Friday, 8 April 2011

Put that on yer leaflet...

GEDLING MP Vernon Coaker freewheeled about the Commons jabbing a finger at every Tory and Lib Dem daring to meet his eye.

"Put that on yer leaflet," Labour's shadow police minister repeatedly hollered in a captivating if not slightly maniacal way.

Read the full column at the Post's website here.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Health journeys

Here’s an interesting bit of information on how the ministerial team at the Department of Health spends taxpayers’ pounds on travel.

It turns out that Simon Burns is the most prolific user of his ministerial car.

According to data released in a parliamentary question asked by Maria Eagle, Burns used his car to travel to his Chelmsford constituency 154 times between May 2010 and March 2011.

Ministers are only permitted to make the journey to their own constituency if they are carrying confidential papers.

Anne Milton meanwhile went to her Guildford constituency in her car 134 times. Paul Burstow used his to go to his Sutton and Cheam constituency just 29. Andrew Lansley went to South Cambridgeshire just 12 times.

I can’t help but wonder why health ministers seem to carry the kind of confidential papers that merit ministerial cars far more often than the Secretary of State.

Anyway, out of the four, Burns also used up more public money for his travel between May 2010 and February 2011 – £41,384 on his car, £653 on trains and £3,603 on air travel. A total £45,640

Anne Milton spent £39,344 on the ministerial car, £1,705 on trains and £336 on air travel – £41,385 in total. Andrew Lansley spent £35,762 on the ministerial car, £1,850 on train costs and £2,610 on air travel. A total of £40,222.

Earl Howe spent £28,069 on his car and £726 on train, £28,795 in total.

Paul Burstow spent just £25,853 on the car and 314 in trains – £26,167 in total.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Golden Goodbyes

After months of gruelling email exchanges with the Commons Authorities, and having to get the information commissioner involved, the data I requested on MPs' resettlement grants was finally released to me last Friday.

I’d originally put in a request to find out which MPs had taken grants because I wanted to know whether Patricia Hewitt had.

Hewitt had held several high paid jobs in the private sector even while she was an MP, and she had no need of a £50,000 grant to help her "readjust" when she left Parliament.

The Commons typically refused for weeks but eventually backed down when I referred the case to the commissioner – hence the Leicester Mercury, Hewitt’s local paper, got the exclusive story.

As well as Hewitt, this was the first time we could confirm that the likes of Geoff Hoon and even the disgraced MP Derek Conway had taken their grants.

The Independent’s High Street Ken reported the story today and gave the Mercury a mention, and then the BBC’s Emma Griffiths put this piece on their website.

The Telegraph's story.

The Mirror's follow up.

The information is now fully available at the House of Commons website here.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

UKIP MEP fooled...

A UKIP MEP sent over an excited press release to one of my desks this morning detailing how those damned bureaucrats in Brussels were fiddling around in our lives again.

Incensed Mike Nattrass, West Midlands MEP, copied and pasted an article from the “Classic Cars for Sale” website into his email which told how “EU Directive 2011/35/T” was going to destroy people’s ability to own and drive classic cars.

The article said the directive would mean anyone wishing to keep a car over 20 years old would have to register it as “off road” permanently and would then need to apply for a special license to drive to classic car events.

This licence would need to be applied for three months before attending any event and a maximum of 5 licenses will be granted per year – how dare they!

But while Nattrass noticed all of this, he failed to notice that the article had been posted on April 1 – the day on which fools get taken in.

If that was not enough of a clue there were several other posts on other car websites pointing out exactly what the story was, including one featuring a big laughing cat and the caption “April Fools Day bwahahaha!”

Last year Nattrass wrote a letter to UKIP members criticising his party’s leader Nigel Farage as a “control freak” who tried to steal all the party’s publicity. If this is the start of his attempt to get some back I suggest he gives up now.