COLUMN: MPs must act ‘within the rule of law’ with finances

Bassetlaw Games awards night.  Pictured is MP John Mann (w121008-7p)

Bassetlaw Games awards night. Pictured is MP John Mann (w121008-7p)

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Members of Parliament should be held to a much higher standard than other members of the public.

They must act not only within the rule of law but also demonstrate that when they debate or vote in Parliament they are not doing so to support their own interests. Any financial interests that an MP has should be clearly declared beforehand so that the public can then judge for themselves.

There are clear rules on this - anything that could be reasonably seen by the public to affect what an MP does should be declared.

I think it is quite obvious that if an MP has tens of thousands of pounds in an offshore account, the public would find that a ‘relevant interest,’ particularly when that MP is voting on financial regulations.

MPs bending and breaking the rules have made trust in politicians sink to a new low.

This week, one of the MPs defending the Prime Minister is a multi-millionaire who claimed more than £4,000 for gardening expenses.

The way I uncovered the expenses scandal made me very unpopular with my colleagues, but I will continue to campaign for MPs to be completely transparent with their financial interests and declare them to voters.

When an MP stands up to speak, it should be in the interests of their constituents – not with some hidden agenda.

Furthermore, if Parliamentarians have been hypocritical in their tax dealings, they should resign from office.

If you criticise people for investing offshore or for avoiding inheritance tax but then do so yourself - you should resign.

That was the route taken by the Prime Minister of Iceland last week following the panic among the ruling elites last week as the 11.5 million files known as the ‘Panama Papers’ were released.

There is nothing wrong with members of the public making additional money from savings or investments, as long as the proper tax is paid.

It is quite another matter for elected Members of Parliament, even Prime Ministers, to profit from offshore savings and shares and to avoid paying proper inheritance tax.

We know that we are missing out on around £5 billion of extra tax due to money being stashed away offshore by wealthy UK residents.

For those same wealthy residents to be running the country and demanding huge cuts to spending in areas like ours is hypocrisy, pure and simple.

In such cases the Icelandic model is the one to be followed - to resign.

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