“On the March 20, 2013, I was chairing an interesting Commons debate, when I received a whole series of frantic messages from my wife, Jennie, otherwise known as Mrs Bone. Each one got more and more desperate and fraught.
“What was causing the upset was that three Police officers had raided our home without any warning; they had gone through all of our personal papers, including our correspondence with our solicitors and Jennie’s medical records. What made all this worse, was that they looked through all of my parliamentary papers, including constituents’ letters. They then took away boxes and boxes of information, without letting us know what they had taken.
“Then, on the April 11, 2013, Jennie and I were asked to go to speak to the Police at Northamptonshire Criminal Justice Centre. It was made clear to us that we were not being arrested, or charged, with anything and that we were just there to answer a few questions.
“Instead of that, when we got there, we were told that someone from Northamptonshire County Council (NCC) had made a complaint against us; so, instead of answering a few questions, Jennie was first questioned for four hours and I was questioned for three. Most of the questions had no reference whatsoever to NCC.
“I should at this stage say that since January 2009, Jennie has been in dispute with NCC about their failure to properly fund her elderly mother’s care needs.
“As the Member of Parliament for Wellingborough and Rushden, almost every week, I see similar complaints from constituents at my advice surgeries. Most of them concern allegations of outrageous behaviour by NCC and seek my advice to help rectify their complaints. Our personal experience with NCC gives us great sympathy with the views of many of my constituents concerning the performance of NCC.
“In our case, NCC have failed to comply with Charges for Residential Accommodation Guide (CRAG) regulations. Not only have they not complied with the regulations, but equally, they have failed to apply their own appeals system. They have denied Jennie the right of appeal.
“Unbelievably, they have completely been derelict in their duty to reply to correspondence from Jennie – in one case, taking nearly a year to reply and in other instances, months and months. The responses we eventually received were contradictory and unclear.
“Then suddenly, without warning, incredibly, in January last year, they issued a writ against Jennie claiming that she owed money. This is now subject to a civil case and as usual, NCC has failed to comply with the deadlines. Am I surprised? No. Am I disappointed? Yes.
“Owing to their appalling behaviour towards my wife, I have recently written to the Chief Executive of NCC, asking a whole series of questions about their maladministration and demanding an explanation. Just because Jennie is my wife does not preclude her from accessing the help of her local MP, as I would do that for any constituent.
“Now, we thought that after speaking to the Police and also providing them with further information and documentation, that would be the end of the matter and they would return our possessions. In fact, when I was questioned in April, the Police promised to get back to us within four to six weeks. However, since then, we have had no resolution to the issue.
“Instead, we have received a lot of promises and assurances which have counted for nothing. Many people would say that the Police have misled us. Since March last year, my wife and I have been living through a surreal nightmare – two people who have always supported and respected the Police, who have had their belief shattered. Time and time again, the Police promised to return our papers, but failed to do so, until only just recently. This included personal letters and cards from friends and family.
“We have also been completely misled about when the Police are going to confirm that no further action will be taken in this matter. We were told originally that a decision would be made back in early September – nothing. We were told that a decision would be made on November 25 – nothing. We are now told that a decision will be made by mid-February of this year. This deadline has already elapsed.
“As if this wasn’t bad enough, at the beginning of September, I was contacted by a newspaper editor saying that a national journalist had been touting a story that Police were investigating my wife and I for fraud.
“Now, as only myself, Jennie, our solicitors and the Police knew about this, I am left wondering whether this was leaked from within the Police. Indeed, Northamptonshire Police contacted me to say that they were aware that the media knew about the case. I also wonder how it is that numerous people involved at County Hall were aware about very specific details of the legal case – details that we, and our solicitors, had no knowledge of. Indeed, the rumour mill appears to have been in full swing, but how?
“Now apparently, we are led to believe that the alleged victim is my mother-in-law. However, she has said in a sworn affidavit: ‘I would like to make it clear from the start that my daughter Jeanette has full authority from me to use my money as she thought fit and for whatever purpose as I know she would always look after me. I knew Jeanette was using my money to pay off personal debts incurred while she was ill and towards my grandson’s school fees, as well as care home fees and personal expenses that is why I signed the power of attorney. I did not want to know the detail of how the money was spent. That was entirely up to Jeanette. I just cannot understand why the Police are investigating Jeanette and Peter. I have no complaint.’
“Actually, what Jennie and I find most hurtful about this whole affair, is that there is any suggestion that we would steal my mother-in-law’s money. It is of course a fact that we have spent, and continue to spend, our own money looking after Jennie’s mother. A long time ago, we gave a commitment to Jennie’s mother to look after her, whatever the circumstances and whatever the cost. We have totally honoured that commitment.
“For me personally, I thought that the worst time in my life was when Jennie was diagnosed with severe bowel and liver cancer and given very little chance of survival. At that time, our son was only a few months old and it was a complete nightmare.
“However, I was wrong: the last year for Jennie and I has been even worse – our integrity, honesty and decency has been attacked in the most hurtful way possible.
“I have recently written to the Chief Constable of Northamptonshire Police, asking him to address the abject failure of his Force to handle this matter in a speedy and appropriate manner. Jennie has also applied to Northampton County Court to have the case struck out on the basis that there is no reasonable ground for bringing the claim.
“Ultimately, the issue at the heart of this dispute is very simple: either Jennie or I have looked after her mother properly, or we are devious, thieving, crooks.
“I know the answer to that question and based on all the evidence, which they have, they should know too that we are totally innocent.”