Monday, 11 May 2009

A very big house in the country

The MPs' expenses investigation tomorrow takes on a country house theme on the Conservative backbenches.

£2000 to clear the moat at Kettlethorpe Hall for Douglas Hogg MP looks like a standout claim.

Or, as Damon Albarn might have put it.

City dweller
Successful fella
Thought to himself:
oops, I've got a lot of money

Caught in a rat race
I'm a professional cynic
But my hearts not in it
I'm paying the price of living life at the limit
Caught up in the centurys anxiety

The rules include

"Claims must only be made for expenditure that it was necessary for a Member to incur to ensure that he or she could properly perform his or her parliamentary duties ... Members must ensure that claims do not give rise to, or give the appearance of giving rise to, an improper personal financial benefit to themselves or anyone else ... The requirement of ensuring value for money is central in claiming for accommodation, goods or services - Members should avoid purchases which could be seen as extravagant or luxurious".

So many of these claims for country estates have absolutely nothing to do with parliamentary or constituency duties or the rules for the additional costs allowance (even on the most absurdly lax of interpretations) and, if claimed, should never have been entertained by the authorities.

Two thoughts:

Firstly, The Telegraph says

Correspondence seen by The Daily Telegraph suggests that some of the MPs have been claiming for the country homes for many years, stretching back to when receipts were not necessary for parliamentary expenses.

When they were required to produce detailed receipts about five years ago, they began simply producing statements listing all the costs of their homes. In some cases, the fees office agreed to pay the maximum allowance after coming under pressure from the MPs.

So is there any reason not to publish the amounts received by each MP each year for the earlier periods, prior to receipts being required, including prior MPs?

Secondly, all MPs know what is going to come out about them. Why are they all just waiting like sitting ducks? Are they hoping they might get missed out?

UPDATE, 10.40pm

Some fascinating historical information online on the Douglas Hogg seat Kettlethorpe Hall, once the home of Katherine Swynford, the third wife of John of Gaunt, through whose children the royal houses of Tudor, Stuart and Hanover traced their descent from the Plantagenet Kings of England.

The next owner of importance was Charles Hall, in the early 17th century. Charles's ownership lasted throughout the Civil War, when on the 26th July 1645 a skirmish took place at Kettlethorpe, at which (according to Roundhead accounts) the Royalists were routed, suffering four casualties and being chased to within three miles of Newark. Charles was returned to the Commonwealth Parliament in 1654. The brick walls surrounding the garden date from this period, and his arms feature on one of the gate pillars, which shows a talbot together with the initials CH.

In the 18th century, Kettlethorpe passed from the Hall to the Amcotts family, whose arms are displayed over the door. In this period Kettlethorpe became a very large house, and the obituary for Sir Wharton Amcotts (another MP) in 1807 asserts that " no place was the old English hospitality kept up with greater spirit than at Kettlethorpe park".

But shortly thereafter it fell into disrepair, and the present house was essentially reconstructed out of the old manor by Weston Cracroft-Amcotts (who represented mid-Lincolnshire in Parliament) in the 1860s ...

The house remains something of a history lesson in miniature, with some remarkable features preserved. As well as the medieval gatehouse, walls and some curious carved heads, there is a small oak-paneled room dating from the 17th century. A paneled dining room situated in the old tower dates from the early 18th century, with a fine marble fireplace from later in the same century. The drawingroom has a particularly beautiful stucco ceiling from the end of the eighteenth century, while the library and front hall are Victorian.

Kettlethorpe today

In the 1980's, Kettlethorpe passed back into the hands of a Parliamentarian, the Rt.Hon. Douglas Hogg, QC, MP. In the 1990's his wife was given the title of Baroness Hogg of Kettlethorpe in recognition of her work in Downing Street. It is a curious coincidence that the Hogg arms, like the Swynfords', consist of a shield bearing three boars' heads.


Societarian said...

The story of a charmless man
Educated the expensive way
He knows his claret from a beaujolais
I think he'd like to have been Ronnie Kray
But then nature didn't make him that way

He thinks his educated airs those family shares
Will protect him, that you will respect him
He moves in circles of friends who just pretend that they like him
He does the same to them and when you put it all together
There's the model of a charmless man

Sunder Katwala said...

very good. Is this the Douglas Hogg songbook taking shape?