Brent South Labour MP Dawn Butler has been under fire over her expense claims, as previously covered on this site (including a link to the fun BBC report timing the travel distance from her two homes). Her local newspaper, the Harrow Observer, recently reported:
MPs in Brent are facing heavy criticism over alleged expense claims.
and went on to cover Dawn Butler’s claims. It included this, er…, interesting defence from Dawn Butler:
At the first opportunity I voted for reform.
One problem with that defence. For she was an MP at the time of the 3rd July 2008 votes on reforming the expenses system. Her stance was actually one of opposing reform, for she was one of the proposers of the successful amendment which removed the following recommendations the Members Estimates Committee “Review of Allowances” report:
1. We recommend that there should be a robust new system of practice assurance involving regular financial health checks on records kept and processes used in Members’ offices with outside professional teams covering about 25% of Members each year and every Member each Parliament.
2. We recommend that the House extends the scope of the audit engagement so that it is the same as for other public bodies. The NAO expects that their sampling of claims paid will include one or more transactions relating to at least 20 per cent of MPs each year.
3. We recommend that, from the start of the 2009–10 financial year, the receipt threshold should be reduced from £25 to zero and that all claims, however small, will have to be backed by receipts.
4. We recommend that the Green Book (setting out the rules on allowances for Members) be revised to specify more detailed rules and that the new version be brought into effect by 1 April 2009.
6. We recommend that, with immediate effect, Members should no longer be able to claim reimbursement for furniture and household goods or for capital improvements.
7. We recommend that new MPs elected to the next Parliament to represent constituencies in outer London should be eligible to claim half of any overnight expenses allowance; and all MPs representing those seats should be restricted to claim half the standard rate from the start of the following Parliament.
13. We recommend that the Additional Costs Allowance be adapted into an overnight expenses allowance, comprising a £19,600 maximum budget for accommodation (excluding furniture, household goods and capital improvements) but operating on the basis of itemised reimbursement and a flat rate of £30 for daily subsistence.
She didn’t vote herself, so technically her comment looks to be true. But – when the public and media attention was largely elsewhere – proposing an amendment that blocked reform is a rather different story for being the eager supporter of reform which her quote implies.
P.S. Glad to say that when I checked the details of this vote, all the Liberal Democrat MPs who voted were against this amendment, and none of them were down as proposing the amendment either. It’s also illuminating to look at the company Dawn Butler was in when proposing the amendment, for amongst the others are several of those whose expenses have come in for fierce criticism, such as Julie Kirkbride and Nicholas Winterton.