Jacqui Smith’s £23,000 claim

By Vikki Graves

Image from www.bbc.co.uk

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith claimed £23,000 in tax-payer funded allowances on her second home last year, the maximum claim available to MPs. The news comes as Ms Smith continues to face criticism for an accidental expense claim for adult films watched by her husband, Richard Timney, in April 2008.

The timing of these revelations is not good for the Home Secretary, whose expense claims are currently under investigation. She claims her ‘main’ residence is with her sister in South London which allows her to make claims on her ‘second’ consituency home in Redditch, Worcestershire, despite her family living there permanently.

Despite his full time job as his wife’s parliamentary assistant, Mr Timney found plenty of time for watching movies. As well as the two unnamed ‘adult’ features, he also saw Ocean’s Thirteen, widely regarded as the weakest of the trilogy, and Surf’s Up, a mock-documentary for children that received mixed reviews back in 2007.

Following the news of the mistaken claim, Ms Smith released a statement saying the £67 she received for the television package, billed as part of her internet connection, would be repaid in full and Mr Timney yesterday issued a public apology.

“As soon as the matter was brought to my attention, I took immediate steps to contact the relevant parliamentary authorities and rectify the situation.” – Jacqui Smith

Prime Minister, Gordon Brown defended the Home Secretary at a Downing Street news conference today, and yesterday Foreign Secretary David Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show he thought Ms Smith was doing an “outstanding job”.

Listen here:


But political pressure on Ms Smith is certainly mounting, with Labour MP Paul Flynn today calling for her resignation. A full review of MPs expenses is due to begin in September, but it remains to be seen whether the Cabinet, and the public, can separate Ms Smith’s ministerial responsibilities from her financial wrong-doings.

Government plans to reduce domestic abuse

By Sally Edgar.

Police may be given the power to warn women against potentially violent partners as the Government reveals a plan to tackle domestic abuse.

Men that have had previous offenses could be placed on a register, identifying them as a potential risk to women. This would be monitored by police who could have the authority to warn these offender’s girlfriend’s of their history. If neccessary, police could also be given powers to ban offenders from the family home for a fortnight.

These plans have been listed in a consultation document due to published by the Home Office. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith hopes that if the ideas are passed they could help to protect women and reduce their exposure to domestic violence.

“At the moment we have orders that quite often individual women take out on their partners, or ex-partners, if they have been abusive to them.
“Perhaps we ought to turn that round and say that the order ought to attach to the perpetrator, to the usually man, who has actually had a series of offences; that might be one way of doing it.

“Or perhaps there may be times when it is appropriate for people to actually be given information by the police that somebody that they have started a relationship with is somebody who has a history of violence.

“We’ve already made real progress with domestic violence incidents more than halving in the past 12 years. But I want to start a national debate on what more we can do to prevent it and challenging attitudes which condone it.”

domestic-abuse-hear494

Even with recent progress there are still a high number of cases of physical or emotional abuse in the home.
And it’s not just women that are suffering from this form of abuse. Jacqui Smith has announced that “Violence against women and girls is unacceptable in any form.” The fact that the report focuses on women victims may leave abused men feeling somewhat unsupported and discriminated against sexually.

In 2007, 142 people died in domestic attacks, including 38 men. Hundreds of thousands of individuals are thought to suffer some kind of abuse behind closed doors every year. Many of these people are too afraid to confront their partners and continue their lives in silence.

Scotland is also hoping to make this issue a high priority. Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon has reinforced the importance of fighting for this cause.
“Sadly, violence is part of too many women’s lives across the world. I want today to call on my fellow political leaders in Scotland – let’s put family back at the top of the agenda, let’s have the debate about how we put family back at the heart of society and how we support the family,” she said.

ID Cards Introduced For Foreigners This Week

by Michael Fern

BRITAIN-POLITICS-SECURITY-PRIVACYThousands of foreign nationals are due to be issued identity cards when the government’s “ID Cards For Foreigners” scheme begins this week.

The home office is set to announce the plan today, beginning the £4.7 billion project. Foreign students and people whose visas are based on marriage to a British citizen will be the first groups affected.

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, said: “The first identity cards for foreign nationals [...] demonstrate our commitment to preventing immigration abuse and protecting the prosperity of the UK.

“In time identity cards for foreign nationals will replace paper documents and give employers a safe and secure way of checking a migrant’s right to work and study in the UK.”

There have already this week been fears voiced that foreigners could take their skills elsewhere if Britain becomes “too unfriendly” in it’s regulation of immigrants.

Dr Geraint Bevan and others commented in the Herald that: “If this scheme is continued it will lead to less fee income and lower international status for Glasgow’s universities. Fewer of the world’s star performers in every field will choose to make their homes here than do now.

“We value the contribution that these gifted people currently make to our institutions and our society. We think our country should treat them as guests, not criminal suspects. “ID Cards for foreigners” is not just a small-minded slogan; Glasgow will suffer culturally and economically.”

This affect on the Scottish economy will come regardless of the Scottish Government’s stance on the issue. The Government voted 69 to one against the introduction of ID Cards last week, despite Labour MSPs abstaining. This has been described as a futile gesture, however, as the Scottish Government has no jurisdiction in the area of ID Cards.

Bill Aitken, the Conservative MSP for Glasgow, said: “An identity card scheme would be acceptable if it worked, but the basic fact is that it simply will not. The ID Card scheme is an unnecessary measure which should be scrapped.”

The scheme also came under fire in Westminster. Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieves called it “a gimmick with a price”, claiming that the cards would do nothing to stop illegal immigration or terrorism.

Fresh concerns were raised earlier this month when it was revealed that the charge for ID Cards could be as much as doubled due to the private sector’s involvement in collecting biometric information. The price of the scheme has already risen to almost £5 billion. The so-called “hidden charge” was described by Chris Huhne, spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, as an “incredible cheek”.

Information on ID Cards can be found on the Home Office’s website.

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