Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How about using specific bank accounts?

This morning's Times leader makes for interesting reading, well for me at least. They have said that there is a 'strong argument for having one place (probably the Electoral Commission) where contributions or assistance of any kind are recorded' because the current system of duplication between the Register in Parliament and the Electoral Commission is overly complex. Obviously that is not something I disagree with given I wrote as much on Monday.

However, the Times go further to make the point that the system is not the only thing at fault but the character of politicians is too. They suggest that many politicians see the electoral laws they themselves passed as an inconvenience. This may in fact be true in some cases, and when you have that attitutde complacency kicks in. Throw into the mix though how some politicians have the media-savvy political nous of a mentally retarded ant and you have a recipe for disaster.

After all there will be the odd politician that is so universally thick that when they innocently accept assistance they don't even think of the possibilty of it ever becoming a story. The real problem if there is any with the system of declaration is that they rely on the politician or his minions to actively declare it. When the money comes in they have a set period of time to declare it and if they don't they break the rules and the law.

Why not remove that weak link in the chain? Why not, upon becoming an MP, do they not get given a specific bank account to be solely used for political donations? A specific account that requires all financial assistance that the law considers donations, in other words cash, to be deposited into and upon which nightly extractions are made for display in public records? This would remove the possibilty of the 'I forgot because I was so busy' excuse. If this was accompanied by a rule that was clear about the penalty for accepting cash by other means you wouldn't have a fool-proof system but you would have a system that started to remove the human need to remember where and when to register.

Update: Just to add another point here. If there were separate bank accounts created for MPs by the Parliamentary or Electoral authorities for this sort of thing with clear and simple rules, there would be no ifs and no buts if someone was found to using money from another source. Period. Sadly as Guido has pointed out this might be too simple and elegant idea to managing the records of financial donations for MP's to handle.


James Higham said...

Alternatively, Dizzy, why not drop the whole shenanigans about contributions and let them be deregulated? Whyever not? Thik how much hassle it would save.

flashgordonnz said...

This appears to be a simple, clever (part?) solution.
But this administration will implement it without cross-party dialog, leaving errors unfixed. They will also tweak it so that it somehow discriminates against non-government MPs (in their failure to realise this will back-fire when they slide into the opposition benches at the next election).

Guido Fawkes said...

Too simple, easy and transparent for politicians.

Anonymous said...

Increasing the simplicity of the system will reduce MP's ability to claim they didn't know what to do or when to do it, so it sounds like a very reasonable suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Wise Words

Anonymous said...

I agree that the problem lies with the rules regulations and law ... all of which were increased by or brought in by this Government.

There is the duplicity of reporting; the interpretation of the guidance; and the difficulty with the wording of the actual rules themselves.

It should be pointed out that this is the political manifestation of the proliferation of rules, guidance and pettyfogging regulation that has proliferated under this Government and affects employers, businesses, traders, teachers, schools, doctors, nurses, and everyone else whose operations are subject to such rules, guidance and regulations. The whole direction is wrong ... and not just for the political reporting requirments!

Anonymous said...

Maybe Northern Rock could provide the bank accounts?

Anonymous said...

"Why not, upon becoming an MP, do they not get given a specific bank account to be solely used for political donations?"

Presumably there is nothing whatsoever that precludes any MP from showing some initiative and doing this themselves. They shouldn't need instructing but a taste of the nanny state for them might reduce their eagerness for inflicting it on the rest of us.

If they were bog standard bank accounts MPs could even send a copies of monthly statements to the Electoral Commission (or whoever) to corroborate declared donations.

Give them a payment card to record actual expenses as well, rather then a wooly guess without providing receipts.

Anonymous said...

It's an excellent idea, Dizzy. MPs should like it because it would simplify things for them considerably. Which is why they'll try to ignore it. Keep shouting about it, though. You never know.

AndyR said...

I doubt that even Labour politicians ever wanted these laws brought in. It just makes their life more difficult. They did it to score an easy political point against the conservatives, and because they started to believe their own propaganda that the Tories were corrupt and Labour were the honest, hard working, toilers of the land.