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Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fifth Report


Conduct of Mr Jonathan Sayeed: Further Report



Introduction

1. Once we have reported on a complaint to the House, we do not normally expect to have to revisit it. Following the recommendations which we made in our Third Report[1] in the case of Mr Jonathan Sayeed, we had hoped to conclude this matter, as has generally been the case. We regret that we are unable to do so in this case, for the following reasons.

2. First, in the debate on our report on the original complaint against him on 8 February, Mr Sayeed alleged[2] that we had made a number of factual errors. Second, we have been made aware of comments made by the English Manner Ltd,[3] the company in which he had a 30% shareholding at the time of our previous report, on that report. Third, further, related, complaints have been made against him, on which the Commissioner has now reported to us.[4] Finally, as the Chairman indicated in his speech in the 8 February debate, the Committee needs to reflect on whether the Member had in fact adequately responded to its invitation to apologise for his actions.

3. In addition, the Commissioner has now received from the Department of Finance and Administration information on certain matters which came to light as a result of enquiries he made of the Department in the course of his investigation of the original complaint.

4. We report on each of these matters separately below.

Mr Sayeed's allegations of factual errors in the Committee's Third Report

5. On 3 February, Mr Sayeed issued a statement[5] in which he made various criticisms of our report and conclusions. In the debate on 8 February, and with no advance notification to us, he made four specific allegations concerning the factual accuracy of statements in the Committee's Third Report. The relevant excerpt from his speech is reproduced at Appendix 1.[6] He has expanded on these in an exchange of correspondence with the Clerk, which is reproduced at Appendix 2.

6. Both we and the Commissioner take considerable care to ensure that reports are soundly based on the evidence received and, to that end, the Commissioner shares a draft of the factual sections of his proposed report to us with the Member concerned before reaching his conclusions, and takes due account of any representations. A further opportunity for the Member arises when we share with him or her, in confidence, a copy of the Commissioner's full report before we consider it. This is to ensure that we consider the report in the context of any points the Member may wish to make on it.

7. Mr Sayeed took advantage of both opportunities. He accepted the final version of the factual sections of the Commissioner's report. He gave written and oral evidence to us.[7]

8. We have given very careful consideration to Mr Sayeed's allegations in the House. Our detailed comments on them are set out in the Annex. In fact, on examination, only one of them turned out to be a disagreement on a matter of fact; and in our view none of them is of any substance. We are satisfied that our conclusions on the factual elements of the complaint, and our recommendations to the House, would not have been different had Mr Sayeed made the representations in advance that he made in his letter to the Clerk of 24 February.

The English Manner Limited's statement of 3 February

9. On 3 February, the day our Third Report was published, The English Manner Limited issued a statement to members of the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association.[8] The statement was critical of both the quality of our report, and of our overall conclusions.

10. Mr Sayeed has informed us[9] that he played no part in the preparation of this statement, was not consulted about its terms, and was not aware of them before the statement was issued by the company. The statement was, he says, issued by Mrs Messervy, one of the two directors of the company, after consultation with her solicitor. In view of what Mrs Messervy told us about her role in the constituency on Mr Sayeed's behalf we are surprised by this but have to accept the Member's word.

11. We are however concerned that this statement, reproduced with the Commissioner's report,[10] misrepresents the Committee's position on a number of points and includes some factual errors. For example, it seeks to deny that Mrs Messervy, his constituency assistant since 1997 and paid in this respect from his parliamentary allowances, is part of Mr Sayeed's 'parliamentary staff' on the grounds that she is based in the constituency, rather than at Westminster. 'Parliamentary staff' is an all-embracing term encompassing members of staff paid for out of the public purse, wherever they are based.

12. However, the most serious and damaging misrepresentations are contained in the final paragraph of the statement. We have seen a recording of Mr Thomas' live interview on 3 February on 'The Daily Politics' programme. The statement inaccurately summarises what Mr Thomas said in a number of material ways. In particular, amongst other errors, the claim that he had stated "members other than he had wished to make a point to other MPs and therefore make Jonathan Sayeed a scapegoat" has no basis whatsoever in fact.

13. While the lack of accuracy of the English Manner statement is not a matter for us, what does concern us is that its principal author, Mrs Messervy, also contributed substantial evidence to the Commissioner's and our own inquiry into the original complaint against Mr Sayeed. The inaccuracies and misrepresentations in the English Manner statement to the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association inevitably cast serious doubt in our mind as to the credibility of Mrs Messervy's evidence to both the Commissioner and the Committee.

Further complaints against Mr Sayeed

14. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has submitted a memorandum relating to further complaints against Mr Sayeed made by Mr Tom Levitt, Member for High Peak, and four constituents of Mr Sayeed. The Commissioner's memorandum is appended to this report at Appendix 4.

15. The complaints arose for the most part from two letters sent out by Mr Sayeed, using House of Commons notepaper and House post-paid envelopes, to a large number of members of the Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association. The Deputy Serjeant at Arms has found this to be an inappropriate use of House stationery. In accordance with the usual practice, he will be asking Mr Sayeed to repay the cost of the stationery and envelopes improperly used.

16. The Commissioner finds that Mr Sayeed's consequent use of Parliamentary resources for non-parliamentary work was a breach of the Code of Conduct. We agree with the Commissioner.

17. The Commissioner also expresses astonishment that this further breach of the rules of the House should have occurred so soon after we had criticised Mr Sayeed in our Third Report. We are dismayed that a Member with Mr Sayeed's length of experience in the House should apparently fail to recognise that sending letters to members of his constituency association on matters clearly intended to have a bearing on his continued adoption as their prospective candidate at the next General Election fell well outside the permitted uses of Parliamentary stationery and other facilities provided at public expense.

Mr Sayeed's speech to the House on 8 February[11]

18. In paragraph 44 of our Third Report, we said that we considered that Mr Sayeed should apologise to the House. We have reflected further on the remarks which he made in the debate, and we find that the actions for which he apologised were narrower than those for which we had criticised him. In our view, he failed to recognise the seriousness of what he had done and to apologise fully.

Other matters arising from the Commissioner's original investigation

19. In the course of his investigation of the original complaint against Mr Sayeed, the Commissioner put a number of queries to the Department of Finance and Administration about aspects of Mrs Messervy's employment as his constituency assistant. While preparing its response, the Department noticed in its records some apparent discrepancies in Mr Sayeed's Additional Cost Allowance (ACA) claims, and drew this fact to the attention of the Commissioner. In particular, Mr Sayeed appeared to have made claims against the ACA not only for expenses relating to his London home, but also for some relating to his Bedfordshire home, which he had notified to the Department as his 'main home' for ACA purposes.

20. The Commissioner agreed to the Department's proposal that it pursue these discrepancies with Mr Sayeed, and let him know the outcome. He has now reported to us that the Department informed him on 10 March that Mr Sayeed had, on 28 February, repaid the sum of £12,583[12] in respect of ACA claimed against his main home in 2003-04 and 2004-05. The Department also reported that there are other ACA claims in respect of the two financial years, totalling about £9,500, which it has not yet been able to attribute with confidence to one home or the other, and on which discussions with Mr Sayeed are continuing. The Commissioner expects to receive a further report from the Department shortly after the end of this month.

21. We have asked the Commissioner to keep us informed of developments, and expect to report further to the House on the matter.

Conclusions

22. We have already set out our specific conclusions on Mr Sayeed's allegations in the House on 8 February of factual error in our Third Report; on the Commissioner's report on the further complaints he has received concerning Mr Sayeed; and on his apology. The allegations about our Third Report amounted in our view to a significant and unjustified attack on our report. It is a matter of regret that the Honourable Member felt unable to apologise fully. The subsequent complaints relate to matters which, viewed in isolation, would be relatively minor. In context though, they represent clear evidence of a continuing disregard by Mr Sayeed of the rules of the House.

23. We therefore invite Mr Sayeed, by way of a personal statement to the House, to accept the conclusions of this report in relation to the allegations he made in the House on 8 February about our Third Report, and to withdraw them accordingly. In the statement, he should also accept our conclusions in relation to the further complaints that have been made against him. He should apologise in terms that will enable us to conclude these aspects of the case. However, if by Monday 4 April he has not finalised arrangements with Mr Speaker for making a personal statement on these matters on an early date and on terms agreed by Mr Speaker, we recommend that the House suspend him from its service until he does so.



1   HC 233. Back

2   Official Report, 8 February 2005, Vol 430, col 1464. Back

3   Appendix 4, WE 4, p 30. Back

4   Appendix 4, p 16. Back

5   Appendix 4, WE 4, p 27. Back

6   His speech is reproduced in full at Appendix 4, WE 5, pp 32-33. Back

7   HC 233, Appendix 3, p 89; Appendix 4, p 94; Ev 1-13. Back

8   Appendix 4, WE 4, p 30. Back

9   Appendix 3, p 15. Back

10   Appendix 4, WE 4, p 30. Back

11   Official Report, 8 February 2005, Vol 430, cols 1463-4. Back

12   The total sum repaid was £12,867, which also included reimbursement of a double claim in respect of electricity charges at his London home. Back


 
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