GOLD CARD cover-up: Ministers blame head of the Civil Service for blocking exposure of abuse

1. August 2011; Fury over taxpayer GOLD CARD cover-up: Ministers blame head of the Civil Service for blocking exposure of abuse

a. Cabinet Secretary Sir Gus O’Donnell is being blamed by key members of the Government for blocking moves to reveal the true extent of spending on the cards, which are given to officials to pay for their ‘expenses’. Ministers fear a cloak of secrecy is being used to conceal widespread abuse of £1?billion plus of public money spent on the cards every year. Some officials have already been caught using them for personal items such as hamburgers or supermarket shopping trips – but the real number of culprits is suspected to be far higher. About 140,000 Government Procurement Cards (GPC) are in circulation, and any bills lower than £1,000 a month are not routinely audited.

b. Now, amid growing public anger over the revelations, Whitehall finance mandarins have issued secret advice warning Ministers against publishing information that exposes exactly how much has been spent using the cards since their introduction in 1997. The advice says the Cabinet Office opposes the release of backdated information, including the identity of cardholders, as it would be a ‘poor use of resources’. Claiming the backing of Downing Street in opposing wider publication, the guidance declares that £235,000-a-year Sir Gus is personally resistant to the idea. The row coincides with the release today of bank statements revealing how officials at the Commons racked up a £1.5?million bill on taxpayer-funded credit cards over the past three years. The list of nearly 4,000 purchases, released under Freedom of Information rules, includes £3,700 on The Claridges hotel in New Delhi.

c. The Coalition’s drive to persuade the Civil Service to be more open about its credit-card spending is being spearheaded by Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude, but Mr Cameron’s influential strategy director Steve Hilton is believed to be a strong advocate of the ‘transparency agenda’. Most of the credit-card disclosures have been driven by open-government campaigners, although some Cabinet Ministers, such as Communities Secretary Eric Pickles, have voluntarily released details of their department’s spending.

d. Mr Maude has now brokered a compromise deal under which Government departments will next month publish a list of items purchased using the cards. But to the anger of some senior Coalition members, the list will cover only items costing more than £500 bought in the current financial year. And it will not identify cardholders. Last night, one Minister who has lobbied behind the scenes for full disclosure said: ‘We have been banging our heads against a brick wall trying to get all this information out there. ‘We are convinced there has been an abuse of this perk on the scale of the MPs’ expenses scandal, but the Cabinet Office has resisted at every turn. And it has been made clear to us that Sir Gus is not on our side.’ And a Whitehall insider said: ‘For too long officials have treated this perk like a Gold Card on the taxpayer.’

e. In recent months The Mail on Sunday has revealed a series of eye-catching and exotic purchases made by civil servants and local government officials on taxpayer-funded cards, including £25?million spent last year on first-class flights, exclusive restaurants and shopping sprees. And last week this newspaper disclosed how officials working for a Government policing quango had used the cards to buy items including exotic lingerie and beehives, racking up bills of more than £3?million a year.

f. Sir Gus – known by his staff as ‘GOD’, after his initials – is a long-serving high-flyer who has been head of the Civil Service for nearly six years. The 58-year-old joined the Treasury as an economist in 1979, serving as Press secretary to Chancellor Nigel Lawson and later to Prime Minister John Major. He was Permanent Secretary at the Treasury when Gordon Brown was Chancellor, before being promoted to serve Tony Blair, Mr Brown and now David Cameron as Cabinet Secretary. He is planning to leave his post before the end of the current Parliament.

g. When the Cabinet Office was approached about the Ministers’ claims that Sir Gus is opposed to the wider publication of the credit-card statements, a spokesman said: ‘This is untrue. The Cabinet Secretary has not resisted the release of this information.’ When asked if that meant the Cabinet Secretary was in favour of the release of all backdated information, the spokesman said: ‘The Government’s position is clear: we intend to publish GPC transactions and the first set will be published shortly.’ Sources close to Mr Maude said: ‘We are pushing for maximum transparency, both for now and for what happened under Labour.’ Downing Street said: ‘As part of the Government’s commitment to transparency, we are working with card providers to provide a consistent method of reporting GPC spending data for transactions above £500, so this is available for publication from the end of September 2011.’

2. Oh! and about the men in tights in Westminster

a. Parliament’s ‘Men in Tights’ have racked up a £1.5?million bill on official credit cards to pay for items including French lessons, iTunes downloads and dress hire. Luxury hotels, long-haul flights and restaurants also feature in a new list of ‘procurement card’ spending released by Commons authorities. They reveal senior House officials used the cards to pay for: A £3,701.05 bill for the exclusive The Claridges hotel in New Delhi. Almost £2,000 of car hire from the Bermuda Motor Car Renting company. French lessons costing nearly £190. A Moss Bros bill for £392.73. The officials, who wear elaborate 19th Century court dress on Commons occasions, even lived up to their nickname in one case by flashing the taxpayer-funded cards to buy a pair of tights. The cards were used to cover more than £200 of spending at Tesco, a £76.65 item billed to Decanter Magazine and an £885 food blender. There was also evidence that staff were using them to withdraw more than £500 in cash, which is forbidden for procurement cards used by Government departments. Last night it was unclear if the same rules applied to the Commons cards.

b. A Commons spokesman said the bulk of the £1.5?million spending over three years was on behalf of MPs on official business either in the UK or abroad. But the House authorities faced challenges to justify some of the purchases. Tory MP Aidan Burley said: ‘No one begrudges Commons officials spending money on items essential to their work. But I fail to see how that includes language lessons or living it up in luxury hotels. ‘Asking the taxpayer to pay for that sort of expenditure can never be justified.’ Just like Government departments, the Commons issues the special payment cards to senior staff, including Select Committee clerks who look after MPs. About 230 cards are in use. According to House managers, the system allows staff ‘to pay for relatively low-value items in a cheap, secure, and quick way. ‘The use of the cards reduces the House’s processing costs and enables suppliers to be paid more quickly, delivering savings. ‘The cards are held by a limited number of staff and have strict controls for the authorisation of all transactions. All cards have an individual transaction limit and a monthly transaction limit.’

c. Staff are strictly advised that they can be used only for ‘business purposes and never for personal expenditure other than in exceptional circumstances where private expenditure is incidental to official business’. Any spending in that category must be reimbursed by the card user, say managers. But even though Commons auditors are supposed to exercise strict controls over authorising all transactions, details of the bills brought surprise last night. As well as minor items such as £4.99 at Snappy Snaps in July last year, a £3.02 Burger King bill from May last year and £8 last November on a spare set of keys, officials spent thousands settling up at exclusive hotels around the world. The biggest single entry on the list of bills for the 12 months to May is £3,700 for the luxurious Claridges hotel in New Delhi. The hotel, the flagship of an Indian chain not connected to Claridge’s hotel in Mayfair, offers club rooms from £200 a night or luxury suites from £290. Commons sources last night said the hotel had been used by MPs on a visit to the Indian capital in March. In the same month, a Commons card took care of a £1,705 account at a Ritz-Carlton hotel, although officials were unable to say whether this was the Ritz in Piccadilly or one of the chain’s overseas locations.

d. Commons officials faced questions over purchases not obviously relevant to MPs’ work. A Thermomix blender and processor ‘combo’ was bought for £885 last February, while £450 went on a bill from Majestic Wine. Other payments included £1,280 to the Cotswold Water Park in July last year, £10.78 at a Giraffe family restaurant a year ago and £7.21 in May last year at Nando’s. Language lessons were paid for on the Commons card, including £189.70 worth of tuition at London’s French Institute. Last night, a Commons spokesman could not say whether the lessons were for MPs or parliamentary officials. She was also unable to shed any light on the purchase of the food mixer or the wine bill. But she could explain iTunes transactions ranging from just 47p to £21.57. Officials had been acquiring software as part of a trial on using iPads in the Commons. She also stressed that the annual credit-card bill would be reviewed as part of wider plans by to cut expenditure by 17 per cent by 2014-15. In the 12 months to May, the Commons credit-card bill came to £414,000, down on the £608,000 spent in 2009-10. One MP last night explained how on Commons committee trips overseas, parliamentarians were always relieved to see accompanying officials ‘put out the Commons plastic’. ‘If we’ve been staying at a big hotel, it’s always a relief to see the clerk settle the bill with the Commons card,’ one said.

e. But Matthew Elliott, of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘When a House of Commons official gets out their company credit card, they need to think about whether they could justify the expenditure to an ordinary taxpayer. ‘Only the very rich on their holidays stay in the sort of hotel MPs used in India, so it is absolutely unjustified that officials should do so when they go on work trips.


Gathering Tax From This Lot Would Clear the National Debt- Scoundrels All

Gathering Tax From This Lot Would Clear the National Debt

May 2009; 40 New Labour ministers have taken taxpayers money and claimed expenses to get advice on how to avoid paying tax which everyone else has to pay. Shysters!

May 2009; Panorama Expose – The “Crooks” are the politicians who take tons of pay offs from anyone while stealing the peoples money through draconian tax laws. ?

March 2011; The bigger picture although still beyond too many, is increasingly exposed along with the entities. Great information that I will share with as many others as I am able. The living dead entities, predatory and parasitic, callous and cruel. They now possess zones of our law enforcement and judicial system. We desperately need a new system in order to remove the teeth and blunt the claws of these demonic entities.

August 2011; With more than 20 millionaires in the UK cabinet, reporter Antony Barnett examines the financial affairs of some ministers and others who have helped the government.

October 2011; This tax planning video explains the world of legal tax avoidance in the UK. It looks at how Tax planning and tax avoidance are almost the same thing. It covers income tax avoidance, avoiding capital gains tax, corporate tax planning and how to avoid corporation tax, inheritance tax planning and inhertiance tax avoidance, how to avoid stamp duty, international tax planning and international

February 2012; Urgent questions: Public sector bosses raking it in because they are avoiding tax, and making the little people pay more instead.

February 2012; Not only have the Treasury closed 2 loopholes in the tax system, Barclays have been billed 500 million pounds sterling in unpaid tax, and other financial institutions face similar tax bills.

February 2012; Public sector bosses raking it in because they are avoiding tax, and making the little people pay more instead. The rest of the debate (just few more min) was cut due to schedule clash.

February 2012; The public sector boss of the Students Loan Company appears to have got a VERY favourable tax deal with the proven to be corrupt taxman, and has saved himself £10’s thousand of Pounds in taxes per year. Meanwhile, your taxes go up to pay for what he benefits.

May 2012; Revelations that Take That have been using an accounting scheme to get around taxation are symptomatic of the UK’s broken tax system. The TPA’s Chief Executive Jonathan Isaby tells BBC News exactly why.

May 2012; “The difference between tax avoidance and tax evasion is the thickness of a prison wall” KinsellaTax Investigations discuss the moral issues surrounding the differences between Tax Avoidance and Tax Evasion.

June 2012; An investigation by Channel 4 News and The Times Newspaper on how some of the richest people in the UK, manage to get away with paying virtually no tax at all, despite earning £100,000’s a year. The loophole may or may not be legal, but morally, the people using this type of tax avoidance is scummy. They must feel good with themselves that they pay the same amount of tax on their fortunes, as someone on minimum

July 2012; MOLLY MAID supports Tory Minister, David Gauke’s view on tax avoidance revealed today. As the nation’s largest employer in the UK’s £1.6 billion pound domestic cleaning sector we recognise the collective responsibility for charging and paying VAT, where appropriate, and the Government’s duty to regulate this. There are potential solutions to address this matter elsewhere in Europe to the benefit of all parties

August 2012; James Henry: US media and politicians mostly ignore massive untaxed wealth that big banks help rich move to tax havens

October 2012; BBC Newsnight report into BBC workers and Government/public sector workers who avoid paying taxes by using approved schemes.

November 2012; Carry forward net operating losses. The greatest invention for corporations since sliced bread. There are others, accelerated depreciation, capital investment losses etc. Absolutely brilliant!!?

November 2012; MPs on the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee grilled Starbucks, Amazon and Google about why they paid almost no UK corporation tax. Starbucks CFO, Troy Alstead, said it was because the company made profits here only once in 15 years. Amazon’s Andrew Cecil put it down to having their HQ in Luxembourg, where the top staff are based. Margaret Hodge, committee chair, described Google’s

November 2012; where do corporations get the money to pay corporation tax? from their customers. so in essence people want tax collectors to collect more money. the only problem i can see is that it creates a competitive disadvantage to smaller companies trying to compete.

December 2012; Global firms in the UK that pay little or no tax are an “insult” to British businesses, a committee of MPs says. The Public Accounts Committee chairwoman said HM Revenue and Customs needed to be “more aggressive and assertive in confronting

March 2013; Panorama Undercover How To Dodge Tax Part 1 of 2

April 2013; The Missing Trillions: Where The rich & mighty hide the cash. Tax Havens exposed More politicians and tycoons appear to be marred by scandal.

April 2013; Jonathan Isaby on April’s Public Accounts Committee tax avoidance report

April 2013; What are offshore tax havens, who uses them, and how do they work?

May 2013; Where do multinationals pay taxes and how much? Gaining insight from international tax experts, this excellent documentary takes a look at tax havens, the people who live there and the routes along which tax is avoided globally. As we have previously discussed in great detail, those routes go by resounding names like ‘Cayman Special’, ‘Double Irish’, and ‘Dutch Sandwich’ amid a financial world operating in the shadows surrounded by a high level of secrecy where sizable capital streams travel the world at the speed of light and avoid paying tax. ‘The Tax Free Tour’ explains the systemic risk for governments and citizens alike. Is this the price we have to pay for globalized capitalism? At the same time, the online game “Taxodus” provides an interactive guide to hiding your company’s cash. In the game, the player can select the profile of a multinational and look for the global route to pay as little tax as possible.

May 2013; Chair of the House of Commons public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, discusses Google’s tax, and her own tax affairs, with Channel 4 News.

May 2013; Senior Google executive Matt Brittin defended his company’s tax policies before Britain’s Parliament, denying charges that it was misleading authorities to dodge paying tax.

May 2013; On the day that Google face strong criticism of its tax affairs at the Public Account’s Committee Robert Oxley argues that the solution is to simplify the UK’s incredibly complex tax code

June 2013; UK territories sign on to tax-avoidance crackdown U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron struck a deal Saturday with leaders of Britain’s overseas territories to share tax information — a move he heralded as a “positive step forward” on an issue at the forefront of next week’s G-8 summit in Northern Ireland.

June 2013; Tamasin Cave introduces a film examining the links between global accountancy firms and the UK government. When advisors and consultants move through a ‘revolving door’ between commercial and government posts, does this enhance the powers of the tax avoidance department in London, or create a link that provides privileged information to clients?

June 2014; But behind the simplicity of their menu lies a complex offshore network of money that involves the Isle of Man, Ireland, Guernsey, the Netherlands, Ireland, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands. But how does it all end up in Jersey? And what is the connection to a grand 16th century estate in Wiltshire? Guardian special projects editor James Ball explains.

November 2014; How Saint Bob Geldorf became (in his own words) a ‘private equity whore’ by launching £125m fund. Geldof is chairman of firm seeking to make large profits for its rich clients by investing in – of all places – Africa ‘My name is Bob. I’m a PE [private equity] whore and I’m looking for £25million,’ he said during speech to investors

200 videos each covering aspects of tax avoidance

Labour Party

Jim (Cookie Jar) McGovern Labour MP Dundee West Information of Interest to the Public


1. Jim Cookie Jar) McGovern MP For Dundee West

a. James McGovern is a Scottish Labour Party pMP. He was born in Glasgow but moved to Dundee at the age of 9. He was educated at the Catholic Lawside Academy. He left school at the age of 15 and at the age of 16 began an apprenticeship as a glazier. In 1987, after being made redundant, he worked as a glazier for Dundee City Council. Whilst working for the council he was active within the GMB union. In 1997 he began working full-time for the union as Trade Union Organiser.

b. He was first elected to the British House of Commons at the 2005 general election for Dundee West, following the retirement of the sitting Labour MP Ernie Ross. Since 2005 he has served on the Scottish Affairs Committee. Between 2007 and 2008 he served as the Parliamentary Private Secretary to Pat McFadden, the Minister of State at the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform. He was re-elected in 2010.

2. June 2009: A view of McGovern’s Expense Claims

a. Having trawled through Jim McGoverns expenses I spotted some belters:

i. £658 for a computer desk.

ii. £4360 to set up his 10 page website: The website was later classified as a Labour Party front. Did he refund the public purse?

iii. £123 for a trouser press.

iv. £950 for a sofa bed.

v. Everything from cushions to bath screens and £2 for a knife.

vi. Office expenditure is equally bizarre with items as petty as 32p for a pair of scissors and 22p for drawing pins.

vii. Just about every month he was listing £400 for food (one month he tried for £500 and was knocked back), £250 for petty cash. How can you claim 32p for items in your office then £250 for petty cash, what the hell was the petty cash for?

viii. Most amusing though was routinely forking out £1K for leaflets then contracting companies at a cost of £4K to deliver them. Kind of shows the state of the Labour party membership in the city if they have to pay for leaflets to be delivered!

b. Given expenses refunded covered; council tax, rent/mortgage, food, household goods, phone bills etc. The question, answer oustanding is? what is his salary for?

c. But hang on a mo’, “what are expenses meant to encompass?”. Well they are supposed to be essentials needed to be an MP. I don’t think cushions are essential. I don’t think a computer desk needs to cost over £600 and I am baffled as to why an MP from Dundee can claim for an overnight stay in a hotel in South Wales. Was that when he was visiting parliament or his constituency?

3. July 2009; Labour MP Questioned on 10p tax rate compensation vote

a. Labour MP Jim McGovern has come under fire after the Government voted down a compensation package for people who lost out when they scrapped the 10p tax rate. The Dundee West MP voted along party lines to defeat Labour MP Frank Field’s bill for compensation at Westminster although many Labour MPs had reportedly said they supported measures to help those who had suffered as a consequence of the lowest tax band being abolished. The 10p rate was abolished in the 2007 budget,it was Gordon Brown’s last as Chancellor. A humiliating defeat looked to be on the cards for the Government when the vote was taken earlier this month, but a backbench rebellion failed to get enough support for the compensation package to be approved. It is estimated that 500,000 Scottish households will lose out as a consequence of the move.

b. Dundee SNP Councillor Jim Barrie, who is standing against Mr McGovern in the General Election, said, “Scrapping the 10p tax rate hit people who could least afford it with a huge tax hike. Tax for the lowest-paid workers was doubled overnight. Local people will be shocked that Jim McGovern has now voted against a modest compensation package and failed to stand up for his constituents. He did not stand up to be counted with the Labour rebels, the SNP and Plaid Cymru behind Labour MP Frank Field’s compensation Bill. He will need to explain why to the electors of Dundee West. The SNP is doing everything in its power to help people through these tough economic times: freezing council tax, phasing out prescription charges and scrapping bridge tolls as well as driving down business rates for small businesses. Meanwhile, the Labour UK Government is inflicting shameful tax hikes on low paid workers and pensioners and is wasting billions of pounds on a new nuclear weapons system instead of investing in public services. There is no doubt thousands of people on low incomes are worse off since the 10p tax rate was abolished. The Government’s clumsy attempts to compensate for their blunder by introducing larger personal tax allowances do not go far enough. These people should be taken out of the income tax tier altogether. They cannot afford to shoulder the burden, especially in these difficult economic times. The vote to reject Labour MP Frank Field’s compensation bill simply compounds the damage which the government has done.”

4. October 2009; Is Jim McGovern toast?

a. It seems unlikely that the opposing concept of ‘civic nationalism’ holds much sway with Labour’s Dundee West MP Jim McGovern. Responding to last week’s controversial appearance by British National Party leader Nick Griffin on the BBC’s Question Time, the Courier reports that Mr McGovern has played down the possibility of a rise in BNP support in Dundee. He’s quoted as saying: I don’t think there is a great deal of appetite for nationalism – either Scottish or British – in Dundee. I’m always minded of a quote from Charles de Gaulle. He said, “Patriotism is when love of your own people comes first; nationalism, when hate for people other than your own comes first.”

b. Leaving aside the alluded conflation of BNP and SNP nationalism, Mr McGovern seems to have forgotten that Dundee’s recent appetite for the latter has seen Stewart Hosie take the Dundee East Westminster seat from Labour in 2005, the election of SNP MSPs in both the city’s constituencies in the 2007 Holyrood elections and the advent of an SNP-controlled city council administration earlier this year. So much for a lack of appetite. Indeed, presumably Mr McGovern is a little worried that this hunger for Scottish Nationalism will result in him losing his seat in the forthcoming Westminster contest.

c. And on the subject of appetites, Mr McGovern has come in for some stick locally over his expenses claim at Westminster, having disputed auditor Sir Thomas Legg’s order to repay £5,224, but with eyebrows particularly raised over the MP’s claim for the purchase of a £106 toaster. A correspondent to the Evening Telegraph asks, “But how would one grace such toast? Butter made from unicorn milk? Scrambled dodo eggs? Or maybe just humble old caviar.” Clearly Jim McGovern doesn’t make it into the uber-trougher league, but could his breakfast time culinary excess mean the difference between holding Dundee West and ending up toast?

5. March 2010; Jim McGovern claims the credit….Joe Fitzpatrick does the work

a. From the pages of the Dundee Courier’s Political Round-up comes this heartening tale of hard work rewarded. That hard work is, according to Labour, the work of Dundee’s sole flyer of the red flag, Dundee West MP Jim McGovern. The Courier reports that Jim claims to have put in a huge amount of effort to secure Dundee a £100 million taxpayer boost for the high tech gaming industry in which the city excels. It is suggested that Jim has been slogging away night and day by all possible means to secure that huge (and it is huge so I will say it again) £100 million…..and, I suppose, to help secure his lonely outpost of ex-Labour domination on the Tay.

b. But wait a minute…this is a Labour MP we are talking about. The sort that likes to take all the credit, but do very little for it. So imagine Jim’s ire when some busybody sent in an FOI request to the Scotland Office to actually see all the communications on this subject between our Jim and them. How dare they not take Honest Jim at his word, the blackguards! Just out of interest, how many communications where there, I hear you all ask? Well the answer given from the Scotland Office was…, and that was a letter sent to Dundee West MSP, Joe Fitzpatrick, Jim’s SNP counterpart in the Scottish Parliament. Oh dear! Hardly value for money is Jim, the ninth most expensive MP at Westminster with a whopping claim for £171,989. It seems that ‘well done Joe’ should really be the order of the day. Comments:

c. Tris: The Labour Party spin machine is awesome. McGovern didn’t even have one letter and yet the Scotland Office could spin it into his triumph. Joe Fitzpatrick has been a great MP for Dundee West.

d. Munguin: I think that Jim is desperate to hold on to the great state that Dundee was when Labour was in charge. But he could at least do something to justify his claims. Anything! It really would be better for them to think about these things before acting. This is a problem that seems to be inherent in Scottish labour at all levels. The “don’t think before you act” syndrome.

e. Munguin: That Jim thinks that it is okay for him to sit around on his doup doing nothing except claiming expenses to the tune of the 9th most expensive in the UK (and drags Dundee West onto the role of shame that is topped by Jim Devine) is quite beyond belief. Must be another instance of thinking they would not get found out. Hey Jim look out the window: everything you see was once Labour, but now it’s not: try doing a bit of work

f. Sophia Pangloss: The problem may lie, as in McGovern’s case, in a party bein’ so dominant, for so long, in an district or toun. There’s nae democracy there. Ah think ordinary folk hae a natural distrust o’ any organisation that likes power, like the Labour pairty or the masons or the nuns. Ah wis watchin’ the pope oan the telly last night an’ ah thocht he looked awfy like the Emperor Palpatine.

g. Sophia Pangloss: That wisnae very well thocht oot ah’m sorry. Ah shouldnae type an’ talk at the same time. Ah’ve no got ma brain switched oan th’ day.

h. Munguin: Thats ok Sophia, but I have no idea what emperor Palpatine looks like. The only emperor I have ever seen is an emperor penguin. They are not so very dominant here now what with both MSPs being SNP, Dundee east MP being SNP and the council being SNP an all. I guess Mr McGovern can feel the cold finger of fate on his collar and so has to try to justify himself. By in this case pretending to do a whole lot of work that he never did. Mr McGovern clearly feels that he has one foot in the grave and the other on a banana skin.

i. Dean MacKinnon-Thomson: Labour has very little value left. And, just as Tory domination of the Tay, and wider Scotland eventually evaporated between 1951-1997, so we shall also see this trend infect Labour. Unthinking Labour voters grow old and die..just like my Party’s core vote did. Over the next 20 years what matters is appeal to my generation – and frankly Labour has very little of any of that. Those of us who have grown up under Labour shall never ever vote Labour so long as we live.


6. November 2012; Jim McGovern, Labour MP refuses to withdraw comment accusing SNP of tuition fees “racism”

a. McGovern made the claim during a public meeting at Abertay University to discuss the future of post-16 education in Tayside. The SNP Government is to allow universities to charge fees of up to £9,000 a year for students coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK. Both Dundee and Abertay universities are planning to charge fees to English, Welsh and Northern Irish students from next year. Education Secretary Mike Russell insists the move is required to secure the financial future of the university sector and maintain free education for Scots.

b. But McGovern, MP for Dundee West, told the meeting he fears the policy is inspired by a Scottish nationalist ”hatred” of England. He said, “I’ve got serious concerns about the Scottish Executive saying that they will not charge Scottish students to go to university, but they will charge English students, you know, for me, that does not smack of patriotism — that smacks of racism.” He later clarified that he was not branding individual SNP politicians racist, adding, “What came to mind was that Charles de Gaulle once said that while patriotism is a love for one’s own country, nationalism, generally, is hatred of other countries and unfortunately, this is what the SNP confirm by their policies — that that’s what they see.”

c. The remarks were condemned as “disgraceful slurs” by the SNP’s Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick, who was also on the panel at the public meeting on Friday night. He said, “It is deeply, deeply disappointing that a senior Labour politician should resort to such disgraceful slurs, the SNP’s commitment to keep university education free for Scottish domiciled students was a key part of our manifesto which was overwhelmingly backed by the people of Scotland. To describe it as racist is insulting to every person in Dundee and across Scotland who gave their support to the SNP in May. Robust political debate is one thing but making unfounded claims of this magnitude is quite another.” He also called on Labour leader Ed Miliband to take action over McGovern’s remarks saying, “This disgraceful slur raises further questions about the conduct of Labour MPs, coming so soon after his colleague (Glasgow South West MP) Ian Davidson called SNP MPs ‘neo-fascists’.”

d. Mr Russell also demanded that Mr McGovern withdraw the “offensive” comment. He told the Courier, “‘The Scottish Government would much rather not charge anyone fees. However, this has been forced upon us because of the actions of successive UK Governments. Scottish students and their parents have long had the reassurance of knowing that undergraduate education in Scotland will remain free. To maintain opportunities for our students, and to protect our world-leading universities’ reputation and competitiveness, we had no choice but to respond to the increase in tuition fees to £9,000 south of the border.” He added that it is thought the average fee will only be £6,841, reduced to around £6,375 by packages of bursaries and fee waivers.

e. But Mr McGovern is standing by his remarks, insisting the SNP is an “anti-England” organisation. He told The Courier on Sunday, “The latest strategy by the separatists would seem to be to pick up on a word or expression from a Labour politician then throw their hands up in horror and say that they feel threatened, intimidated or offended. If some members of the SNP cannot live with the robust nature of the rough and tumble of everyday Scottish politics then perhaps they should consider whether or not they are in the right job.”

7. November 2012; Shona Robison says Jim McGovern’s racism claim is ‘gutter politics’

a. Dundee City East MSP Shona Robison has accused the Labour Party of descending into “gutter politics” over a claim that charging English students tuition fees could be construed as racist. Although the Scottish Government has said it will not charge Scottish students tuition fees, anyone coming from elsewhere in the UK to study at a Scottish university will have to pay. This does not affect students coming to Scotland from elsewhere within the EU, as they are exempt. Ms Robison said, “Jim McGovern claims that such language is the, rough and tumble of everyday politics. It is not. This type of language and behaviour drags Scottish politics into the gutter. People expect better of their politicians, who should be focused on the important things like dealing with the current economic challenges.

b. Ms Robison, who was born in England, said she was personally offended by Mr McGovern’s remarks saying, “I have spent a lifetime in politics fighting racism and deeply resent this language being so easily bandied about. I was born in England with an English mother, with many of my family still living down south. furthermore, as for the tuition fee policy being racist, it was the last Labour-Liberal coalition in Scotland which first introduced tuition fees for students from the rest of the UK, which Jim McGovern should be aware of. I have no doubt that Jim McGovern will not have the decency to apologise for his disgraceful outburst. The question for the Labour Party is, therefore, whether they stand by him or are they prepared to reject this type of politics? We cannot allow politics in Scotland to descend to such a level and I urge all politicians to agree to work together to ensure this does not happen.”

c. Scottish Labour accused the SNP of trying to talk up the row — but also said it does not condone the language Mr McGovern used. A spokesman said, “It is clear the SNP are desperate to try to blow Jim McGovern’s comments out of all proportion in an attempt to score cheap political points. As Jim McGovern has made clear, his comments were not directed at any individual but in relation to the SNP government’s higher education policy, that he believes to be discriminatory, whereby European and Scottish students get free university education in Scotland while students from the rest of the UK will be force to cough up to £36,000 for a degree — the most expensive degrees in the whole of the United Kingdom. The SNP are the last people who should be complaining about how they are described by their political opponents. Anyone who dares to question or criticise them is immediately under attack. Mr McGovern’s remarks were made by him, speaking in a personal capacity. The Scottish Labour party is always willing to engage the SNP in spirited debate about their separation policies but does not condone the use of such language.” Comments:

d. Boris; McGovern’s tirade reminded me of the, “Salem Witchunt Scandal” A wee lassie said, “she’s a witch, without foundation, many were tried convicted and executed without cause or proof. He should be more moderate in his utterings. He should also discuss the fees’ issue with his colleague Jim Murphy MP since it was he, as the Chairman of the National Union of Students that instituted the UK policy of charging fees to Students. This was Murphy’s ticket to success given his assurance of a career in politics as a Labour MP. Students in England Wales and Northern Ireland are still charged University fees, a policy fully supported by McGovern and his party. Bit like the two headed dog on this one. He would be best advised to engage brain before mouth methinks.

e. Roin Tilbrook; There is an old lawyer’s courtroom joke that if your case is strong on the law then bang on about the law; if your case is strong on the facts then bang on about the facts; but if the case isn’t strong on either the facts or the law then bang on the table. Labour’s less amusing version, whenever it struggles to make a case, is always to cry ‘RACISM’. Here is a report about the latest example – for once not directed at an Englishman! Needless to say when counterattacked Jim McGovern MP limply blustered that his comments merely represented ‘the rough and tumble of everyday Scottish politics.’ Labour must be getting really desperate!

f. Chris Beverley; The use of the racist tag is indeed a low trick and one that the Labour Party and their ilk are always ready to use. Such misuse of language is a key tactic employed by the adherents of political correctness, that most evil of ideologies. Thank goodness our party takes a tough stance against this treasonous poison. I spoke about this in a recent speech to Bridlington English Democrats which can be read here:

8. April 2013; Taxpayers landed with £27,000 legal bill for MP’s £23.90 expenses claim

a. Jim McGovern tried to claim the fare from his Dundee West seat to a Labour party meeting in Glasgow by saying it was the first leg of a two-part trip to Westminster. But the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) rejected his expenses claim, arguing the detour was unconnected to McGovern’s official work as an MP.

b. Last month, in the first case of its kind since new legislation was brought in after the 2009 expenses scandal, McGovern appealed IPSA’s decision to a tribunal and lost. IPSA has now revealed its bill for defending McGovern’s appeal was £27,000 – which ultimately falls on the taxpayer. McGovern’s costs were met by his union, the GMB. IPSA said each side in the appeal had to pay its own costs, and it would not pursue McGovern for its £27,000 bill. The SNP last night called for McGovern to reimburse IPSA for its legal bill. The watchdog said it hadn’t wanted a tribunal but was glad to have won the test case. IPSA has now changed its rules on diverted journeys, capping the amount MPs can claim to the standard fare between the start and end points of each journey.

c. McGovern claimed £23.90 for a single rail fare from Dundee to Glasgow in September 2011 to attend a Labour Party meeting. He then claimed £249.45 for a business class flight on to Heathrow to fulfil his parliamentary role. McGovern charged both journeys to a card supplied by IPSA, but the watchdog refused to cover the cost of either leg of the trip. McGovern asked for a review of the decision from IPSA’s compliance officer, who agreed the MP should be covered for the cost of the flight, but not the train fare. McGovern then appealed against the compliance officer’s decision to a First Tier Tax Tribunal. However, tribunal judge Roger Berner flatly rejected McGovern’s case.

d. At the tribunal, held in London on March 14, McGovern’s counsel admitted that the Dundee-Glasgow leg of the trip could be characterised as not “wholly, exclusively and necessarily in the performance” of the MP’s parliamentary function, as the expenses rules require. However, he said the rules do not dictate that MPs must take the most direct or cheapest route from their seat to Westminster, and it was a fundamental principle that MPs should be financially supported to carry out their work.

e. Judge Berner said the tribunal did not accept that argument, and it was vital to consider the separate purpose of each leg of the trip. He said: “In general there can be no duality of purpose – Having found that the travel from Dundee to Glasgow was a separate journey, the only conclusion we can reach is that, as Mr McGovern has agreed, the purpose of that journey was to enable Mr McGovern to attend the Labour Party meeting. “The expense of that journey was accordingly not necessarily incurred in (or for) the performance of Mr McGovern’s parliamentary duties, and cannot be claimed.” McGovern, 56, has been the MP for Dundee West since 2005 and is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee. He has until the end of May to decide whether to appeal the tribunal ruling.

f. North East Scotland SNP MSP Mark McDonald said: “At a time when many households are struggling to make ends meet, it is unbelievable that Mr McGovern has run up this enormous bill. “Mr McGovern should reimburse these legal costs himself.” And North East Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone called McGovern’s case “extraordinary”. He said: “An MP should know the difference between what is a legitimate expense and what is not. I’m disappointed that was not as obvious to Mr McGovern as it is you and me.” An IPSA spokesman said: “We would rather this hadn’t gone to a tribunal, but Mr McGovern made the decision to take it there. “We believe the finding upholds the integrity of IPSA rules in what seems to be a test case.” The Scottish Parliament said MSPs were not allowed to submit a claim “which relates to party political activity”.

g. McGovern said the GMB union was covering his costs, but he did not know how much they were. “To be honest, I doubt very much if I could afford it. I imagine it would be expensive. IPSA are using public money. I don’t use any public money for representation.” Despite bringing the appeal, he blamed IPSA for “digging its heels in” over the fare.
He later said his lawyer had advised him to appeal, and described the SNP’s call to repay IPSA as “ridiculous”. He said: “The SNP trying to make cheap political capital out of this does not bear scrutiny.” Comments from the public:

h. Andrew R M Craik; I fail to see how this can be describded as “cheap” political capital. I would say that it is pretty expensive. What annoys me is the way the populace can be treated as though they are idiots.

i. Lawrence Maclean; More Labour sleaze. How many more Labour MP’s are going to get away with making false expense claims and not get the jail? If this was a member of the public who lost a case then that person would be liable for costs. The sooner Scotland is rid of corruption the better.

j. Les Barrie; Why is a well paid MP getting legal expenses when he made an illegal expenses claim and instead of accepting his “mistake” he challenged the ruling and lost,the hypocritical double standards of our politicians is breathtaking.

k. Andrew McMillan; The snouts of the greedy remain deep in the trough.

l. James Findlay; £65k salary plus £200K expenses. Why can these people not pay for anything, if his case was thrown out. Why do they not reclaim the court expenses from him or his union that backed him,he says he could not afford it then why go to court for a paltry sum of £24.I hope the people of Dundee West question this MP’s actions and remember him at the next election if I was in his constituency I would be all for getting him out.

m. John Souter; Another benefit fraudster seeks sanctuary in the establishment trough.

n. Alun Llewelyn; We know this ludicrous case has cost the taxpayers £27k but how much has it cost the GMB? Why are ordinary union members being made to cover the costs of greedy Scottish Labour MPs?

o. Rab Dickson; A Scottish Labour MP has landed taxpayers with a £27,000 legal bill after a Commons expenses dispute over a £24 train ticket. Very labour.

p. Stewart Murdoch; Why does any MP think it is OK to try to claim absolutely everything and then say, “rules do not dictate that MPs must take the most direct or cheapest route from their seat to Westminster, strikes me that he is a lousy representative for the people if he can’t tell the difference between morally responsible and administratively ambiguous. Hope he resigns . Stupidly optimistic I guess!

r. Stephen Read; He said his lawyer had advised him to appeal”…How pathetic…he’s an MP but appears to have no mind of his own….Please sir, the lawyer made me do it. Why should the taxpayer pay a penny towards supporting this man’s twisted view of what he should be able to claim. Isn’t falsely claiming public monies fraud?

s. John Collatin; The sooner we consign these neanderthals to the rubbish bin of history the better..A moral bankrupt, just like most of his Scottish Labour colleagues. We the public are no longer laughing at your arrogant inept stupidity..we are getting pretty cheesed off now..These people actually think that the laws and morals that the rest of us try to live by do not apply to them because they are politicians. Come next September I pray that they’ll all be signing on or doing Workfare in a Poundland in Croyden. A complete and utter waste of money grubbing space, the lot of them.

t. Peter Piper, Ayrshire; Despite bringing the appeal, he blamed IPSA for “digging its heels in” over the fare. He didn’t just bring the appeal he lost it. So is he saying that the IPSA were wrong to, “dig their heels in” when they were proven or judged to be in the right? And these MPs are the people supposed to be setting a moral example to the rest of us? What’s clearly needed is for MPs – and other elected political officials – to have a compulsory course on ethics, morality – and the Law before taking office. What is also wrong is that the Tribunal should have awarded costs against McGovern – there was already a ruling and it was being challenged. That, as I understand it, is the position if I were to contest a ruling in Court, so why should it be any different from an MP – representing us? I think this issue raises a lot more questions than it answers, and should be debated in the HoC. MPs, Ministers and Prime Minsters need to be called to account for how they spend our money. “McGovern, is a member of the Scottish Affairs Select Committee.” Indeed, and a very strongly Unionist one at that. And we’re supposed to trust his judgement.

9. May 2013; MP Jim McGovern barred from sharing NCR meeting details

a. Dundee West MP Jim McGovern has stormed out of a meeting with NCR management — after being warned repeating anything he was told could be detrimental to the firm’s future in the city. The American cash machine manufacturers announced last week it is to cut 70 jobs from its research and development plant in Dundee, which employs around 400 people. The cuts, the latest in a series that have seen hundreds of staff lose their jobs in recent years, have prompted many to fear that NCR may soon leave Dundee for good. Mr McGovern visited NCR’s premises in Dundee on Tuesday to discuss the job cuts but left after being told he could not repeat anything he would be told to workers or constituents. He said, “I asked a couple of questions and I think they answered them reasonably honestly but just kept saying the same thing about the realignment of global resources.” However, Mr McGovern claims that when he pressed for more information, he was warned repeating anything he would be told could be detrimental to NCR’s long-term future in Dundee.

b. “Their position is that the workforce should be informed first but my position is constituents have been phoning me with their concerns and I should be able to answer them,” he said. The MP added that he was disappointed to find no union representatives were invited to the meeting. “When I walked out, I asked to meet the union representatives but still haven’t been given their contact details,” he said. “However, I have spoken to Ian Ewing, regional officer for Unite, and he completely supported my decision. “To me it seems ridiculous that with such a large number of people potentially being made redundant that union representation was not present at the meeting to discuss the future of the Dundee workforce. “After two or three questions put by me to management they made it clear that due to ‘commercial confidentiality’ I could not let the constituents who had contacted me over the weekend know what had been said at the meeting. “I, therefore, said I could see no purpose in continuing this meeting and left.”

c. Dundee City West MSP Joe FitzPatrick visited the factory on Monday and said he has been told NCR’s future in Dundee is secure. He said: “In Dundee this will impact on both hardware and software engineering, although I was assured that Dundee remains integral to NCR’s global business. “I have already spoken with John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth, who has assured me that the Scottish Government will work with the company to help those affected and maintain as many jobs in Dundee as possible.” A spokesman for NCR declined to comment. “We wouldn’t want to add to what we’ve said before,” said the spokesman.

10. June 2013; Efforts to save NCR jobs in Dundee

a. Scottish Enterprise’s most senior official will try to stave off the threat to Dundee jobs at NCR during a meeting in the US. Dr Lena Wilson is due to meet the global cash machine and electronics giant’s corporate management in New York, when the future of the local workforce will be raised. NCR moved to axe around 70 jobs at its research and development operation at the city’s Gourdie Industrial Estate last month. A 30-day consultation period over the redundancies will finish next week. All staff at the hardware and software design operation hub — around 400 in total — were called to a mass meeting where they were appraised of the situation by managers. NCR has confirmed that jobs are going as part of a wider “alignment” of operations but has thus far refused to comment on specific questions posed about the redundancies and whether it remains committed to Dundee in the long term. The cuts, the latest in a series that have seen hundreds of staff lose their jobs in recent years, have prompted many to fear that NCR may soon leave the city for good.

b. SNP MSP Joe FitzPatrick welcomed news of the US meeting going ahead. In a letter to the member for Dundee City West, senior executive Adrian Gillespie confirmed that Scottish Enterprise’s chief executive Dr Wilson is to meet NCR management. Mr Gillespie stated the purpose of this meeting is: “To understand further the rationale behind this announcement and more importantly to explore how Scottish Enterprise can help to maximise ongoing long-term investment in the Dundee ?operation with key US decision-makers.”

c. Mr FitzPatrick said: “Following my recent meeting with NCR’s local management last month, I raised this issue at the highest level with the Scottish Government’s enterprise agency and also directly with the Finance Secretary John Swinney. “I am reassured that the Scottish Government’s most senior official from Scottish Enterprise is meeting with NCR in the United States in an effort to secure jobs and continued investment at the Dundee site. “This will be a difficult time for the employees and their families, though I remain hopeful that NCR will endeavour to avoid redundancies and I welcome the knowledge that action is being taken by the Scottish Government’s agency to assist them in doing so.”

d. At a meeting with local management, Mr FitzPatrick was advised that potential job losses are part of an international realignment and are not a reflection of the skills and experience of the city workforce. The company set up in Dundee to make cash registers in 1946 and once employed more than 6,500 people in the city. However, hundreds of jobs were cut in 2007 and NCR finally shut down its cash machine assembly operations in 2009. That factory has now been razed and is being replaced by an Asda supermarket.

e. Dundee West Labour MP Jim McGovern walked out of a meeting with senior management after claiming that a gagging order was being put on him with regards to the discussion’s contents. He said he was told during a visit to NCR’s premises to discuss the job cuts that he could not repeat anything he would be told to workers or constituents.

f. Comment. Headline seeking, chest beating and public airing of difficulties being McGovern’s contribution to discussions was pretty negative. Quiet diplomacy, (undertaken by Government officers) is the best way forward in the 30 day consultation period required by law since it is for the company to decide staffing requirements and future policy.

11. November 2014; Smith Commission Report

a.Jim McGovern said: “Since the Smith Commission was first announced, the SNP and their members kept claiming that the timetable and the vow set out during the referendum campaign would never be fulfilled, but the publication of the report shows that this has been a promise that has been kept and an agreement that has been delivered. There was immediate action the day after the referendum, the publication of the command paper took place two weeks before schedule, and the Smith Commission’s report has been delivered days ahead of its intended date of St Andrew’s Day. Lord Smith took on board the views of the Scottish people and the resulting report produced as a result of this consultation meets the demand of extensive new powers for the Scottish Parliament, delivering what the Scottish people decisively voted for. A strong Scotland with greater powers inside a strong United Kingdom.”

b. Comment; Noting the number of submissions there is no way in which Lord Smith would have been able to read over, study or review very many of the thousands of documents sent to his office. I myself compiled a 40 page effort which my office secretary carefully read in 6 hours, (spread over 8 hours). It is also the case that the “Heads of Agreement” report was delivered in the late morning of the deadline since the report was still in draft form on the morning of the day of submission. My understanding is that the Cabinet Office, in London, ( Sir Jeremy Heywood) and senior advisors of the Labour, Conservative and Lib/Dem Parties were still insisting upon and making major changes to the report, removing many, (agreed with Scottish political representatives) proposals for change, content agreed, that is in what they had understood was Lord Smith’s final submission. So what was delvered? A poisoned chalice containing so called powers which if adopted would bring about the destruction of the Scottish parliamentary system. The great con. Scotland would be well advised to reject it.

12. October 2014; Jim McGovern Response to Nicola Sturgeon’s comments on the Labour Party

a. Speaking on Nicola Sturgeon’s comments that the Labour Party “is obsessed with the SNP and has lost its purpose”, Jim McGovern, MP for Dundee West said, “I think it’s quite rich of Nicola Sturgeon to say that Labour is obsessed with the SNP when the SNP themselves are fanatically obsessed with gaining independence, despite decisively losing the ‘once in a lifetime’ referendum. After losing the deputy leadership contest I don’t expect Keith Brown to start his own ‘45’ campaign, nor do I think that he will stop trying to help the people of Scotland, although we may differ on how we think it best to help them. But this is exactly what the SNP are doing. Rather than using the powers they have to tackle poverty, deliver social justice and provide secure work for Scottish people, they pretend their decisive defeat never happened and press for another referendum even though Scotland said no. The claim that Labour has lost its purpose is just as ridiculous, and we are not some one-trick party that fights for the Union and does nothing else. We are a party with a purpose that we have never lost sight of, a purpose to deliver for the many instead of the few, to tackle rising poverty and inequality, to deliver secure and well-paid jobs, to abolish the bedroom tax, to end the crippling cost of living, and above all, a purpose to deliver a better future for Scotland and the United Kingdom.”

b. Comment; McGovern is confused: It is important to establish a distinction between the SNP Party and the Scottish government. As a government the performance of SNP MSP’s has been exemplary. The limited powers and meagre finance delegated to the Scottish government very much restricts the assistance that can be provided. Despite this the level of social justice provided by the Scottish government to needy Scot’s greatly exceeds that meted out to the poor, infirm, sick and elderly in England, Wales and Northern Ireland much negating the excesses of the controlling and brutal Lib/Dem government.

c. Noting McGovern’s claim that the Labour Party has not lost it’s purpose. Well. Well. Poverty levels under the New Labour govenments in power from 1997-2010 increased markedly. At the time Tony Blair and new labour took power in 1997 there was 1 registered billionaire resident in the UK. When they left office there were over 1000 registered billionaires, (mainly non-doms) in the UK. Tell that to the masses. Under Labour Poverty rose, inequality spread like wildfire, The job market died, the cost of living soared and many Scot’s were left with no future. What a cynical bunch New Labour party is/was?

d. As for the ambitions of the SNP membership, the party will never give up the right to take Scotland away from a system of government that is bloated, corrupt and dying. Scotland is a nation state and should be governed accordingly. Scot’s should not be made to beg for scraps at the feet of the high heid yin’s and gentry of another country.

e. The need for independence is unarguable. One example. The unelected chamber, that is the, “House of Lords” will rise in number to over 1000. The chamber it’self was built to hold around 200 sitting at a time and they are actively seeking to move away from Westminster to a new build large enough to seat them all. Cost £15-20B. Add this to the repairs cost of Westminster £20-25B and you have a measure of the extraordinary amount of finance scheduled to be taken away from Scotland over the next 10 years.

f. Add to the foregoing the £1M cost, (travel, accommodation, subsistence and appearance fees) to the taxpayer for each Scottish Lord attending parliament on a routine basis. (Approximately £60M full parliament) Further add the £1.2M cost to Scotland sending and maintaining MP’s at Westminster, (£72M full parliament) Total full parliament cost MP’s and Lords £232m. This is not funny. An independent Scotland would be able to allocate the finance to the support of Scot’s in need not to a small group of people better able to look after themselves.

13. December 2014; Scottish nationalists accused of Nazi-style book burning

a.Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon condemns the, ‘unacceptable behavior’ of three SNP Councillors after they were filmed torching a report calling for more devolution. The First Minister took swift action as she faced the first major challenge of her leadership after Councillors Brian Lawson, Will Mylet and Mags MacLaren burned the cross-party Smith Commission document, telling viewers, ‘This is what we think about it.’ Miss Sturgeon said, ‘My clear view is that setting fire to something you don’t agree with is not acceptable behavior.’

b. Labour MP Jim McGovern compared the Councillors’ actions to the Nazis burning books before the war. Speaking at the Commons Scottish Affairs Committee, the Dundee West MP said: ‘I have quite often read books and followed documentaries about pre-war Germany, and one of them was where … the National Socialist Party, which became obviously the Nazis, burned the books. ‘Yesterday, apparently, SNP elected members filmed themselves burning copies of the Smith Commission report.’

c. Yesterday SNP National Secretary Patrick Grady said he had made a complaint against four Councillors and they ‘will be suspended from the party until that complaint is heard’. They could be expelled from the SNP as a result of their actions. But Social Justice Minister Alex Neil downplayed the incident in a newspaper interview, claiming it was a ‘silly prank’ and ‘not a hanging offence’.

Smith Report

Experts Warn The Elephant trap will be Sprung Once Holyrood Is Handed Some Welfare Powers

December 2014; Experts warn Scottish benefit claimants could end up worse off once Holyrood is handed welfare powers

The Scottish Parliament is expected to gain control over carer’s allowance, industrial injuries benefit and severe disablement allowance under the powers negotiated in the Smith Commission on Scottish devolution. This will allow MSPs to raise or cut these benefits in line with the specific needs of the Scottish people, and “top up” payments from the new universal credit (UC) which will remain the purview of the UK Government. However, some benefits will be treated as income when deciding how much UC should be awarded.

If the Scottish Parliament increases its devolved benefits then claimants will get a pound-for-pound reduction in their UC, the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) has warned. Holyrood could then top up claimants’ depleted UC from its own budget – but the SNP said this goes against Smith’s principle that additional income for the recipient should not result in money being offset from somewhere else. UC will replace job-seeker’s allowance, housing benefit, working tax credit, child tax credit, employment and support allowance and income support across the UK.

Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael pledged to investigate Spice’s research at Holyrood’s Devolution (Further Powers) Committee today, insisting “it does not make sense” and could be an “unintended consequence” of the Smith proposals. Spice said: “If a UC claimant is receiving any of the reserved benefits, and they have been increased by the Scottish Parliament, then they will get a reduction in their UC award pound-for-pound. “This could mean a UC recipient is worse off. “However, this eventually could be offset if the Scottish Parliament decided to increase the UC award as well.”

Committee convener Bruce Crawford, an SNP MSP, said: “The Smith Commission report actually says: ‘Any new benefits or discretionary payments introduced by the Scottish Parliament must provide additional income for the recipient and not result in automatic off-settings.’ “So it doesn’t actually talk about the top-up process or the devolved powers, so I think we need a bit of clarity around that area because otherwise what would be the point of having the powers to do that.”

Mr Carmichael said: “Exactly, without hearing the reasoning behind that conclusion I couldn’t really offer you any explanation for it. “It doesn’t make sense to me, but it may be that our old friend, the law of unintended consequences, is at play here and if that is the case then all the more reason that we have proper scrutiny of the draft clauses when they come forward.”

Giving evidence to the same committee, Deputy First Minister John Swinney said: “I think that would be a travesty if that was the case. “The purpose of section 55 was to put into the Smith Commission report a guarantee that if the Scottish Parliament was to decide to do anything in relation to welfare, then the individual who was to be the beneficiary of that should get that benefit.” He added: “To me it’s pretty clear that anything that we do within the Scottish Parliament should not see the benefit of that undermined or negated in any way as it affects the individual. “Without wishing to tread over the line of my participation in the Smith Commission, that was certainly my view of the purpose of paragraph 55.”

The Smith proposals could also contain a benefits “elephant trap” for the Scottish Government if it continues to pursue divergent policies on welfare from the UK Government, Conservative MSP Alex Johnstone warned. He said the UK Government is trying to reduce dependency on benefits, cut demand and limit cost, and accused the Scottish Government of doing the opposite. If the UK benefit bill goes down there will be less money for Scotland through the Barnett formula, but if Scotland increases benefit demand it could leave Holyrood underfunded, he said. Mr Carmichael said the Scottish Government would ultimately be held to account if such a situation emerged.

Mr Johnstone said: “Having spent three years on the Welfare Reform Committee, I have seen the process of divergence that has happened in relation to welfare already and the proposals under the Smith Commission open that up quite significantly. “Now there is a determination to cling to the Barnett formula, almost a white knuckle death grip in some cases. “But as we go towards the proposals contained in the Smith Commission, particularly in relation to working age benefits, there is a significant divergence in policy already where south of the border there is a policy of reducing dependency and demand reduction in order to limit costs. “Whereas there is a priority to do something different – rather the opposite – in Scotland.

“As we move forward with this are we not heading towards a Barnett formula elephant trap where the amount of money allocated in UK budgets for working age benefits in particular will fall away, while Scotland may simply pile on demand and find itself underfunded.” Mr Carmichael said: “Well, that’s the beauty of devolution isn’t it? “You make your spending decisions and now you’re going to have to account for that in your funding decisions as well. “You can only spend the money once, and if we have learned nothing else over the last 10 years we should have learned that.”