The decision by local Labour MP, Alan Whitehead not to require Jacqui Smith to repay falsely claimed parliamentary expenses was quite wrong.
Mr Whitehead serves on the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges and is one of 5 Labour MPs who asked merely for an apology from Ms Smith, refusing to call for her to repay up to £116,000 of expenses wrongly claimed by her between 2004 -2009. The committee’s decision followed an investigation by John Lyon, the parliamentary commissioner for standards, who was scathing of the former Home Secretary’s behaviour.
Ms Smith claimed that her main home was a house in Peckham, a property owned by her sister where she used a room when staying in London. This allowed her to claim expenses and allowances on a ‘second home’, the four bedroom family home in the West Midlands.
Mr Whitehead was quite wrong to let his colleague off the hook. Jacqui Smith has been proved to have acted wrongly. She has been misleading about which house was really her main home and where she spent most of her time and Police evidence directly conflicted with her own account.
Any jury in the land would have said pay back the money. Having a bunch of MPs of the same party make the decision is like picking a prisoner’s cell mates and asking them to act as his jury.
It’s a pretty clear cut case to me. I think the committee should have ordered to her to pay back any expenses that were wrongly claimed.