Leaving landlord and tenant law to one side for a moment, as a Norwich Citizen, I would like to make a statement in support of Dr Ian Gibson. He is, I know, a hardworking and conscientious constituency MP, who has stood up for what he believed in, and is one of the very few qualified scientists in the house.
When I read in the paper about the ‘Star Chamber’ hearing which concluded that he should be de-selected, I was reminded of the many cases I hear (when taking statements with my husband for his employment tribunal practice) where an employee is dismissed after a ‘disciplinary hearing’, which is not really a hearing because the deciders have already made their minds up. However employees can bring a claim to tribunal. Dr Gibson has no redress.
He is reported as saying that he has broken no rules and still has not been told exactly what he has done wrong. From what I have read, it seems that he is being criticised for allowing his daughter and her partner to live rent free in his flat, and then selling it to them at an undervalue. However
- No one is denying that Dr Gibson lived in the flat for about three days in most weeks
- His daughter was apparently not permitted under the ‘rules’ to pay him rent or contribute towards the utility bills (why not?)
- It was sensible (prudent even) for security reasons, to have someone else living in the flat, so it was not empty when Dr Gibson was away
As for selling the flat at an undervalue, only Dr Gibson lost out financially here. Sure the daughter had a windfall, but so have many other people in all sorts of circumstances. I can think of far more reprehensible things to do than providing for your family.
I think it is enormously unfair that Dr Gibson has been singled out in this way, when other MPs have not. I would suggest it is the rules which are a fault rather than Dr Gibson. If what he did was so wrong, why did the fees office not tell him so? There is a nasty suspicion as well, that he was thrown to the wolves because he has not been afraid to speak his mind against the government in the past.
I am also concerned that everyone seems to be quite happy for their to be a ‘Star Chamber’ at all. To quote Wikipedia, the Star Chamber in the sixteenth century became “a symbol of the misuse and abuse of power by the English monarchy and courts”. Is this what we want in England today?
I am concerned that most people appear to consider this sort of thing acceptable, and are happy to condone trial by newspaper and dismissal of a decent hard working MP by an process which appears to be unconstitutional and against natural justice.