Archive for May 15th, 2009

Mr Speaker: Order, Order…   Mr Charon

Mr Charon: With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to express my regret for passing into the Division Lobby on Wednesday  after the order had been given for the doors to be locked. Although I was in my room, I did not hear the first warning signals. I offer my sincere apologies both to you, Sir, and to the House.

Major James Disaster-Smythe: May I ask, Mr. Speaker, whether you could consider asking the Chancellor of  The Exchequer to have a lever fitted on the double doors, so that they both shut together?

Mr Speaker: That is a question which I suggest that the hon. and gallant Member should put on the Order Paper to the Chancellor.  Mr Charon, a personal statement to the House.

Mr Charon: With your permission, Mr. Speaker, I should like to express my regret for an oversight on my part in having completely forgotten that I did not marry the honourable member for  Chiswick-upon- Thames in 2003 or, indeed, at all.

It would appear, through sloppy accounting on my part, on the advice of the Fees Office, and after careful perusal of The Green Book –  that I claimed a second home allowance and then flipped that house to another one and as my then wife –  who I thought was my wife – was away,  I filled in the claims for her, arranging for the expenses to be paid into my account in The States of Jersey. I regret, also, Mr Speaker that I had completely forgotten about this account until my attention was drawn to it yesterday by a member of the fourth estate who caught me in the street as I was on my way to Spearmint Rhino, my club.

Turning to the matter of my polo ponies, Mr Speaker.  It would appear, through sheer and unadulterated incompetence on the part of my diary secretary, who by sheer coincidence, as correctly reported in the press,  is also a lapdancer at Spearmint Rhino;  invoices for stabling of my eight polo ponies got bundled into the folder for my Commons expenses and these were forwarded to the Fees Office and paid without demur.  I would like to assure the House that I shall be repaying these expenses when  consultancy fees from the leading law firm I introduced to Lord CashnCarry are paid.  Lord CashnCarry, I understand, is rather pre-occupied with an investigation in another place at present, but he assures me that the money should be with me within the next few days.

Members will have seen, reported in the press today, that my expenses claim includes an item for videos of an educational nature and a massage table

Mr Speaker: Order…. ORDER…Members will please observe the tradition of silence for personal statements.  Please continue Mr Charon

Mr Charon: With your permission Mr Speaker… I fully accept that I purchased the Cindy gets her Tits Out video series in the mistaken belief that they were part of a series produced by BBC 2 on Rare Birds of Britain.  Members of the House will know that I am a keen bird watcher. I did not have time to watch these videos but accept, now, that the content is of an adult nature and wholly inappropriate for a claim for expenses by an honourable membrum virilis of this House. I shall be reimbursing the Fees Office with the £10 cost of these videos.

Finally, Mr Speaker, in relation to the massage table. I have a bad back, a result of bird watching activities in my youth.  I purchased this massage table from a junior minister at the Ministry of Justice, at a knockdown price.  He was very keen to sell it, and, given the nature of our constituency work, which entails a great deal of standing about listening to constituents droning on about fatcattery in public life, I felt that it was a purchase wholly, necessarily and exclusively related to my work as a Member of this House

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Big update to Insite Law –  law news, blogs, and more on the expenses including a rather greedy Justice Minister!

Jobs for the ‘boys’ or a cause of genuine concern?

“The Bar Council has set up a working group to tackle what it calls unfair competition from solicitor-advocates for Crown Court work.

In a paper sent to criminal barristers, Desmond Browne QC (pictured), Bar Council chairman, outlines what the body is doing about what he calls ‘the threat to the referral bar by the ever-increasing amount of advocacy’ performed by solicitor higher-court advocates (HCAs). The move follows controversy over Judge Gledhill’s criticism of some solicitor HCAs’ performance (see [2009] Gazette , 23 April, 1).”

Law Society Gazette

The article is interesting because the Bar is clearly under pressure. Desmond Browne QC, Chairman of The Bar, uses fairly emotive language when he talks about ‘the threat to the referral bar by the ever increasing amount of advocacy performed by solicitor-advocates’. While he states that the Bar has never feared competition he argues that competition must be fair and notes that while solicitors have direct access to clients and can pay referral fees for work barristers cannot. He suggests that solicitors amend their client care letters to contain a statement of entitlement to a barrister. Paul Marsh, President of The Law Society, not surprisingly remarks rather tartly “Solicitor-advocates provide a high calibre of service to clients. The issues that concern the bar are a product of their own rules and the bar could amend these if it wished. The answer is not to amend the client care letter.”

Frankly, the issue is simply one of ability and quality. Can solicitor-advocates do the work to the standard required or not? If Judge Gledhill’s remarks about the incompetence of solicitor-advocates are reflected across the country, then, clearly, there is a problem and this needs to be addressed. If they can do the work to the required standard then The Bar, I suspect, given Paul Marsh’s robust view, will have to come up with a different strategy to compete.

Interestingly, The Law Society Gazette article notes that “Lady Janet Smith, president of the Council of the Inns of Court, wrote to presiding judges, resident judges and circuit leaders asking for evidence relating to whether work done by solicitor HCAs is ‘being done satisfactorily’.”

The results of this research – if ever published – will, surely, put the issue into focus either way?

Somewhat ironically, in the same issue of the Gazette there is the headline “Nichol rejects Law Society plan to widen QC eligibility”. It is worth a read! Titles for the boys and girls of The Bar… only?

And… finally…

Did you know that a London lawyer was the inventor of the world’s first machine gun… I didn’t until today

Have a look at “On this day 15th May” on the front page of Insite Law for the details…

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