6.4)
BNP 157 (12.5; +12.5)
Con 102 (8.1; -6.9)
Majority 232
Turnout 26.7%
Lab hold
Percentage change is since May 2008
Party defending seat: Lab. Cause: Death.
 
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
  Hemming Welcomes LDV Loan
I am obviously pleased that the government have agreed to provide a bridging loan for Weststar to become involved with LDV. I had been pressing for this for some time.
 
Tuesday, May 05, 2009
  Youth Courts - the Model
Answering Paul Rowen today Jack Straw indicated that his phase 2 of opening up the family courts would be based upon the Youth Court model.
 
Saturday, May 02, 2009
  MPs who are net contributors to the exchequer
Now parliament has decided that more information needs to be declared and that some of the income that MPs receive other than for being an MP needs to be declared it will be interesting to see what comes of this.

It is a bit odd that only part of the external income is to be declared. An MP who rents out a flat has income from this, that MP also has to spend some time managing the tenancy even it it is merely to appoint a managing agent. However, it appears that this income does not have to be declared.

We will need to look at whether the whole of an MPs tax return needs to be declared.

I am one of the MPs with a larger extra parliamentary income than most. That mainly comes from John Hemming & Co now known as JHC LLP which is a parthership that I continue to be a partner in and chair the monthly partners meetings. This is a company I founded in 1983.

Chairing the meeting takes me on the Jubilee line over to London Bridge at about 10am and I return before 2pm. Hence it takes about 4 hours a month.

I take the view that the key test for MPs is whether or not they do a good job as far as their constituents are concerned. For example I chair the Lib Dem Group on the City Council and I attend meetings of the Leadership Team. That actually takes me more time than chairing JHC LLP. I don't get paid any extra for being involved with the City Council. However, I don't think this is problematic. In fact I think it is good to have MPs who are in touch with what is going on.

In starting work bringing together the figures that I need to declare I have thought of some interesting questions.

One of the interesting things to spot is firstly how many MPs earn more from outside parliament than from the tax payer. Then there is a question of how many MPs pay the taxpayer more than the taxpayer pays them. In calculating this it is sensible to take into account the Salary and probably the ACA figures (although you could consider the ACA as expenses), but probably not travel costs although you could include those.

Although I think I fit into this category - I am checking the figures, I am not sure that there will be that many more MPs who are net contributors to the exchequer.

I am aiming to get my figures together so I can fulfil the new rules within a week or two. It is not as easy as some simply because I don't get paid a salary for anything other than parliamentary activity (although I used to get a small sum from OMX). The business income I have is more like investment income and is linked to the profitability of both JHC LLP and my sole trader activities.
 
Friday, May 01, 2009
  Quinton v Peirce & Anor [2009] EWHC 912 (QB)
An interesting election leaflets case. (Justice Eady)

It is a judgment to read rather than be summarised apart from "don't use the data protection act in an attempt to get your opponents to tell you what will be in their leaflets before they print them."
 
  Election Results 30th April 2009
Harlow DC, Staple Tye
LD John Strachan 604 (39.1; +6.0)
Con 544 (35.3; -15.3)
Lab 329 (21.3; +5.1)
UKIP 66 (4.3; +4.3)
Majority 60
Turnout 30%
LD gain from Con
Percentage change is since May 2008

Party defending seat: (Elected as a Conservative but subsequently sat as Independent). Cause: Disqualification.

Stirling UA, Bannockburn
First Preference Votes
Lab 1131 (39.9; -11.1)
SNP 1067 (37.6; +4.4)
Ind 229/89/28 (12.2; +7.3)
Con 173 (6.1; -1.2)
LD Ethne Brown 82 (2.9; -0.8)
Green 36 (1.3; +1.3)
Turnout 34.7%
Lab hold (Lab elected at sixth stage)
Percentage change is since May 2007

Party defending seat: Lab. Cause: Disqualification.

Sheffield City MBC, East Ecclesfield
LD Colin Taylor 2239 (44.3; +1.3)
Lab 1420 (28.1; -2.0)
BNP 719 (14.2; +1.6)
Con 564 (11.2; +0.3)
Green 107 (2.1; -1.2)
Majority 819
Turnout 36%
LD hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Party defending seat: LD. Cause: Resignation.

Reigate and Banstead BC, Tadworth and Walton
Con 925 (64.3; -7.1)
UKIP 350 (24.3; +15.3)
Lab 163 (11.3; +5.0)
[LD (0.0; -13.2)]
Majority 575
Turnout 26.9%
Con hold
Percentage change is since May 2008

Party defending seat: Con. Cause: Death.

Gunness PC
Ind 277 (45.3)
Lab 176 (28.8)
Ind 119 (19.4)
Ind 40 (6.5)
Majority 101
Turnout 31.9%
Ind hold

Party defending seat: Ind. Cause: Resignation.
 

Click Here for access to higher resolution versions of the photos The license for use allows use of the photos by media as long as they are attributed.

better brent chart

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