It is ironic that the Party that appears to have benefited most from the great Parliamentary expenses scandal is the most tainted of all – UKIP.
Because the focus of attention has been on the three main parties at Westminster, it has left the impression that the only “clean” parties are the smaller ones. And UKIP has seen its support in opinion polls treble as it rides this wave.
But the reality is that the UK Independence Party is riddled with allegations of financial fiddles, some of them proved. Some are to do with the Party’s finances but this article deals with its MEPs.
It is worth noting that of 12 UKIP MEPs elected in 2004, only 8 remain in the UKIP Parliamentary delegation. And of the 12, one was sent to prison, one has been charged with false accounting and money laundering, two have had to pay back misclaimed money and three have faced investigations by the EU fraud-buster OLAF. In addition only one UKIP MEP has been prepared to publish all his expenses details.
Here are some facts, together with supporting evidence:
ASHLEY MOTE MEP. He was elected as a UKIP MEP for the South-East in 2004. He had been charged prior to this with housing benefit fraud. His case eventually came to court and he was found guilty. He was given a 9 months prison sentence but continued to serve as an MEP. UKIP did attempt to distance itself from Mote, but only after the charges became public. He had been a welcome candidate and had been elected under the UKIP label. (All details widely available on the web from newspaper sites)
TOM WISE MEP. He was elected as a UKIP MEP for the Eastern region. He was exposed over his expenses claims and after an OLAF investigation the information was given to the British police. He was investigated and subsequently charged with false accounting and money laundering and is due in court the day after the European election results are declared. (All details widely available on the web from newspaper sites). UKIP leader Nigel Farage has claimed that he was expelled from UKIP immediately the matter arose.
This is quite false. Tom Wise remained a member of UKIP until February 2009 when he chose to allow his membership to lapse. (Both Tom Wise and UKIP HQ should be able to confirm this). For a considerable time after the first allegations he was fully supported by UKIP, including after an internal inquiry. He was later excluded from UKIP’s delegation in the European Parliament but in a deal which also gave him promotion within the UKIP/IndDem Group (he became a vice-president). And he remained an elected UKIP MEP and a party member until earlier this year. (Former UKIP leader Roger Knapman MEP should be able to confirm all of this, as could Trevor Colman and Piers Merchant who together carried out an internal inquiry).
Derek Clarke MEP. He was elected as a UKIP MEP for the East Midlands in 2004. He is currently under investigation by the EU’s anti-fraud body OLAF. It is not known why. However there it is claimed that Derek Clark uses EP money to employ a person (Andrew Fear) who in fact works as a membership officer for UKIP in the party headquarters in Devon and who does no work for Clark as an MEP. This would appear to be against EU expenses rules.
Derek Clark OLAF Case Number: D/007/033/04.09.08
Derek Clark OLAF Investigation Number: DD/FD-
Jeffrey Titford MEP. He has been UKIP MEP for the Eastern region since 1999. He has also been under investigation by OLAF. He also has previously “employed” at least one person who was in fact working for the Party in the North East, Stephen Allison, although this arrangement was hurriedly terminated about two years ago.
Jeffrey Titford: OLAF OF/2008/0764/Titford.
East Anglian Daily Times report said "last night OLAF - the European Parliament's Anti-Fraud Office - confirmed that the Essex Police decision had not ended the matter. “We have opened a file and we are taking steps to gather all relevant information for an investigation,” said the spokesman.
Nigel Farage MEP. Party leader and MEP for the South East since 1999. He is alleged to be under investigation, or has been investigated, by OLAF either in a personal capacity as an MEP or in his role as co-leader of the IndDem Group over financial matters related to the IndDem Group. OLAF were certainly making inquiries in February 2009.
Both Jeffrey Titford and Nigel Farage were caught out in the 1999-2004 Parliament for the misuse of expenses and had to pay back wrongly-claimed money. (common knowledge within UKIP)
Former leader Roger Knapman MEP, elected for the South West in 2004, is the only MEP who published details of his expenses which he did on his website about a year ago. He has consistently offered to publish all details regularly and has advocated total transparency.
He has criticised a culture of secrecy within UKIP and in 2008 resigned from the UKIP delegation at Brussels as a protest over financial management and UKIP’s involvement with the IndDem Group. However he remains a prominent member of UKIP. (Roger Knapman MEP or Piers Merchant should be able to confirm).
Robert Kilroy-Silk MEP was elected for East Midlands in 2004 but resigned from UKIP altogether early in the Parliament. One of his concerns was UKIP’s financial management. (Comments made at the time).
Nigel Farage’s expenses. Farage boasted that he had made £2m from expenses in a speech and this was later repeated by Denis McShane MP on the BBC’s Politics Today on 19 May (about 20 mins into show, available on BBC web site). Farage has quickly attempted to row back from this gaff. However his statement (http://www.ukip.org/ News Section current) is itself misleading. He claims he covers the cost of his “regional office.”
In fact his own entry in the MEP’s register of interests reveals that the office is donated. He has previously confirmed that he employs his wife (contrary to rules made by his own delegation in 2004) but has never explained precisely what his wife does and no one else in UKIP appears to know. He claims to have used expenses to travel to meetings around the UK, although NEC voted him a party budget for this purpose. (Former NEC members can confirm).
This is what UKIP MEPs can claim in expenses. Please note the sterling amounts are approximate because of exchange rate variations. These are the latest 2009 figures from the EU for a full year:
(A) Parliamentary Assistance Allowance
To employ or contract staff in the UK. A job description must be given. The staff must work for the MEP on his duties, not be transferred to a political party or elsewhere and must not engage in election work.
(B) General Expenditure Allowance
To pay for a UK office (but not staff), UK travel, communication equipment. May not be used to cover personal expenses or political subsidies.
(C) Annual Travel Allowance
This is available for world travel and can also be used for hotels if undertaken “in the performance of their duties.” This is generously interpreted and covers most foreign jollies. Despite an agreement by UKIP MEPs in 2004 not to use this allowance, many UKIP MEPs have participated liberally in such jollies which can be incorporated into foreign holidays. This allowance may NOT be used for travel within the UK.
(D) Subsistence Allowance
A daily allowance for when in Brussels.
£249 per day. Most MEPs will spend four days a week in Brussels or Strasbourg , three out of every four weeks on average. Annualised on that basis this amounts to £38,844.
(E) A Travel Allowance to Brussels/Strasbourg (in addition to the Annual Travel Allowance).
A fixed rate is paid calculated on the cost of travel from the constituency based on figures well above the real cost of cheap-rate travel. Thus most MEPs are able to make a substantial profit by claiming the full fixed rate but actually travelling cut-price. Profit can be as much as £800 per return journey.
Thus a UKIP MEP could make as much as £31,200 a year in profit alone.
The total allowance in this case would be around £39,000. Note this is very variable depending on the distance of the UK constituency from Brussels and the availability of cut-price flights or rail. (NB As many UKIP MEPs are over 60 they use senior citizens discounts to drive down the real cost of travel and can choose times of travel where the lowest price tickets are available).
(F) Free Medical care
All MEPs receive comprehensive free private medical care including dental treatment and free prescriptions. This also extends to spouse and dependent children. This perk includes “thermal cures,” acupuncture and transport costs. There are some limits – only 60 sessions are allowed for the following, among others: mud baths, hydro massage, electrotherapy, radar, ionisation, and only 30 sessions of aerosol therapy and irrigation.
Contact lenses are included as are hearing aids and artificial limbs as well as false teeth, gold crowns and veneers. The cost is dependent on how much medical help is needed but it does include a variety of health checks and scans for perfectly-healthy MEPs.
(G) Free insurance
MEPs receive free life assurance and accident insurance, and a generous invalidity pension.
(H) Free language and computer courses
Free and unlimited hours with teachers at EP or a fixed allowance for teachers at home (including one to one) for lessons in five main EU languages. Also free computer lessons up to a maximum amount anywhere in UK or at EP.
(I) Retirement pension
UK MEPs are entitled to the same generous pension that MPs receive. They may also top this up under the additional voluntary scheme. Under this for every £1 paid in by the MEP, the EU adds £2.
And, of course, MEPs receive a salary which is the same as MPs. They do pay tax on this which of course they do not on any of their allowances, including those which openly make a profit (eg travel to Brussels allowance).
OLAF: For press enquiries :
Communication, PR and Spokesman Unit http://firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: +32-2-296.75.47 or Direction A - Investigations & Operations I (European institutions, agencies & bodies, direct expenditures and external aid) +32-2-299.87.68
UKIP HQ (based at Lexdrum House, Devon) 01626 831290
Nigel Farage (mobile) 07802 597692
Tom Wise 01525 379261
Roger Knapman 01822 860254
Trevor Colman 01626 831340
Derek Clark 01604 636002
Jeffrey Titford 07836 223090 (may be out of date)
Robert Kilroy Silk 0034 952 894301 (Spanish home)
Ashley Mote 07836 220223
Dr Eric Edmond (former UKIP NEC member) 01935 881707
Dr David Abbott (former UKIP NEC member) 01271 813455
Del Young (former UKIP NEC member) 01455 615100
Martin Haslam (former UKIP NEC member and deputy treasurer) 01444 247871 or 01444 483105
Bruce Lawson (former UKIP treasurer) 01686 668004
All above are believed to be exercised over financial sleaze in UKIP.
Piers Merchant 01805 622587 (carried out internal investigation on Tom Wise)
Andrew Fear 01626 831280 (direct line) or 01626 831290 (switchboard)
Stephen Allison 07900 803052 Home 01429 838168 or in Campaign HQ London.
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