Friday, July 18, 2008

Is it good to be with the PRU?

Ben Brogan is reporting on the Labour MP John Mann's calls for investigation into the Parliamentary Resources Unit and a certain number of Tory MPs that are using expenses to pay for their subscription, and whether a total of £2million+ should be paid back.

The questions that have arisen are whether the PRU is a engaging in party political activity or not. It does, after all, state that it "provides briefing, research, correspondence and related support to 150 Conservative MPs and front bench peers wholly, exclusively and necessarily in support of their Parliamentary duties."

However, as Brogan also notes, "Cameron made sure that the information published yesterday was bomb-proofed by Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin". Was it bomb-proof enough? Is it likely that all these MPs have been breaking rules on claiming expenses for something they should not, with an organisation that does itself operate inside Parliament? Instinct makes me think the practice will be stated to be above board because of what the PRU produces for its subscribers.

However, if the opposite is true it not only brings into question the use of taxpayer expenses for party political work where it should not be happening, but also brings into serious question the competence of the Parliamentary authorities that have allowed the PRU to operate since 1998 quite openly, and presumably receive and make money in this way.

13 comments:

Alex said...

If it really does provide "briefing, research, correspondence and related support to 150 Conservative MPs and front bench peers wholly, exclusively and necessarily in support of their Parliamentary duties", then it is probably a more cost efficient and higher quality service than could have been achieved by each MP's staff.

Anonymous said...

What is John Mann's problem? Surely if the PRU is against the rules then so is essentially all the work done by MPs staff, bar a letter saying "thank you for your letter, the comments of which have been noted".

After all, is there anything that any member of staff in Parliament does except provides briefing, research, correspondence and related support.

Morus said...

I think the problm is that by supporting many MPs, but only of one party, it appears that the work being done is supportive of *the Party* (being the *co-ordination* of the work of many MPs as distinct from the sum of the work of each of them) and at Taxpayers' expense. I'm not sure that is off-set by the efficiency argument. At best it looks like undeclared taxpayer support for a Party machine, and at worst it is that. It may be that this should be allowed, but I don't think it is at present. The PRU needs to show that it only does the work for MPs that would be done if it didn't exist - not additional partisan co-ordination work.

Why is there not a cross-party version to avoid the obvious perception (true or false) that this is the taxpayer funding Party activities?

For the record, John Mann is something of an attack dog, but when he does pick up a lead he doesn't let go easily. He was one of the first on expenses that saw Conway and other Tory MPs investigated and he led the investigation of the NUM siphoning off compensation money from their members via law firms who had already been paid by the gvt. The PRU better be squeaky clean, because he is one of the few Labour MPs with a big enough majority that he'll be able to keep pursuing this after the next election as well, if he so wishes.

Chris Paul said...

There was some Dorries money for her clearly party political campaigning re abortion rights that came out too. From another service org that only does Tories.

Skunkman said...

I'm afraid Mr Mann is opening up a can of worms. I used to be in the PRU many years ago. We were (I think they still are) based in the East Cloister. Based in the West Cloister is the Labour equivalent. Whilst the 'Tory' PRU did all its own research work the Labour outfit used to re-badge HMG briefs from the various departments send them out as 'Labour Parliamentary Briefing'. So whilst the Tory PRU has about 15 researchers, and is backed up by about 150 Conservative MP's the Labour outfit is backed up by every Labour MP and several hundred thousand civil servants. How's that for an abuse of tax-payers money?

The House Authorities scrutinised every aspect of the PRU when it was set up lest it break any House rules; it was given a clean bill of health, so much so that the Lib-Dems then set up their own PRU and one even exists up in Scotland.

Mr Mann, my advice to you is 'Don't go there'.

Toryhack said...

The better question to ask is whether the subscribing MPs get value for money from the underpaid researchers of highly variable ability.

Anonymous said...

Agreed - they are only doing what MPs own researchers are doing.

Now that may itself be wrong (the Parliamentary expenses are a massive subsidy for incumbent politicians' election battles), but there's no point just attacking this bunch for doing it efficiently.

Guido Fawkes said...

Why the fuck should taxpayers money be diverted into funding a Tory front?

Why can't Tories pay for it?

The Raven said...

Never mind the PRU, someone should investigate how much party political work is being carried out by the Civil Service for Labour. Now that they've 'successfully' politicised it, I'd bet my house we're talking tens of millions of pounds-worth of work.

Anonymous said...

John Mann (alongside John Cummings when MP for Easington) has to rate as the co-thickest piece of pigshit elected to the HoC in the last 12 years. God help people in Worksop.

J

dizzy said...

Guido, were you directed that at me? I don't think taxpayers money should be funding any front operations, all I'm asking is if this is a front then something in the system has broken as well.

Anonymous said...

It amazes me that something as clearly partisan as the PRU masquerades as a non-party parliamentary organisation.

There is a body which does impartial research and briefing work on behalf of all MPs: it used to be called the House of Commons Library.

PRU may be a neat way to re-badge research allowances, but its output is most certainly not available to all MPs and its title is a misnomer.

Anonymous said...

Guido- to help Tory MPs do their job in scrutinising the executive. Sometimes I wonder why, if you have such an intrinsic hate of all politicians, you spend all your time reading and writing about them.