Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report


Annex D

Letter to Mr Michael Trend MP

from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

COMPLAINT BY MR KEVIN COCHRANE AND OTHERS

I have received a complaint from one of your constituents, Mr Kevin Cochrane, and from five other members of the public, based on allegations which recently featured in The Mail on Sunday. The essence of these allegations is that you made false claims under the Additional Costs Allowance (ACA) amounting to some £90,000 and that in so doing you breached the Code of Conduct for Members approved by the House. As you know, this provides 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 observed."

I am aware from newspaper reports that you have agreed to repay to the Fees Office £90,277 in respect of claims on your Windsor residence which you now understand fall outside the terms of the ACA. However, this agreement does not prevent my examining whether a breach of the Code has occurred. I am also aware that paragraph 84 of the Guide to the Rules for Members indicates that I would not normally regard a complaint based upon no more than a newspaper story as a substantiated allegation. However in this instance I regard it as appropriate to put these complaints to you because

(1)  in the circumstances of this case it would be difficult for a third party to produce evidence independent either of your (confidential) dealings with the Fees Office or of what has been reported by The Mail on Sunday or in other papers;

(2)  of the public interest in seeing that the complaints are considered and in understanding fully the circumstances which they concern.

I am enclosing a note of guidance for Members who are the subject of a complaint, which was recently approved by the Committee on Standards and Privileges. The note sets out the procedures involved in the consideration of a complaint. You will see that the first step is for me to put the complaints to you and seek your response. I should accordingly welcome any comments you may wish to let me have on the letters of complaint enclosed and the associated allegations in The Mail on Sunday. What I look for at this stage is a full and truthful account of the circumstances which have given rise to the complaints. It would be helpful to have this in writing but if you wish to come and discuss these matters with me, please contact my PA to make arrangements for us to meet.

I am sending a copy of this letter and enclosures to the Director of Operations in the Department of Finance and Administration, Mr Archie Cameron. I have written separately to Mr Cameron putting certain questions to him and enclose a copy of my letter for your information.

I look forward to hearing from you. If you have any queries as a result of this letter, please do not hesitate to be in touch.

6 January 2003





 
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