Appendix A: Memorandum
from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
Complaints against Mr Clive
1. Over a period of 4 days between 26 February and
1 March 2003, the 'Sun' newspaper ran a series of articles about
Mr Clive Betts, the Member for Sheffield Attercliffe. These variously
a) Mr Betts had employed his lover, Mr Jose Gasparo
(a male escort agency worker) as a research assistant. He had
applied for a "full Westminster pass for him [Mr Gasparo]
which would give him alarming access to the corridors of power".
b) Whilst working for Mr Betts, Mr Gasparo had continued
to work as a male prostitute.
c) Mr Betts had lent Mr Gasparo £4,000 and a
£50 deposit to help him obtain a place at a college and an
extended student visa.
d) The final paragraph of a letter from the City
of London College confirming that Mr Gasparo had a provisional
place on a diploma in travel and tourism management course at
the college had been missing when a copy of the letter had been
given by Mr Gasparo to immigration officers at Stansted airport
on the return of Mr Betts and Mr Gasparo from a holiday in Venice.
2. On 28 February, Mr Betts wrote to me as follows:
I am writing to seek your guidance regarding the
Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament.
There have been a number of press reports recently
regarding my relationship with a young man whom I employed on
a temporary basis as a Parliamentary researcher. Questions have
been raised about the propriety of my actions and I am anxious
to ensure that I have complied fully with the Code of Conduct.
I am writing to request that you investigate this
matter and I look forward to meeting with you in the near future.
3. Accompanied by his solicitor, Mr Michael Napier,
Mr Betts came to see me and the Registrar of Members' Interests
on 3 March. I told Mr Betts that:
a) An amendment made by the House to the Code of
Conduct for Members on 14 May 2002 makes clear that the Code "does
not seek to regulate what Members do in their purely private and
b) I was not therefore interested in his private
life nor was I concerned with his sexuality.
c) As I had not, at that stage, received a complaint
against Mr Betts, I saw the meeting as arising out of my function
to advise Members about the Code.
d) I would not normally investigate allegations made
in a newspaper in the absence of a complaint, except with the
authority of the Standards and Privileges Committee.
4. Mr Betts gave me his account of the substance
behind the newspaper stories. During the course of the conversation,
I identified two possible areas where issues relevant to the Code
might arise from the events alleged in those stories:
a) Mr Betts' decision to employ Mr Gasparo as his
part-time research assistant; and
b) the circumstances surrounding Mr Gasparo's re-entry
to the United Kingdom at Stansted Airport with Mr Betts, including
the question of the alleged alteration of the letter from the
City of London College.
5. When the Committee on Standards and Privileges
met on 11 March, I reported the position, including the request
Mr Betts had made that I investigate his conduct in relation to
the Code. The Committee authorised me to conduct an inquiry. Immediately
following the Committee's meeting, I received a complaint, also
requesting an investigation, from a member of the public, Mr Michael
Barnbrook. A copy of Mr Barnbrook's letter is at Appendix 1.
of the Inquiry and the Relevant Provisions of the Code
6. When informing Mr Betts on 11 March 2003 that
the Committee had authorised me to conduct an inquiry, I described
its scope as follows:
I should make clear that my inquiry will not be
concerned either with your sexuality or with your private life
but will focus primarily on two issues which appear at first sight
to be relevant to the Code of Conduct for Members:
Whether, in employing Mr Jose Gasparo temporarily
in your office, you observed properly the rules of the House relating
to the employment of staff, in particular those relating to the
staffing allowance made available to Members for this purpose;
Whether your actions in connection with your return
with Mr Gasparo to this country from a holiday in Veniceand
in particular the alleged 'doctoring' of a letter from the City
of London College relating to Mr Gasparowere appropriate
bearing in mind the provisions of the Code.
7. I wrote to Mr Betts again on 19 March 2003 (see
Appendix 2) drawing his attention to the provisions of the Code
of Conduct which might be particularly relevant;
The duty on Members to uphold the law and to act
on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed on
The obligation to observe the general principles
of conduct applying to holders of public office, including selflessness,
objectivity, honesty and leadership;
The duty to follow the public interest and to resolve
any conflict between public and private interest, at once, in
favour of the former;
The responsibility not to bring the House into disrepute;
The obligation to use parliamentary payments and
allowances properly and strictly to observe the rules applying
8. In the course of my inquiries, I have had extensive
contact with Mr Betts and Mr Napier, and been in touch with the
United Kingdom Immigration Service as well as the Finance and
Administration and the Serjeant at Arms Departments of the House
of Commons. I also wrote to Mr Gasparo at his last known address
in London inviting him to contact me, but have had no response.
(There is some uncertainty as to whether Mr Gasparo is still in
the United Kingdom.) I also wrote on 20 March to the editor of
the 'Sun' , informing her of my inquiry and inviting her to submit
relevant evidence. Apart from an acknowledgement, I have had no
written reply, although when my office telephoned to inquire on
10 June they were told that there was nothing the 'Sun' wished
to send me.
Account of Events
9. In my letter of 19 March I invited his account
of the circumstances surrounding the two issues which are the
focus of my inquiry. A copy of this letter is at Appendix 2. Mr
Betts' account of what happened is contained in a two-part written
memorandum and appendices, the final signed copy of which he delivered
to my office on 12 June. The text of the two sections of this
memorandum (though not of the supporting appendices) is reproduced
at Appendices 3 and 4 respectively. I have not included the appendices
in order to avoid unnecessary printing but they are supportive
of the memorandum in the respects indicated in it and can be made
available to any Member of the Committee on request.
10. Mr Betts' account was confirmed and, to some
extent, amplified by him when (again accompanied by Mr Napier)
he met me on 21 May. The agreed note of that meeting is at Appendix
11. Putting together the contents of those documents,
a summary account of what happened as described by Mr Betts is
12. Mr Betts' decision to employ Mr Gasparo as a
temporary assistant in his parliamentary office followed the failure
early in January of a planned internship arrangement, and mounting
pressure on the office.
13. Mr Betts mentioned the failure of the internship
to Mr Gasparo, who indicated his interest in the role. Mr Betts
and his parliamentary assistant, Alison McGovern, interviewed
Mr Gasparo and decided to employ him for 12 hours per week on
a two week trial basis from 22 January.
14. Mr Betts obtained a satisfactory reference from
Mr Gasparo's tutor at his then college; checked his passport and
visa; and made sure that Mr Gasparo had a National Insurance number.
Following advice from the House's Finance and Administration Department,
he paid Mr Gasparo £6 an hour, slightly above the lowest
15. Mr Betts applied for a House of Commons pass
for Mr Gasparo on 23 January. The form was returned because it
lacked some of the information required but was re-submitted on
30 January. Security clearance to enable a pass to be issued was
received by e-mail on 24 February. However, by this time Mr Gasparo's
employment had ended, so a pass was never issued.
16. In the absence of a pass, Mr Gasparo was escorted
during the period of his employment when it was necessary for
him to visit parts of the House other than Mr Betts' office and
17. At no time did Mr Gasparo work on or have access
to matters with national security implications. At the time when
he employed him, Mr Betts knew that Mr Gasparo had been a male
escort. During the period Mr Gasparo worked for Mr Betts, Mr Betts
did not know anything about the rest of Mr Gasparo's life or his
friends. He did not at any stage believe Mr Gasparo's employment
in the House to be a threat to national security.
18. Mr Gasparo carried out his duties well and, after
the 2 week trial period was over, Mr Betts and Ms McGovern decided
to extend his employment to the end of March. However, no formal
contract of employment was issued and on 22 February Mr Gasparo
told Mr Betts that, following the press attention they had received,
he did not wish to return to work in the office. Mr Gasparo's
employment was therefore terminated with effect from 14 February,
the date immediately prior to their holiday in Venice. When Mr
Betts discovered that the Finance Department had inadvertently
paid Mr Gasparo to the end of the month, he (Mr Betts) repaid
the amount of the overpayment to the Department.
Gasparo's Immigration Status
19. Mr Gasparo is a Brazilian national. When Mr Betts
met him he was "a legitimate temporary resident holding a
student visa, studying on an English course in London". The
visa was due to expire on 19 February.
20. Mr Gasparo's English course was due to end in
March and he was looking to take a place on a new course on travel
21. Mr Betts helped Mr Gasparo to secure such a place.
He loaned Mr Gasparo money to pay the course fees, gave him a
letter confirming employment and asked his constituency assistant,
Steven Vincent, to make some non-specific inquiries about the
conditions attached to the grant of a student visa. Mr Vincent
advised Mr Betts of the documentation that would be required to
support the application. In spite of the advice he was given,
Mr Gasparo travelled to Venice with Mr Betts without original
documents or bank statements to support the application for a
new student visa that he intended to make on his return to the
22. On the final day of their holiday, the two men
returned to their hotel in Venice to find themselves greeted by
press photographers. Mr Betts had already arrived at the very
difficult decision to make public his sexual orientation but wanted
to control how this was done, not to be propelled into it by the
press. He was therefore in a state of some distress. Mr Gasparo
was also very distraught.
23. These traumatic circumstances were made worse
by delay in receiving a faxed copy of the letter from the City
of London College which confirmed that Mr Gasparo had the offer
of a place on his new course. When this arrived, less than an
hour before Mr Betts and Mr Gasparo were due to leave for the
airport, it contained the words: "You may use this letter
to process foreign exchange. However, to obtain a student visa
overseas students will require a Certificate of Enrolment, which
is issued on receipt of the fees stated above in this letter".
24. Mr Betts' account in his signed written statement
of these events continues:
Mr Gasparo became very upset when he read this
because it was contrary to the advice I had received from my assistant.
Mr Gasparo wanted to remove these words from the fax. I told him
that this was unnecessary but he was determined and did so. He
would not leave for the airport without a copy of the amended
letter and pressurised me into doing so. Given the press attention,
we were under considerable emotional pressure but despite this
I successfully persuaded Mr Gasparo not to use the amended letter
because I knew that, not being an original, it would not be accepted.
However, contrary to what had been agreed, Mr
Gasparo produced the amended letter to the Immigration Officer
when we arrived at Stansted Airport. I was very alarmed that he
produced the letter and explained to the Immigration Officer that
it was not an original document and that it differed from the
original. The Immigration Officer was not interested in my explanation
because she said that apart from the letter not being an original,
Mr Gasparo had not produced bank statements or any other documentation
to confirm financial support. Nevertheless, she was willing to
extend his existing visa for two months, giving him time to produce
the original documents necessary in an application for a new student
At immigration I did not represent myself as a
Member of Parliament. Indeed, throughout the whole episode, I
did not represent myself in acting in any official capacity for
Mr Gasparo. Further, I did not have any subsequent dealings with
the authorities about Mr Gasparo's immigration status.
25. On 27 June Mr Betts provided me with a further
statement in relation to events at Stansted (see Appendix 8).
In this, and in conversation on 30 June, he said that he had told
the Immigration Officer that: the letter from the college was
not an original; it was a copy of a fax; it stated that only the
registration fee, and not the full course fee, had been paid;
and that a further statement of the college's belief that a full
fee had to be paid before a visa could be granted had been removed
from the copy. He also stated that the officer stopped the conversation
short to say that this information was irrelevant because she
was not going to issue a visa due to missing information and because
the letter was not an original, although she was willing to give
Mr Gasparo an extension for two months to get his papers together.
from other sources
26. In the following paragraphs, I summarise the
evidence available from other sources relevant to each of the
two key aspects of my inquiry.
27. The Finance and Administration Department of
the House has confirmed Mr Betts' account of the period for and
the terms on which Mr Gasparo was employed. The rate of pay was
reasonable for the sort of work Mr Gasparo was engaged to do.
Although the Department did not receive a contract of employment
for Mr Gasparo (and one is legally required for temporary staff
employed for one month or more), Mr Gasparo's employment totalled
less than a month.
28. I asked the Department with what rules and procedures
of the House they would have expected Mr Betts to comply when
employing Mr Gasparo. They replied:
We would have expected Mr Betts to comply with
rules for the staffing allowance as set out in the Green Book
[of guidance on Members' allowances], Section 5. Paragraph 5.1
may be particularly relevant. It states that:
'The staffing allowance is available to meet the
costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on the provision
of staff to help Members perform their Parliamentary duties'.
We would also have expected Mr Betts to observe
the guidance on pay rates which specifies the pay range appropriate
for each kind of job.
29. As regards the question of Mr Betts' application
for a Parliamentary pass for Mr Gasparo, the Serjeant at Arms
Department has said that they do not offer advice to Members regarding
the security implications of staff employment. Each Member does,
however, have to sign, as sponsor, a copy of the pass application
and security questionnaire, which contains questions as to criminal
convictions and terrorist involvement. The completed forms are
submitted to the security authorities and if information is forthcoming
which indicates that the applicant is unsuitable to hold a pass,
the Serjeant at Arms will make a judgement as to issue or refusal.
30. Checks carried out on Mr Gasparo did not reveal
any convictions or other information which would have precluded
him from having a pass. However, before a pass was issued, the
Department became aware of the newspaper stories about Mr Betts
and Mr Gasparo and contacted Mr Betts' office. When they were
told that Mr Gasparo's employment had ceased, the Pass Office
was instructed not to issue a pass.
31. The Department has emphasised that in all these
issues, the presumption it and the Pass Office make is that applications
from Members are bona fide. They are treated as such unless there
is compelling evidence to the contrary.
I subsequently asked the Department whether, if they
had known at the time of the application on behalf of Mr Gasparo
that Mr Gasparo had relatively recently been active as a male
escort, a pass would have been authorised. The Deputy Serjeant
at Arms has replied:
Had I been aware of this fact, I would not have
granted him (Mr Gasparo) a pass as I would have considered such
activities to be a potential security risk. I would have taken
the same point of view had Mr Betts' potential member of staff
been female with a recent history of escort service.
A copy of the Deputy Serjeant's letter is at Appendix
33. I put the Deputy Serjeant at Arms' letter to
Mr Betts and he responded in writing on 27 June 2003 (see Appendix
There is absolutely no question of me misleading
or attempting to mislead anyone in the application for a pass
for Mr Gasparo. The application was made on a bona fide basis
and there was no failure to disclose any information in the procedure
which I followed precisely. I genuinely believed that Mr Gasparo
had given up his escort activities and that he was rehabilitating
himself from that occupation so it did not occur to me that it
might have been relevant as a security issue. I do of course respect
the view of the Deputy Serjeant at Arms that he would have considered
Mr Gasparo's previous escort activities as a potential security
risk and would have not have issued a pass. However, I beg to
differ that there was or might have been a potential security
risk or how any such risk could have materialised. Like any other
MP I believe that I was entitled to rely on the efficiency of
the vetting procedures that operate when pass applications are
made. As mentioned in paragraph 29 of the Commissioner's draft
the Serjeant at Arms does not offer advice on the security implications
of staff employment. I therefore followed the procedure as I had
34. The Immigration and Nationality Directorate of
the Home Office has confirmed that students given leave to enter
to pursue a course of study in the United Kingdom are authorised
to take casual employment for up to 20 hours per week in term
time, without needing to obtain specific permission.
Gasparo's Immigration Status
35. According to information from the Directorate,
it is unclear when Mr Gasparo first arrived in the United Kingdom
but by the time he returned from Venice with Mr Betts, the leave
to enter he had most recently been given had expired the day before,
on 19 February 2003. This confirms Mr Betts' account. On entering
at Stansted on 20 February, he was given two months 'leave to
enter' as a student and told to submit an application to the Home
Office, supported by full documentation, for a further extension.
In the event, he did not do so.
36. The published requirements in force at the time
for a person seeking leave to enter the United Kingdom as a student
were, in summary, that he:
i) had been accepted for a course of study at a publicly
funded or bona fide private education institution or school;
ii) was able and intended to follow a full-time degree
or other course of study;
iii) intended to leave the United Kingdom at the
end of his studies; and
iv) did not intend to engage in business or to take
employment, except part-time or vacation work undertaken with
the consent of the Secretary of State for Employment; and
v) was able to meet the costs of his course and accommodation
and the maintenance of himself and any dependents without taking
employment or engaging in business or having recourse to public
37. As regards the alleged alteration of the letter
from the City of London College, it is relevant to record that
Section 26 (1) of the Immigration Act 1971 (as amended) states
A person shall be guilty of an offence punishable
on summary conviction with a fine of not more than £5,000
or with imprisonment for not more than six months, or with both,
in any of the following cases-
(c) if on any such examination or otherwise, he
makes or causes to be made to an immigration officer or other
person lawfully acting in the execution of this Act a return,
statement or representation which he knows to be false or does
not believe to be true;
(d) if, without lawful authority, he alters any
certificate of patriality, entry clearance, work permit or other
document issued or made under or for the purposes of this Act,
or uses for the purposes of this Act, or has in his possession
for such use, any passport, certificate of patriality, entry clearance,
work permit or other document which he knows or has reasonable
cause to believe to be false; ... .
38. As to what happened when Mr Gasparo and Mr Betts
returned from Venice through Stansted airport on 20 February,
the Directorate has supplied a copy of a statement made by the
Immigration Officer on duty at the time. A copy of the statement,
made 10 days after the event, is at Appendix 7. This confirms
that Mr Gasparo was unable to provide evidence that he could maintain
and accommodate himself, or a receipt to show that he had paid
his course fees. The report continues:
When I explained that I was unable to grant entry
to the passenger for the duration of his course due to the lack
of evidence provided, I recall having to explain this several
times to the passenger and his boss as his boss in particular
was reluctant to accept this. I explained that I would stamp the
passenger's passport for two months on a code two which would
enable him to get his paperwork in order and apply to the Home
Office for an extension of his student stamp.
39. Mr Betts' commented "there was no discussion
or questioning of this decision; rather my feeling was one of
overwhelming relief that the letter had played no part in the
decision that the officer had made. I certainly did not express
any reluctance to accept her decision. My contribution to the
conversation was to explain about the letter which I may have
been doing at some length when the officer interrupted to make
her position clear. I can only surmise that she mistakenly interpreted
my explanation about the letter as reluctance, which was not my
attitude; rather I was anxious to co-operate. Finally, the officer's
statement makes it clear that the amended letter played no part
in the granting of the visa extension".
40. Mr Betts told me that he had explained at some
length to the Immigration Officer that the letter from the college
was a copy of a fax, and that the original differed from the document
presented to her. The Immigration Officer states;
I do not recall if the letter I was shown from
the City of London College was a fax or the original document.
Secondly I most certainly recall that no mention was made by either
party that the document had been altered in any way as this would
have led to at the least a further interview and most probably
Mr Gasparo being refused entry to the UK. (Appendix 9).
41. In conversation with me on 30 June, Mr Betts
repeated that the Immigration Officer had stopped the conversation
short and suggested that, having made up her mind that she was
not able to grant the visa Mr Gasparo sought, she was no longer
paying attention to Mr Betts when he drew attention to the fact
that the document was a fax and differed from the original.
42. The Immigration Officer does not recall Mr Betts
representing himself as an MP during these exchanges. This confirms
Mr Betts' account.
43. Having considered this evidence, I reach the
following findings of fact.
44. Mr Gasparo's employment as a temporary part-time
office assistant by Mr Betts was occasioned by the failure of
an internship arrangement and mounting pressure in Mr Betts' Parliamentary
office. The terms on which Mr Gasparo was employed were consistent
with the requirements of the House. He was permitted to take up
part-time employment of this sort under the terms of his then
45. Mr Betts was careful to ensure that Mr Gasparo
could do the job for which he was recruited. There is no suggestion
in the evidence that Mr Gasparo did not do the job; rather it
seems that he did it perfectly satisfactorily.
46. At the time he recruited Mr Gasparo, Mr Betts
was in a close friendship with him. He knew that Mr Gasparo had
relatively recently worked as a male escort. However, he was not
(according to his evidence) aware during the time Mr Gasparo worked
for him that Mr Gasparo was (according to the reports in the 'Sun'
newspaper) continuing to work as an escort.
47. When Mr Betts sponsored Mr Gasparo's application
for a Parliamentary pass, he did not reveal that Mr Gasparo had
recently worked as an escort. He did not believe that Mr Gasparo's
past represented a threat to national security and thought that
this aspect would in any event be dealt with by the checks carried
out by the security authorities. However, Mr Gasparo's past was
not known to the security authorities, there being no criminal
convictions or suggestion of terrorist involvement. As there was
no information to suggest otherwise, the issue of the pass to
Mr Gasparo was authorised. In the event, however, the pass was
not issued because, meanwhile, Mr Gasparo had ceased to work for
48. According to the Deputy Serjeant at Arms, if
he had known about Mr Gasparo's past activities he would not have
issued him with a pass, on the grounds that he would have considered
such activities a potential security risk. Mr Betts, while accepting
that the Deputy Serjeant holds this view, disputes his assessment
as to whether any security risk would have been involved had a
pass been issued.
49. Mr Betts was punctilious in re-paying out of
his own pocket the overpayment of salary made to Mr Gasparo as
a result of Mr Gasparo's early departure from his employment.
Gasparo's Immigration Status
50. Mr Gasparo had a valid student visa at the time
he began working for Mr Betts. This was due to expire on 19 February
2003. Mr Gasparo intended to apply for a new visa when he returned
to the United Kingdom after his holiday with Mr Betts.
51. Mr Betts helped Mr Gasparo to obtain a place
on a travel and tourism course at the City of London College.
He gave Mr Gasparo a letter confirming employment, paid the course
registration fee of £50 and loaned him £4,000 to ensure
that he had the funds to ensure that he could pay for his course.
He obtained advice for Mr Gasparo on aspects of his visa application.
However, Mr Gasparo failed to act on this advice when the two
men left for their holiday in Venice.
52. According to Mr Betts, in traumatic circumstances
on the last afternoon of their holiday, Mr Gasparo removed the
last paragraph of a faxed letter from the City of London College
which he believed would be injurious to his (Mr Gasparo's) chances
of securing a fresh student visa. Under pressure from Mr Gasparo,
Mr Betts photocopied the altered letter as the two men made their
way to the airport at Venice. Mr Betts tried to persuade Mr Gasparo
not to produce this altered copy letter to the Immigration Officer
at Stansted but somehow or other Mr Gasparo produced an altered
copy when the two arrived at Stansted.
53. Mr Betts followed Mr Gasparo through the immigration
channel at Stansted. He participated in the conversation between
Mr Gasparo and the Immigration Officer but the Officer does not
recall him representing himself as a Member of Parliament during
that conversation. On that, Mr Betts and the Immigration Officer
are agreed. Their evidence differs, however, as to whether Mr
Betts drew the attention of the Immigration Officer to the fact
that the document submitted by Mr Gasparo was a fax and that it
differed from the original in that the final paragraph of the
letter had been removed.
54. The Immigration Officer on duty gave Mr Gasparo
two months leave to enter as a student and told him to submit
an application to the Home Office for an extension. He has not
done so and his current whereabouts are unknown.
55. This is a novel case, not least because it is
the first in which a Member has asked the Commissioner to investigate
whether his or her conduct in a particular situation complied
with the Code of Conduct and Rules of the House. The decision
of the Committee on Standards and Privileges to authorise me to
respond positively to the request to investigate his conduct in
Mr Betts' letter of 28 Februarytaken before Mr Barnbrook's
letter of complaint was receivedrepresents a significant
strengthening of previous arrangements. It indicates the Committee's
willingness to take the initiative in authorising an investigation,
when I place a request before it, without waiting for a complaint
from a Member or a member of the public.
56. Mr Betts deserves considerable credit for requesting
an investigation of his own conduct. He could have sat tight when
the 'Sun' newspaper stories circulated, and waited to see whether
or not a complaint would materialise. The fact that he took the
initiative in requesting an investigation and in coming to see
me should weigh much in his favour.
57. Before turning to consider the application of
the Code of Conduct and Rules of the House to Mr Betts' actions
in relation to Mr Gasparo, it is important to stress again that:
The Code applies to Members in all aspects of
their public life. It does not seek to regulate what Members do
in their purely private and personal lives.
The nature of Mr Betts' personal relationship with
Mr Gasparo is not therefore of interest to the Committee or to
me. It may only become of concern in so far as it may be relevant
to evaluating Mr Betts' conduct in relation to his obligations
under the Code.
58. Nor is Mr Betts' sexuality relevant to the application
of the Code. In assessing Mr Betts' actions, my judgement must
be the same whether Mr Betts' relationship had been with a man
or a woman.
59. The Code of Conduct 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
60. The rules relevant to Mr Gasparo's employment
by Mr Betts principally concern those relating to the staffing
allowance. These say that the allowance is provided "to
meet the costs wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on
the provision of staff to help Members perform their Parliamentary
61. There is no bar on Members employing relatives,
partners or personal friends on their staff. The relevant considerations
in interpreting the rules relating to the allowance should, I
is the person employed to meet a genuine need in
supporting the Member in performing their Parliamentary duties?
are they qualified/able to do the job?
do they actually do the job?
are the resulting costs, in so far as they are charged
to the allowance, reasonable and entirely attributable to the
Member's Parliamentary work?
62. On the evidence available, all these questions
can be answered affirmatively in relation to Mr Betts' decision
to employ Mr Gasparo. The failure of the planned internship meant
that there was a genuine need in the office. Mr Gasparo was employed
on duties involving opening post, making appointments, maintaining
the London diary and general clerical duties which were supportive
of Mr Betts in his parliamentary functions. Mr Betts took care
to ensure that Mr Gasparo was capable of doing the job and, on
the evidence of those in a position to judge, Mr Gasparo did the
work entirely satisfactorily. The rate of pay set by Mr Betts
was, in the view of the Finance and Administration Department,
reasonable for the sort of work Mr Gasparo was engaged to do and
Mr Betts rapidly repaid out of his own pocket the money which
the Department inadvertently overpaid Mr Gasparo because of the
sudden ending of his employment.
63. Mr Betts did not therefore contravene any rules
of the House relating to the staffing allowance in employing Mr
64. There is, however, a second element relevant
to my consideration of Mr Betts' employment of Mr Gasparo. In
its coverage of these matters the 'Sun' newspaper alleged that
Mr Betts' decision to employ Mr Gasparo resulted in a threat to
national security, given Mr Gasparo's history as a male escort
worker. Mr Betts rejects this argument. At no time did Mr Gasparo
work on or have access to matters to do with national security.
Mr Betts did not at any stage believe that employing Mr Gasparo
represented such a threat. He believed, further, that such matters
were in any event for the judgement of the relevant authorities
when they considered the application for a Parliamentary pass
for Mr Gasparo which Mr Betts had sponsored.
65. The checks carried out when that application
was received were for previous criminal convictions or known terrorist
involvement. Mr Gasparo had neither, and so the issue of a pass
was authorised. The pass was not in fact issued because Mr Gasparo
had by then ceased to work for Mr Betts.
66. There is no evidence that national security was
compromised during the short period Mr Gasparo worked for Mr Betts.
Nonetheless the letter from the Deputy Serjeant at Arms (at Appendix
6) indicates that had the House authorities known that Mr Gasparo
had relatively recently been active as a male escort, they would
not have issued a pass to him, regarding his activities as a potential
security risk. (They would have taken the same view had Mr Betts'
[potential] member of staff been a female with a recent history
of escort service.) Mr Betts did not reveal Mr Gasparo's recent
history as a sex worker to them, believing that Mr Gasparo was
rehabilitating himself and that the security checks would reveal
67. Although he did not contravene any rules of the
House relating to the staffing allowance in employing Mr Gasparo,
in employing someone with Mr Gasparo's history, Mr Betts was undoubtedly
taking a risk. In the view of the Deputy Serjeant at Arms (though
not of Mr Betts himself) he was taking a risk with the security
of the House. Equally, he was taking a risk with his own reputationin
that he might be exposing himself to unfavourable press comment
with resultant distress to himselfand also with the reputation
of the House. Past experience indicates how the inadvertent grant
to a person with a history of work in the sex industry of the
privileged access to Parliament which a pass affords can become
a cause of public scandal, and thereby risk damaging public confidence
in Parliament. Mr Betts had a duty of care in this respect, to
other Members and to the House itself.
68. The Code of Conduct provides that:
Members shall at all times conduct themselves
in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public's
trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never
undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or
its Members generally, into disrepute.
I understand that the application for a Parliamentary
pass for Mr Gasparo was a natural consequence of the decision
to employ him, which was not, in itself in breach of the rules
of the House. Nonetheless, I believe that it was an error of judgement.
I also conclude that in endorsing this application Mr Betts committed
a breach of the Code of Conduct in respect of the provision quoted
69. This aspect of the case gives rise to a further
consideration. As noted in paragraph 29 and commented upon by
Mr Betts, the Serjeant at Arms does not issue guidance on the
security implications of staff employment. The experience of this
case may give grounds for considering whether such guidance could
be useful, and the Committee may wish to invite the Serjeant at
Arms to consider whether any such should be issued.
Gasparo's Immigration Status
70. When Mr Betts decided to employ Mr Gasparo, the
latter had a valid student visa which permitted him to work up
to 20 hours a week. The visa was due to expire on 19 February
2003. Just as Mr Betts took careful steps to interview Mr Gasparo
and obtain a reference for him before employing Mr Gasparo in
his office, so he was careful to ask Mr Vincent to obtain advice
for Mr Gasparo about his application for a new visa.
71. There is no suggestion that in asking Mr Vincent
to obtain this advice Mr Betts made any improper use of his position
as a Member. Nor did he refer to that position when he returned
with Mr Gasparo through Stansted on 20 February after their holiday
in Venice. The Immigration Officer on duty at Stansted at the
time who interviewed Mr Gasparo confirms this.
72. An evaluation of Mr Betts' conduct in relation
to this issue turns on what happened concerning the alteration
to the letter from the City of London College and whether the
attention of the Immigration Officer was drawn to this alteration
when Mr Betts and Mr Gasparo returned together through Stansted.
73. There is no dispute that the letter was altered
to remove the final paragraph. Mr Betts says that the alteration
was made by Mr Gasparo and I see no reason to doubt his assertion.
74. Mr Betts has acknowledged that, in the traumatic
circumstances of the final afternoon of their holiday in Venice,
and under pressure from Mr Gasparo, he took a photocopy of the
altered letter. However, he tried to persuade Mr Gasparo not to
produce his altered letter to the Immigration Officer at Stansted,
and thought that he had succeeded. Somehow or other Mr Gasparo
did nonetheless show the Officer such a copy (whether the one
Mr Betts had taken or one Mr Gasparo had somehow, unknown to Mr
Betts, obtained is uncertain).
75. Were Mr Gasparo, at some future time, to seek
to obtain fresh leave to enter the United Kingdom, it may be that
his conduct would be of interest to the immigration authorities
in relation to the provisions of Section 26 (1) of the Immigration
Act 1971 (as amended) to which I refer to in paragraph 37 above.
76. As to Mr Betts' conduct, while I accept that
in taking the photocopy Mr Betts was under enormous emotional
pressure and that (according to his evidence) he sought to persuade
Mr Gasparo not to use it, I believe that when he saw Mr Gasparo
present the copy of the altered document to the Immigration Officer,
Mr Betts' obligation (which Members share with other citizens,
which is specifically embodied in the Code, and which applies
to them whether or not they are acting in an official capacity)
made it incumbent on him to draw the Immigration Officer's attention
77. The critical issue here is what was said to the
Immigration Officer and whether she was told that the document
differed from the original. There is dispute about this. The Immigration
Officer recalls that she was not. In favour of her view are the
likelihood that such a statement would have been so unusual as
to stay in her memory and the probability that it would have had
a material influence on her assessment of the case, including
her decision as to whether Mr Gasparo should be allowed back into
the UK. Mr Betts is equally unshakeable in his contention that
he did draw attention not only to the document's being a copy
but also to its differing from the original.
78. I am here presented with a straight conflict
of evidence which it is only possible to resolve if I accept that
the Immigration Officer, having made up her mind about the case
on other grounds, interrupted and failed to note Mr Betts' statement.
Mr Betts has offered a similar explanation for the Immigration
Officer's belief that he disputed her decision, which he puts
down to her mistaking his attempts to explain the letter for a
desire to argue about her decision.
79. Mr Betts was under the same obligation as any
other citizen not to connive at an attempt to mislead an Immigration
Officer. Had he failed to draw the attention of the Immigration
Officer to the altered nature of the document presented to her,
that would, in my view, have constituted a serious breach of the
Code in respect of his duty to uphold the law. The evidence on
this point is not sufficiently conclusive, and for that reason
I do not find that Mr Betts has breached the Code in this respect.
Nonetheless, I believe that, taken overall, his conduct in this
matterespecially in relation to taking the photocopy of
the altered letterfell below the standard expected of a
Member of Parliament. He should have refused entirely to become
involved in Mr Gasparo's apparent attempt to mislead the Immigration
80. To sum up, in my view Mr Betts has committed
two errors of judgement. The first was his decision to appoint
Mr Gasparo to his staff, given his recent history, and, in particular,
to apply for a House of Commons pass for him. This error of judgement,
although it may have been made for laudable reasons (see paragraph
33), might have exposed the House to a security risk and certainly
exposed it to a reputational risk. I therefore conclude that in
his decision to apply for a House of Commons pass for Mr Gasparo,
Mr Betts was in breach of the obligation under the Code of Conduct
to conduct himself in a manner which will tend to maintain and
strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity
of Parliament and never to undertake any action which would bring
the House of Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute.
81. The second error of judgement was to take a photocopy
of the altered document. Having done this, on Mr Betts' own explanation,
he did everything within his power to prevent Mr Gasparo from
using it and when, despite this, Mr Gasparo did so, he pointed
out to the Immigration Officer that the document was neither the
original nor identical to the original. Given the straight conflict
of evidence on this last and crucial point between Mr Betts' evidence
and that of the Immigration Officer, I do not find that Mr Betts
was in breach of the Code of Conduct in respect of his duty to
uphold the law. Taken overall, however, I conclude that his conduct
in the matter, and especially in respect of the photocopy, fell
below the standard expected of a Member.
82. In reaching its own assessment of Mr Betts' conduct,
the Committee will want to bear in mind considerable psychological
pressure on him on the day of his return from Venice and Mr Betts'
welcome decision to ask for an investigation into his conduct.
3 July 2003 Sir Philip Mawer
1 In accordance with the practice agreed by the Committee
I shared with Mr Betts those parts of the report which dealt with
issues of fact. Back