The Committee on Standards and Privileges
has agreed to the following Report:
COMPLAINTS AGAINST MR MICHAEL TREND
1. We have considered a memorandum by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards relating to the complaints by Mr Kevin
Cochrane and others against Mr Michael Trend, Member for Windsor.
The Commissioner's memorandum is appended to this Report. We have
also taken evidence from Mr Trend and this evidence is published
with the report.
2. When we took evidence from Mr Trend, two of our
members, Mr Russell Brown and Mr David Heath, were attending other
Committees to which they had been nominated by the Committee of
Selection. They have accordingly decided to play no part in our
formal proceedings on this report.
3. Mr Cochrane's complaint repeated allegations which
had appeared in The Mail on Sunday on 15 December 2002,
that Mr Trend has returned home to his house in Windsor whilst
claiming for the cost of an overnight stay in London. The Commissioner
found no evidence that Mr Trend had ever made such a claim. Mr
Cochrane's complaint is therefore incorrectly based and cannot
4. However, following discussions between Mr Trend
and the Department of Finance and Administration arising from
the Mail on Sunday article, it became clear that, for a
substantial period, Mr Trend had been claiming Additional Costs
Allowance in respect of expenditure incurred in relation to his
main home in Windsor. The Commissioner has therefore considered
whether the circumstances in which Mr Trend's original claims
were made constituted an improper use of the Additional Costs
Allowance, and whether this breached the Code of Conduct.
5. The Code of Conduct states that:
"No improper use shall be made of any payment
or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative
rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly
6. The Additional Costs Allowance was introduced
following a Resolution of the House of 20 December 1971, which
provides for Members to receive "an allowance in respect
of additional expenses necessarily incurred ... in staying overnight
away from his only or main residence for the purpose of performing
his parliamentary duties". As it applies to Mr Trend, the
Resolution provides that "where his only or main residence
is in his constituency" the allowance is designed to cover
parliamentary duties performed in the London area; or "where
his only or main residence is in the London area ... parliamentary
duties performed in his constituency".
7. The expression "main residence" was
not defined in the 1971 Resolution, nor has any explanation of
its intended meaning ever been included in any of the guidance
on the scope of the allowance issued to Members by the Department
of Finance and Administration and its predecessors. However, in
Mr Trend's case it is obvious that his main residence is in Windsor,
and has been since 1993.
8. As the Commissioner's report makes clear,
what lies at the heart of this case is Mr Trend's belief that
he was free to make an election as to which of his homes should
be regarded as his main residence for the purpose of the Additional
Costs Allowance. All his subsequent actions stem from this.
9. As the Commissioner points out, neither Mr Trend
nor the Department of Finance and Administration has any records
which might shed light on the circumstances in which Mr Trend
continued to nominate a London address as his main residence after
he and his family moved to Windsor. Although the material issued
to Members at that time regarding the Additional Costs Allowance
is not without ambiguity, we do not believe that, when read with
the Resolution itself, as Members were expected to do, there is
any real scope for doubt that the words "main residence"
were intended to have other than their natural meaning.
10. The Commissioner comments that he finds it "difficult
to understand" how Mr Trend felt able to sign a certificate
in November 2000 giving the home of his friend in London as his
main residence when, on his own admission, he was then staying
there infrequently. We agree. It was wrong of him to sign the
document when, as he told us, he had the London accommodation
rent-free, and at that time made little use of it when the House
was not sitting.
11. The Commissioner is satisfied that Mr Trend would
not have been required to register the benefit of accommodation
which he received from his friend because the circumstances fall
outside the scope of the registration requirements.
12. Members must take full responsibility for their
claims; indeed the current Green Book says, in respect of claims
for the Additional Costs Allowance, that "your signature
effectively certifies that the amount claimed has been spent on
the additional costs necessarily incurred in staying overnight
away from the main home".
13. Members therefore have an obligation to keep
under review whether their arrangements continue to fall within
the scope of the Allowance. Mr Trend could, and should, have done
more in this respect.
14. We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Trend
was not dishonest in his belief that he had the option to choose
which of his places of residence to register as his 'main residence'
for the purpose of the Additional Costs Allowance. We recognise,
as did the Commissioner, that since the matter came to light,
Mr Trend has co-operated fully with the Department of Finance
and Administration and the Commissioner in their respective inquiries,
and promptly repaid the sum he was told he owed the Department.
However, it is clear to us that his approach to claiming the Additional
Costs Allowance was muddled and naive.
15. Mr Trend should have recognised that, by claiming
Additional Costs Allowance in relation to his Windsor home, the
taxpayer was meeting some of the core running costs of what was
in reality his main residence. He should have realised that this
was wrong. Accordingly, we agree with the Commissioner that Mr
Trend was negligent and has breached the Code of Conduct by making
improper use of the Additional Costs Allowance and by failing
strictly to observe the administrative rules relating to the Allowance.
16. We have given very careful consideration to what
would be an appropriate penalty to recommend to the House. We
have taken into account the fact that, in the past, we have recommended
substantial periods of suspension, up to one month, in cases of
deliberate acts, including failure to cooperate with either the
Commissioner or the Committee. As we said earlier, we find that
Mr Trend has acted negligently rather than with dishonest intent.
We also acknowledge that he has cooperated fully, and immediately
repaid the sum requested. The consequences for him of what he
concedes was "a mistake, a serious mistake"
have already been severe, not least that he has announced that
he will not seek re-election. Nonetheless, we must also take into
account the impact on public confidence in Members of Parliament,
and in Parliament as an institution, of cases of improper use
of allowances. It is for this reason that the Code of Conduct
requires Members to observe the highest standards in relation
to payments or allowances made to them for public purposes. We
cannot ignore the fact that the sum involved in this case is very
17. Having weighed all these considerations, we recommend
that Mr Trend is suspended from the service of the House for two
18. As guardians of the public purse, as well as
of parliamentary standards, we are concerned that the system allowed
a substantial sum of public money to be incorrectly claimed and
that this matter only came to light outside the normal system
of scrutiny. We therefore welcome the steps, referred to by the
Commissioner, which are being taken to strengthen confidence in
the system for claiming Additional Costs Allowance. We recommend
that these are completed as quickly as possible and that, when
this has been done, the Department of Finance and Administration
writes to all Members inviting them to check as soon as possible
that their arrangements for claiming Additional Costs Allowance
are consistent with the rules. This would usefully complement
the increased emphasis which we wish to place on education and
- We endorse the proposals put forward by the Commissioner
for strengthening the system for ensuring the accuracy of allowance
claims by Members. We agree that, whatever the precise solutions
adopted, at the end of the day, the House must be able to show
that the requirements for auditing which it imposes on itself
are no less effective than those it would expect of others responsible
for the expenditure of public money.
1 Appendix, Para 34. Back
Minutes of Evidence, Q 29. Back
Minutes of Evidence, Q 43. Back