Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex F

Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

from Mr Nigel Griffiths MP

Thank you for forwarding a copy of the complaint by Jacqui Lait MP. I have not received any correspondence from Ms Lait.

As you know, I am leading an international trade delegation and will be abroad for the next week. I am keen to avoid any delay in your investigation of this complaint.

The Scotsman newspaper published a story remarking that I had used my Constituency Office during the election without the permission of the Fees Office. I accept this and have apologized for not alerting the Fees Office in this instance, and for its use in the past without alerting them.

Ms Lait has asked whether there has been past use of the Office for political campaigning and whether I have made any financial contribution. I am keen to confirm immediately that in almost every year since I was elected, I have contributed several thousands of pounds to the costs of running my office.

Mr Archie Cameron in the Fees Office confirmed the facts and approved a statement I issued. I supplied you with a copy. Mr Cameron confirmed that a substantial proportion of my non-staff costs last year were met by me, and not by Parliament. I am confident that my own contributions to the office costs in previous years includes all occasions when my Office has been used for political work.

Allegation 1:  Use of Constituency Office without informing the Fees Office. I accept this and have apologized.

Allegation 2:  Failure to reimburse the Fees Office for any 'political' use of the Constituency Office. I reject this as untrue, and submit both the statement I agreed with Mr Cameron on Wednesday and the summary of the OCA balance which Mr Cameron supplied me with.

My contribution in the last year of £21,392 towards the costs of my Edinburgh office covers 1999, 2000 and part of 2001. This supplemented the OCA.

The Fees Office has confirmed that there is no set formula for splitting political costs from non-political costs with reference to office costs. I am confident that my contribution covers a fair proportion of all the costs associated with running my office. I consider it impractical to disaggregate the costs, and I believe that I have 'over contributed' to avoid any suggestion of funding political activities out of public funds. I have also contributed thousands of pounds in previous years.

If you wish further confirmation of the above, please contact Bernadette Reilly on *** or Mr Archie Cameron.

I regret that at no stage has Ms Lait had the courtesy to alert me to her complaint, since I would have been pleased to have the Fees Office provide her with this information. I hope that you are able to reach conclusion by a verifying this information with the Fees Office today and confirm that you will not need to investigate this further. If you require any further information, please do not hesitate to contact me.

In view of the allegation in the Scotsman newspaper that I have committed a "serious breach of parliamentary rules". I would welcome a ruling from you that clears me of this charge.

9 November 2001

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