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The return of our old friend, Tory Sleaze


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This lot are heading back into power within the next two years. Can't wait.

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/polit...ses-841006.html

Tories' Euro-leader quits over expenses

By Geoff Meade, PA Europe Editor, in Brussels

Thursday, 5 June 2008

Giles Chichester resigned as leader of the Conservative Euro MPs today after breaking European Parliament rules on political expenses.

He threw in the towel after facing an ultimatum from David Cameron to justify channelling more than £400,000 in staff allowances to a family business of which he is a paid director.

Mr Chichester stayed on as a Tory MEP, but stepped down from the top job to limit embarrassment to Mr Cameron - who had asked him only three months ago to clean up Tory MEP allowances in the wake of a scandal at Westminster over MP Derek Conway.

In a statement, the Conservative Party said Mr Chichester stepped down after chairman Caroline Spelman asked him to provide a full explanation of the arrangements put in place to fund his staff by 4pm tomorrow.

Mr Chichester chose to step down with immediate effect to prepare his report to the European Parliament authorities, said the party.

Mr Cameron said: "Giles Chichester is right to stand down as leader of our MEPs to prepare a full explanation of how his office is funded.

"Just as I expect our MPs to adhere to the highest standards, so must our MEPs.

"The tax-paying public have a right to know how their money is being spent and politicians have a duty to ensure it is spent properly."

Deputy leader Philip Bushill-Matthews will take over as acting leader.

As Tory leader in Europe, Mr Chichester only recently introduced what was meant to be a transparent new expenses code of conduct for his Tory members.

But now the son of round-the-world yachtsman Sir Francis Chichester has been forced to own up to what he called a "whoops-a-daisy" moment - apparently failing to spot a glaring error in his own expense arrangements.

Since 1966, Mr Chichester has been using a family firm founded by his father to channel some of his £160,000-a-year expenses for employing staff.

And he claims he was not aware of a rule change in 2003 which made it illegal to route the European Parliament cash through any firm of which the MEP is a paid director.

Yesterday he brushed off the mistake as a "technical" breach of European Parliament rules.

But, with Conservative central office in London and European Parliament officials demanding to see all his expense papers, Mr Chichester decided today to spare the party any further embarrassment.

Mr Chichester, 61, became Conservative leader in the European Parliament in November last year, after being elected as an MEP for the South West of England and Gibraltar in 1994.

After details of his expense dealings emerged, he went on television in his West Country constituency last night to admit that he was embarrassed, not least because he had just introduced a new expenses code for his Tory colleagues.

He went on: "Here I am leading that process for the last couple of months and - whoops-a-daisy - I am shown up to have made a mistake. OK, hands up, mea culpa, and I will put it right."

Lengthy talks today with colleagues in London and Brussels convinced him it would be hard to put the situation right, despite his insistence that "there has been no misappropriation of any funds".

In common with many MEPs, Mr Chichester employs his wife as a part-time assistant and also declares a full-time research assistant, an accountant, press officer and political agent as members of his staff being paid for out of his allowances budget.

There was never any secret about Mr Chichester using a family company to channel parliamentary expenses.

The company has had an official contract formally registered with the European Parliament and has received £445,000 from EU coffers since 1996 "in connection with secretarial and assistant services for the European Parliament, constituency and committee work".

Eyebrows were raised because the company publishes maps and navigational aids, but the MEP insisted he had done nothing wrong in using it as a "service provider" to support his work as an MEP.

But when questioned by journalists last March about the details of the relationship between the firm and his parliamentary work, Mr Chichester replied: "I don't think I need to go into great detail."

Tonight he accepted that Conservative Central Office and Mr Cameron did not agree.

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This lot are heading back into power within the next two years. Can't wait.

Let's be honest Paul, there's too many rotten eggs in all the major political parties. Whoever is in power, too many will be tempted to put their thumb in the pie.

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This lot are heading back into power within the next two years. Can't wait.

Let's be honest Paul, there's too many rotten eggs in all the major political parties. Whoever is in power, too many will be tempted to put their thumb in the pie.

In which case - let us be severly practical here - we need, as a matter of urgency, either thumbless candidates; or large helpings of the pie ourselves.

Well, which is it to be? Enforced digit removal, or elasticated pants?

Paul

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