The Price of Silence

Since 2013 the House of Commons has spent £2.4 million of taxpayer’s money on gagging orders for 53 former staff. On average each one received £45,418, more than most people in the UK earn in an year. They were payments for not disclosing information on the conditions of their employment, and are entirely separate from any confidential issues handled during that employment. They were paid to be silent. To not talk about how their employer broke the rules which it imposes on every other employer in the land.

At least one recipient has alleged bullying by a Member of Parliament. Although this has been denied the response from the Leader of the House is less than reassuring. She referred to the payments as “Surprising.” Not unacceptable. Not a waste of money that could have been spent on education, health or transport. “Surprising.” After admitting ignorance of individual cases she went to talk about changing the culture of the Commons.

Buzzwords like culture and transparency are increasingly being used to justify inaction and incompetence. There should be outrage at any such payment, regardless of the amount. There should be someone ensuring that public money is spent wisely and appropriately. 650 MPs sitting in the House of Commons were elected to do that but not one of them was consulted. How many are surprised and how many are prepared to demand an immediate ceasation of the practice?

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