Saturday, 3 November 2012

Denis MacShane Should Not Be Above The Law

Denis MacShane has now bowed to the inevitable and resigned as Labour MP for Rotheram.

The former Minister for Europe was facing a 12-month suspension from the House of Commons following a report by its expenses watchdog which found he had made fradulent claims no less than 19 times.

An earlier enquiry into MacShane's expenses was dropped by the Metropolitan Police in July.

Given that Mr MacShane would not be able to serve his constituents effectively without access to Parliament for such a lengthy period, he really had no other option but to stand down.

However, letters in which Mr MacShane admitted breaking the rules on claiming expenses cannot be used as evidence against him in court, because of parliamentary priveledge.

This makes any prosecution of Mr MacShane for expenses fraud unlikely, unless the police can find other evidence to support the case for bringing charges against him.

Not surprisingly, this has provoked a storm of criticism from the Conservatives. Philip Davies has urged the Metropolitan Police to re-open their investigation, claiming that MPs should not be seen to be above the law.

And he is right. 

Whilst Parliamentary Priveledge, quite correctly, exists to protect the efficient working of the legislature, if there is clear evidence that an MP or peer has broken the law, then they should forfeit any right to protection from Parliament.

And this is especially so in MacShane's case, where he has actually admitted to these breaches of the rules in writing, in what some have described as one of  the worst cases of Parliamentary expenses fraud so far.

Like the MPs and Peers who in the recent past have been found to have fiddled their expenses, MacShane should also face the full force of justice.

The British people have a right to expect that those who represent them do not consider themselves to be beyond the reach of the law.

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