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BEHIND THE SPEAKER'S CHAIR: Whatever happened to honourable gentlemen?; It doesn't say much for the quality of our MPs.


IT iS good news that a clamp down has been imposed - and not bef ore time - on MPs' expenses. This follows the scandal of Tory MP Michael Trend (Windsor) who ab stracted some pounds 90,000 expenses to which he was not entitled and has now to pay it all bac k. What sur prises me,however,is that this should be necessary at all, which it undoubtedly now is. After all, MPs call each other (including their bitter enemies) ``honourable'' or (according to status) ``right honourable'' as a matter of course.

Not so many years ago,it was assumed also as a matter of course that MPs would be as pure as the driven snow in claiming expenses and stating whether they had any personal interest in a topic they were raising in the Commons. I can barely recollect a single occasion when an MP betrayed this tr ust.

Now,however,MPs have to be watched like hawks. There exists a Parliamentary Commissioner, Sir Philip Mawer, to make sure that the rules are not abused.

Now,MPs cannot even be tr us ted to fill out an expenses claim without every item being minutely checked, to ensure that no fiddling is going on.

That doesn't say much for the quality of our Members of Parliament today.

I do not want to sound like an old fogey (or perhaps I do),but none of this scrutiny would have been necessary 20 years a go. An honourable member would have regarded it - quite rightly --as an insult.

Not so,alas,any more.

ONCE more Peter Mandelson, twice forced to resign as a Cabinet Minister,has pitched into the row over the euro, saying he is picking up worrying signs that in certain respects the Government is travelling bac kwards on this issue.

Lots of long words,convoluted arguments and unintelligible gibberish are being presented on the whys and wherefores as to whether Britain should join or not. Well,at the risk of sounding arrogant,I think I can put the case in a nutshell.

It is simply that the Prime Minister is running scared of holding a referendum - and losing it. Nothing more complicated than that.
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:May 1, 2003
Previous Article:OBITUARY: Edward Max Nicholson.
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