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MPs Expenses Debacle In UK

Armen Hareyan's picture

The MPs expenses debacle in the United Kingdom has enraged the public over the months that it has been dragging on. With each subsequent revelation comes the usual feeble excuses that ordinary people would not get away with providing to explain their behaviour. While the honesty and integrity of our elected representatives has never been of such a high quality – mainly because of the lack of regulatory power and with parliament being supreme.

There is, however, something equally important that such scandals causes and that is the erosion of the rule of law.

In any free and equitable society, such as the United Kingdom, the rule of law is of utmost importance in ensuring that the society in question remains both free and equitable. The rule of law simply refers to the fair application of the laws of the land without any discretion in their application. We see discretion in the application of the law quite frequently, especially when it comes to elected representatives in our national and regional parliaments around the UK.

The rule of law is an ancient legal principle with its routes as far back as 350 BC. It has existed in our legal systems since the creation of the systems that in the UK we recognise today and has not only existed in them, but been a central principle of them.

It has been reported that no MPs will face prosecution over their expenses, which would be fair enough if there had been no offences committed. There were a large number of fraudulent claims knowingly submitted by “Honourable” Member’s of Parliament. This is where the rule of law is destroyed, had a member of the public gained taxpayers money through a fraudulent claim and that fraudulent claim was discovered they would not just be allowed to pay the money back and for it to disappear – they would be taken to court and would, at the very least, end up with a criminal record. However, the MPs are not being prosecuted for gaining taxpayer’s money for gaining fraudulent claims.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown MP has promised to clean up the House of Commons, but few have any confidence in what he has to say because the rules that have been broken in recent years were ones brought in by his party under his predecessor Tony Blair in order to clean up the House of Commons. What will give the British public confidence in the political system we have here in the UK would be for it, firstly, to be reformed (but that’s an issue for another time). Secondly, for Mr Brown to call an immediate General Election without all those who had made claims for things they shouldn’t have, and, thirdly, that those MPs who clearly made fraudulent claims to face public prosecution in the criminal courts.

The above three steps would help to bring confidence back into the system, but it would also help to re-build the rule of law that has systematically been broken down into pieces by those elected to not only the UK Parliament, but also to the Scottish Parliament, over the last few decades (don’t forget, all parties were involved here and there have been similar scandals without criminal prosecutions in the days before the current Labour Government.

Oliver Smith

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