Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Today's front page in my own back yard: don't believe everything you read in the press

Over the weekend Michael Cashman MEP joined us at a Labour Party summer social held in my own backyard. He is pictured above to my left with John Spellar our local MP to my right.

This morning the
Daily Mail and the Daily Telegraph carried the story that Michael had employed his long term partner to provide office support. This was no great feat of investigative journalism: Michael had formally and publicly registered the arrangement with the Parliamentary authorities.

What makes Michael's case just a little more juicy in the eyes of the press is that Michael is a homosexual. He has never made any secret of this fact and that his partner is a male. Within minutes the right wing blogs were full of the most loathsome filth and insinuations imaginable.

Michael and I met in
difficult circumstances, he knows that our views on one or two issues diverge. However I have seen Michael become an effective representative for the West Midlands and I have no hesitation in giving him my full support.

Michael Has issued a full statement which I am reproducing here:
The allegations in today´s press are inaccurate and highly misleading. For the record I employ six people in my offices in the West Midlands, Brussels and Strasbourg.

All these members of staff are on contracts which are lodged with the Parliament Services. Paul Cottingham my, civil partner, has never been paid `£8000 a month from expenses`. The figure that Mr Cottingham is paid, which is inclusive of expenses and travel (to Brussels and the UK), is £30,000 per annum and this information is freely available from the Register of Interests. His responsibilities include Personnel Management and Payroll Manager and liaison with Parliament services.

I have called upon the Parliament to investigate these allegations which are designed to deflect attention away from those who have abused the Allowance Systems of the European Parliament.

I want to place on record that all of my staff work incredibly hard on behalf of constituents in the West Midlands and I am proud of all of them.

Since the year 2000, my accounts have been independently audited in line with the principles adopted by the European Parliamentary Labour Party. I am pleased to state that in every year my accounts have been given a clean bill of health.

Labour will continue to lead the way for greater transparency for all countries and all parties in the European Parliament to bring to an end any misuse or abuse of public funds.

Last week I posted a
broadly sympathetic piece about Giles Chichester the Tory MEP who had bought secretarial services from his own company. This was an arrangement he was quite open about and of which I had been aware for some twelve or thirteen years, however I am surprised in the current climate that he had continued it for so long.

Over the weekend there was a flurry of stories about the child care arrangements of Caroline Spellman MP. Having had the similar problem of trying to balance working away from home with caring for children under five I didn't rush to judgement on an issue that had been resolved nearly ten years earlier.

Yesterday I briefly posted an item about MPs and MEPs employing their spouses and secretaries and office support. I happen to believe there are good practical and pastoral reasons why this should not be banned. I have seen it abused but I know many marriage has flourished rather than floundered as husband and wife worked together. However I withdrew the post when I saw some unusual visitors to this site and was concerned that what I had written could be taken out of context.

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