Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


The Committee on Standards and Privileges has agreed to the following Report:—


1. We have considered a memorandum by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards relating to the complaint from Mr R L Mason of Larne, Co. Antrim, against Mr Roy Beggs, Member for East Antrim. The Commissioner's memorandum is appended to this Report.

2. The Commissioner concluded that Mr Beggs should have registered the property at Station Road, Larne, which he and his wife owned jointly between 1988 and 1998. Mr Beggs said that he had not done so because he did not think it was of "substantial value". The property would have fallen within the definition of "substantial value" proposed by the Committee in the last Parliament, namely, a total property portfolio of a value equivalent to, or greater than, the annual parliamentary salary,[2] but regrettably the House has not yet considered that recommendation. We hope it will do so soon. Mr Beggs's share of the property was valued at £14,000 when he relinquished it. In the absence of a decision by the House his interpretation of the rule was tenable. Accordingly we do not uphold this part of the complaint. Mr Beggs might usefully have sought the Commissioner's advice on the point. Where there is ambiguity, a Member should not interpret the rules to his or her own advantage without first taking advice.

3. The Commissioner concluded that Mr Beggs made improper use of the Office Costs Allowance. Mr Beggs should have sought advice from the Fees Office before claiming reimbursement of rent against accommodation which he or his family owned. Mr Beggs has reimbursed the Fees Office and the matter has been resolved to the satisfaction of the Director of Finance and Administration. We invite the Director of Finance and Administration to put the question of financial transactions between Members and others which are not "at arm's length" to the Speaker's Advisory Panel.

4. The Commissioner found that Mr Beggs had misled her and the former Committee during the previous inquiry by failing to disclose his interest in the Station Road property. Mr Beggs explained that he did not appreciate that the Commissioner's question about other interests was intended to cover past as well as current interests. Members must ensure that the information they give the Commissioner and the Committee is correct and complete. Mr Beggs ought to have told the Commissioner about the Station Road property even though he believed it was not registrable.

5. The House accepted Mr Beggs's apology on 29 March this year.[3] We consider the matter closed.

2  Fifth Report, Session 2000-01, Proposed Amendments to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 267 (2000-01), para. 23. Back

3  HC Deb, 29 March 2001, col 1120. Back

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