Saturday, 5 April 2014

Ignorantia legis neminem excusat - unless you're a government Minister

Mrs Miller is the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport; and has been an MP since 2005. This means she has worked in the Westminster village for almost a decade. That’s almost ten years in a job that involves the making and enacting of laws.

Yet, like so many of her parliamentary associates Mrs Miller appears unable to distinguish between right and wrong herself. How is it that MPs, people for whom the law is an intrinsic part of their everyday lives, have such difficulties in understanding their own expenses procedures?

Mrs Miller making her less than contrite apology -
not for claiming £40,000 more than her entitlement,
but for her attitude towards an inquiry into her expenses

As a rule ignorantia legis neminem excusat, unless you’re a government minister. In which case a fraudulent claim in excess of £45,000 can be reduced to a repayment of £5,800; with a less than contrite 30-second long apology that sounded more like a stroppy teenager’s ‘whatever!’

Yet while MPs are allowed to get away with cheating on a vast scale, benefits’ fraud of under £20 K can carry a prison sentence of up to 12 months. There is talk of increasing the sentence for benefits’ fraud to ten years. In supporting such Draconian sentencing the political director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, Jonathan Isaby argues that:

"This is people stealing from taxpayers - stealing from vulnerable people. A message needs to go out that this is unacceptable and increasing sentences will act as a deterrent."

Most of us know the ‘us and them’ model which underpins most areas of life in Britain. All that the Miller case does is to confirm that it extends to Parliament. So Us and Them-ism runs through education, employment, health, housing, welfare, policing, the judiciary and Parliament. Good to know those at the top are able to maintain consistency.

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