Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Slaughter attacked over tax payer funded Spanish lessons

The Mirror reports that our MP has spent £6,930 on Spanish lessons in the House of Commons, in a perk that other MPs of all parties have also availed themselves of.

Fellow Labour MP John Mann, who led a personal campaign against abuses of expenses by parliamentarians before the Telegraph picked up on it, has described the use of our money in this way as "totally unacceptable".

It hasn't taken our local Tories long to jump on this latest opportunity to put the boot in, after they spent what seemed like days furiously tweeting about Mr Slaughter's decision not to attend the emergency debate in the House of Commons which followed the London riots.

Cabinet Member and Daily Mail columnist Harry Phibbs led the charge, frothing thus:

"If he wants to learn Spanish why does he insist on an expensive private tutor? Por que? Hammersmith and Fulham Council provide a 10 week course on Monday evenings for £140. Would he have chosen such an extravagant option if he was spending his own money?"

John Mann simply said:

"Working people feeling the pinch will be astonished that these MPs still don’t get it"

Defending himself Andy Slaughter told me yesterday that:

"For some years public servants, including MPs, civil servants and diplomatic staff have been given the facility to study a foreign language by the Foreign Office. The intention was to help us in dealing with foreign public servants, especially those from key political and trade partners, and improve the low level of language skills among MPs. I took lessons in part because I think MPs should be able to speak more than one language".

"In the period I was learning Spanish I served as Parliamentary Private Secretary at the Foreign Office, sponsored and attended the Britain-Spain All Party Parliamentary Group, visited the Spanish Embassy for trade, business, cultural and constituency events and met with visiting Spanish Parliamentarians, diplomats and business leaders."

It does seem hard to justify - and much as I frequently disagree with Cllr Phibbs, who revealed just how far on the right he is in the wake of the Riots when he opined that families of rioting children should be broken up by the State with the kids being put up for adoption, he is correct to point out that H&F does have very good language courses. I studied French at the Macbeth Centre in Hammersmith for two years not so long ago and the teaching was excellent.

0930 UPDATE - The Daily Mail has more to say on the story, revealing that in addition to language lessons, the Foreign Office also paid for African Drumming lessons for Ministers and civil servants to improve their "rhythm". Good grief. 

1 comment:

  1. If he wants to learn Spanish why does he insist on an expensive private tutor? Por que?