against Mr Clive Betts
1. We have considered a memorandum by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards relating to allegations against Mr
Clive Betts, Member for Sheffield Attercliffe. The Commissioner's
memorandum is appended to this Report.
2. On 26 February, the Sun newspaper made a series
of allegations about the circumstances in which Mr Clive Betts
had employed a personal friend, Mr José Gasparo, a Brazilian
national, to work for him at the House of Commons. Further allegations
were made by the Sun newspaper over the next three days, including
a claim that Mr Betts had been party to the altering of a letter
for the purpose of facilitating Mr Gasparo's re-entry to the United
Kingdom after the two of them had travelled abroad together.
3. On 28 February, Mr Betts wrote to the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards, seeking an investigation by him, in
the context of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament,
of the propriety of his actions in relation to Mr Gasparo. Mr
Betts had employed Mr Gasparo on a temporary basis as a Parliamentary
researcher. In this letter, Mr Betts said "I am anxious to
ensure that I have complied fully with the Code of Conduct".
Mr Betts, accompanied by his solicitor, subsequently met the Commissioner
on 3 March.
4. The Commissioner's remit in this regard, under
the Standing Orders, is to investigate "specific complaints
from Members and from members of the public in respect of
the propriety of a Member's conduct". With no complaint having
been received, he reported to the Committee on his contacts with
Mr Betts, and on Mr Betts' request for an investigation. The Committee
authorised an investigation, having regard to Mr Betts' request.
5. A complaint was also received, on the day the
Committee authorised the Commissioner to proceed with his investigation,
based on related allegations which appeared in the Daily Mail
on 5 March.
6. The details of the allegations against Mr Betts
are summarised in the Commissioner's report. The issues of concern
can broadly be summarised as follows:
- whether Mr Gasparo had the skills and experience
to do the job for which he was recruited, and whether his employment
represented a proper use of public funds;
- whether there were any other factors, besides
Mr Gasparo's skills and experience, that Mr Betts should have
taken account of before employing him; and
- the events surrounding Mr Gasparo's re-entry
into the United Kingdom following his holiday with Mr Betts (his
leave to enter as a student having expired in the course of the
7. We agree with the Commissioner that, on the evidence
available, Mr Betts did not contravene any rules of the House
relating to the staffing allowance in employing Mr Gasparo.
8. At the time when Mr Betts offered to employ Mr
Gasparo, he was aware that Mr Gasparo had recently worked as a
male escort. He was also aware that Mr Gasparo had leave to enter
as a student, due to expire on 19 February, some six weeks before
it was intended that Mr Gasparo's period of employment should
9. As to Mr Gasparo's previous work as a male escort,
Mr Betts told the Commissioner that he genuinely believed that
Mr Gasparo had given up his escort activities. He said that he
did not know anything about the rest of Mr Gasparo's life or about
his other friends.
10. The responsibility for the decision to employ
Mr Gasparo was Mr Betts' alone. While an application for a House
of Commons pass would reveal whether Mr Gasparo had previous criminal
convictions or known terrorist involvement, it would not have
revealed, and was not designed to reveal, other possible grounds
on which he might have been unsuitable for employment in the House.
It was Mr Betts' responsibility to satisfy himself on this point.
Indeed, whether or not a pass was authorised, we understand that
Mr Betts could have continued to employ Mr Gasparo on the Parliamentary
Estate, provided he continued to be escorted by a full pass-holder
at all times.
11. Past experience indicates how the employment
in the Palace of Westminster of a person with a history of work
in the sex industry can become a cause of public scandal, and
thereby risk damaging public confidence in Parliament as an institution.
We consider that Mr Betts might have considered this aspect of
Mr Gasparo's employment further. We agree with the Commissioner
that Mr Betts had a duty in this respect, to other Members and
to the House itself.
12. We agree with Mr Betts that Mr Gasparo's conditions
of entry into the United Kingdom posed no barrier to his employment.
However, Mr Betts will have been aware that Mr Gasparo's leave
to remain expired significantly before his employment by Mr Betts
was due to end. Mr Betts does not appear to have grasped the possible
significance of this. Although it was Mr Gasparo's responsibility
to ensure that he continued to comply with his conditions of entry,
Mr Betts might have been expected to take more interest in this
matter as, although he would have committed no offence by so doing,
he would not have wished knowingly to have employed an over-stayer
in view of the potential adverse publicity this might have brought.
Had he sought advice, as he was entitled to do, from the Personnel
Advice Service operated by the Department of Finance and Administration,
it would have suggested a temporary contract of employment pending
possible renewal of Mr Gasparo's leave to remain in the United
13. We consider that Mr Betts might have thought
rather more carefully before employing Mr Gasparo. While we acknowledge
the steps that Mr Betts did take to seek to satisfy himself as
to Mr Gasparo's suitability for the post in the broadest sense,
we believe his decision to employ him was unwise.
14. On the question of the circumstances of Mr Gasparo's
re-entry into the United Kingdom, there is no dispute that a copy
was made of the altered fax of the letter of enrolment for Mr
Gasparo's proposed further course of study. There is a difference
of view over the part, if any, which it might have played in securing
Mr Gasparo's re-entry to the United Kingdom.
15. The key issue is that Mr Betts succumbed to pressure
and made such a copy, for which there was no legitimate need.
Mr Betts told the Commissioner that Mr Gasparo already had with
him a letter confirming that his current course of study did not
finish until 7 March and Mr Betts had urged him to rely on that.
He also told the Commissioner that Mr Gasparo did not have with
him the original documents necessary to have obtained, on his
re-entry to the United Kingdom, leave to enter as a student for
the duration of his proposed new course. The terms of the limited
entry given by the immigration officer are consistent with this.
16. There can be little doubt that Mr Gasparo hoped
that the altered version of the letter of acceptance would have
been looked upon more favourably than the original. The upshot
of Mr Betts' action in agreeing to make a copy of the altered
letter was that he connived in a course of action which might
have led to the immigration officer being deceived as to facts
on which to decide on Mr Gasparo's re-entry to the United Kingdom.
17. It is clear from the immigration officer's report
that neither the original fax (had it not been altered), nor the
copy of the altered version, were going to be relevant to her
decision, as they were not the required original documents. Mr
Betts should have trusted his earlier judgement, that Mr Gasparo
should rely instead on the fact that his current course did not
finish until 7 March (and according to Mr Betts he had a letter
with him to that effect) to regain entry into the United Kingdom.
18. The Commissioner concluded that by applying for
a Parliamentary pass for Mr Gasparo, which he described as "a
natural consequence of the decision to employ him", Mr Betts
was in breach of the provision of the Code of Conduct requiring
Members to conduct themselves at all times in a manner which will
tend to maintain and strengthen the public's trust and confidence
in the integrity of Parliament. We have concluded that Mr Betts
was unwise to employ Mr Gasparo, and therefore agree with the
Commissioner's conclusion that there was a breach of the Code.
19. We also agree with the Commissioner that, in
making a photocopy of the altered fax of the college letter, when
Mr Gasparo's improper intentions in relation to the copy should
have been clear to him, Mr Betts conduct fell well below the standard
expected of a Member, in terms of maintaining and strengthening
the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament
and never undertaking any action which would bring the House of
Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute.
20. Having been shown a full copy of the Commissioner's
report, Mr Betts made a written submission to us. This is reproduced
at Appendix B.
21. We have given very careful consideration to Mr
Betts' submission; his welcome recognition of the fairness of
the Commissioner's report; and the further points he has made
about the circumstances in which he agreed to copy the altered
letter. We also acknowledge that Mr Betts voluntarily sought an
investigation of his conduct, and his co-operation with the Commissioner.
We recognise, too, that there are related aspects of these events,
with which we are not concerned, that have caused him considerable
22. Mr Betts stated in his submission that, if the
Committee agreed that he had made the errors of judgement contained
in the Commissioner's report, he would wish to apologise unreservedly
for his actions, for the inconvenience caused and for any embarrassment
that may have been caused to the House. As we agree with the Commissioner's
conclusions, we look to Mr Betts to make an early apology to the
23. We have also considered whether we should recommend
further action to the House. Of the two errors of judgement identified
in the Commissioner's report, that relating to the copying of
the altered document is undoubtedly the more serious. As we have
said earlier, Mr Gasparo's intentions were clear, and Mr Betts
should not have been party to them. Mr Betts undoubtedly acted
extremely foolishly, given the risk of immigration offences being
committed. We recommend that he should be suspended from the service
of the House for seven days.