Home > Features > This Week in the News: Week Beginning 11/01/2010

This Week in the News: Week Beginning 11/01/2010

On Wednesday, I picked up The Telegraph and was met with the front page title, ‘Immunity for MPs who repay expenses‘. The article informed me that the Government had made secret Parliamentary deals to protect MP identities involved in the ‘expense fraud’ shenanigans from being divulged to the public; MPs involved would be expected to pay back any inappropriately requested expenses and privately apologise to the Committee of Standards and Privileges.

Whilst I agree that this method is apt where, as John Lyon of the Committee reported in the above article, “there was no clear evidence that the breach [of Commons rules] was intentional and it was at the less serious end of the spectrum”, I also believe that MPs, as with other public services, have a responsibility to their constituencies to act in a transparent way where public funding is concerned.

I am not alone in this assertion. Apparently, Gordon Brown thinks so too – at least in the name of garnering allies in the populace. Regardless, back in April of 2009, Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Commons leader, Harriet Harman announced plans to reform the expenses rules and allowances in exchange of a more simple and less generous system in a bid to return trust to the public and portray an image of openness. The proposals can be viewed respectively, here and here. As result of these proposals, MPs are required to publicise their financial allowances on the Parliament website and future breaches of expense rules promise imposed fines, prison time and penalties. This was a positive move by the Government towards good practice and learning their lessons, but if this breaking news of immunity is the case, it threatens to undo the positive progress made and to undermine our democracy.

In other news, disaster struck the Republic of Haiti on Tuesday 12th when a 7.0 Mw earthquake hit before 17:00 (local time) along with six recorded aftershocks. This has caused major damage to many buildings – including the National Palace and local infrastructure – and numerous deaths. The full scope of the disaster is unknown at this time with regards to the death toll. This is being assessed by authorities and volunteer aid. Unfortunately, it looks to be anywhere from 50,000 to 500,000 people dead.

Children are without parents, local prisons have collapsed increasing danger to the vulnerable and many are still trapped under buildings. Those who have survived the ordeal walk and sleep in the streets of Haiti, fearing loss of building structure following the disaster. Haiti is one of the poorest countries in the world and so the disaster has also meant a substantial blow to their economy. The nation are currently relying heavily on Humanitarian efforts such as donations from other countries and assistance in the form of volunteers to deliver supplies and to move building debris to recover survivors. Many of the main roads are also blocked by the debris, and so food, water, medicinal and shelter materials are slow to filter through to those who need it, not helped by looters who have reportedly been carjacking the supplies which have been able to make their way through to survivors. Troops from around the world are being deployed to Haiti to ensure the country maintains order.

With that in mind, to donate towards the Haitian “relief assistance”, you can follow one of the links located on the lower half of the Haiti ‘Earthquake Information and Emergency Response’ page, here, through Americares, DEC, Oxfam, MercyCorpsThe Salvation Army, Care, Doctors Without Borders, IOCC, UNICEF, PIH or via Google (thanks to NY Times, Haiti officials and Google for providing this comprehensive list of contributors). Alternatively, if you would like to use your love of things to benefit those in need, you can now buy items on Etsy from participating sellers and have the proceeds donated towards the Haiti disaster – at last, Capitalism without the guilt! Seriously though, please do help if you can.

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