Complicity in sleaze: UK Parliamentary Standards Commission kept MacShane investigation secret from voters during 2010 General Election
Today it was revealed that the UK Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has reported Denis MacShane MP to the police over his alleged misuse of Parliamentary expenses.
But they appear to have decided that the voters of Rotherham had no right to know, during this year’s General Election, that their MP was under investigation. The Labour Party, too, appears to have had little interest in allowing voters to make an informed choice.
Denis MacShane today told the BBC that he had been under investigation following a complaint made against him in June 2009.
Yet, when in March this year, I made a Freedom of Information Act request to the Parliamentary Standards Office asking how many MPs were being investigated, and who those MPs were, the request was formally refused.
Someone called Bob Castle (more on his connection to the MPs expenses scandal here) stated frostily that:
The number of inquiries under way as at 31 March 2010 is information that will be included in the Commissioner’s Annual Report for 2009-10, which is expected to be published in the early summer. It is therefore exempt from publication under s22 of the Freedom of Information Act (information intended for future publication).
To release the names of any MPs under investigation would, he told me, infringe the “privileges of Parliament”.
In response, I wrote to Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, asking them which, if any, of their MPs were under investigation. None responded.
I’ve argued before that cleaning up Parliament will require a wholesale clear-out not only of the corrupt MPs who have been abusing the system for personal gain, but also of the unelected, unaccountable officials who have worked so hard to help them get away with it.
The Parliamentary Standards Office made a deliberate decision to withhold crucial information from UK voters ahead of the 2010 General Election. The voters of Rotherham – and for all we know many other constituencies around the country – were thus prevented from making an informed choice about the candidates seeking their votes. It’s only now, five months after the election has taken place, that the full picture is beginning to emerge. It may be another four years before Rotherham voters can express their judgement on this at the ballot box.
Yet again, the Standards Commission has put the “privileges of Parliament” before the rights of the electorate, and brought our democracy into further disrepute.