Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report


Written evidence received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

1.  Article in Mail on Sunday, 10 December 2006

ANGER OVER CAMERON'S PLEDGE TO BOSSES WHO PAY £50K TO MEET HIM

David Cameron is at the centre of a damaging 'cash-for-access' row over £50,000 invitations to businessmen to meet him in his House of Commons offices—and be kept up-to-date with policy developments.

MPs last night accused the Tory leader of abusing his position over an offer of regular meetings with him, contained in a Conservative leaflet being sent out to well-heeled supporters.

The leaflet was also distributed at a meeting last week of the City Circle, a group of financiers who help to bankroll the Tories. It promises benefactors who join the 'Leader's Group'—for an annual membership fee of £50,000—that they will even have the chance to chat with Mr Cameron in the Commons after Prime Minister's Questions.

Last night Liberal Democrat Norman Baker said he would be asking the Serjeant at Arms to investigate.

He said 'Mr Cameron's office, like those of other MPs, is paid for by the taxpayer to perform a public function—not as a fundraising venue for the Conservative Party. If it isn't against the letter of the law, then it is certainly against the spirit of it. Selling access to Mr Cameron's office is an abuse of the House of Commons and represents a return to the Tory years of sleaze'.

MPs are banned from using the Commons' private dining rooms 'for direct financial or material gain by a sponsor, political party, or any other person or outside organisation'.

But a spokesman for the Serjeant at Arms, who is charged with ensuring that MPs observe the rules and traditions of the House, admitted he was 'unsure' if there was any guidance that banned the use of offices there for party fundraising.

And a senior civil servant admitted that a ban on MPs using their offices for fundraising would be a nightmare to police.

He said 'How would the authorities decide whether people are there simply as a voter or supporter or someone buying access to the House, as you say?

'Until now we have relied on the MPs to observe the traditions of the House and do their party political fundraising elsewhere—but perhaps after this complaint is investigated that will have to change.'

The leaflet describes Mr Cameron as the president of the group and fashion tycoon Andrew Feldman, who was at Oxford with him, as the Chairman. Of the Leader's Group itself, which has already attracted 50 high-rolling donors as members, it states: 'The most senior club, its aim is to support David Cameron, providing sustainable and renewable income for the party'.

The pamphlet adds: 'Members are kept close to policy developments and meet with the leader several times a year at small dinners or lunches and in his office after Prime Minister's Question Time.'

A spokesman for Mr Cameron insisted no Commons rules were being broken He said : 'David is not about to be influenced by someone coming into his office after Prime Minister's Question Time.

'Seeing and meeting the leader is simply one of the benefits of being a member of the Leader's Group . We are being perfectly open about this.'

The Conservatives received more than £18 million in loans from wealthy supporters before the last Election. But like Labour, they are now being forced to look at new ways of raising revenue in the wake of the 'cash-for-peerages' affair.

Last month the Leader's Group held a black-tie fundraising evening at London's Dorchester Hotel, at which Mr Cameron addressed 400 invited guests.

10 December 2006

2.  Letter to the Serjeant at Arms from Mr Norman Baker, 11 December 2006

I am writing following an article in the Mail on Sunday yesterday which reported that David Cameron is offering membership of a 'Leader's Group', entailing special parliamentary access, in exchange for a £50,000 annual donation to the Conservative Party. I enclose a copy of the article for ease of reference.

In light of these reports, I have looked at the Code of Conduct which applies to all Members of Parliament and it seems to me that Mr Cameron may have breached a number of regulations.

Specifically, paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct states that:

"Members shall at all times ensure that their use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters, and that they observe any limits placed by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities and services."

I have been unable to locate rules specifically relating to the use of Members' offices but I presume that they are governed similarly to the banqueting facilities which are not permitted to be used for party political fundraising activities.

Section 14 of the Guide to the Rules Relating to the Conduct of Members also provides very clear rules for Members entering into agreements involving the provision of services in one's capacity as an MP. This clause refers to services for which MPs are personally financially remunerated but it is unclear whether this also applies to MPs offering services in exchange for large party political donations.

In essence, it appears to me that Mr Cameron is charging for access for himself in order to boost Conservative Party funds, and using a House of Commons facility, provided to him at public expense to facilitate parliamentary duties, to do so. I would therefore be grateful if you would look into this matter.

I look forward to hearing from you shortly and am copying this letter to both Sir Philip Mawer, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, and David Cameron MP for his information.

11 December 2006

3.  Letter to the Rt Hon David Cameron from the Commissioner, 19 December 2006

Mr Baker copied to you his letter of 11 December drawing attention to an article which appeared in the 'Mail on Sunday' on 10 December, in which it was alleged that you are using your offices at the House of Commons to raise funds for the Conservative Party. Specifically it was suggested that a leaflet circulated by the Party inviting membership of a 'Leader's Group' at an annual fee of £50,000 included the statement that:

"Members are kept close to policy developments and meet with the Leader several times a year at small dinners or lunches and in his office after Prime Minister's Question Time." (emphasis added)

As the Serjeant at Arms has indicated in his reply of 18 December to Mr Baker, he and I have agreed that, in view of the references Mr Baker makes in his letter to paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members and related matters, I should take the lead in looking into this complaint. I will, of course, be consulting the Serjeant closely as I do so.

Mr Baker sums up the complaint he is making against you thus:

"In essence, it appears to me that Mr Cameron is charging for access for himself in order to boost Conservative Party funds, and using a House of Commons facility, provided to him at public expense to facilitate parliamentary duties, to do so."

In accordance with the procedures for investigating complaints laid down by the House (a note on which I enclose), I should be grateful if you will now give me your response to Mr Baker's complaint. Among the factors which will be relevant to its determination are:

1. paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct, quoted by Mr Baker in his letter.

2. the fact that, although, as he notes, and as far as I am aware, there is no specific rule relating to the use of Members' offices at the House, they are provided primarily for use in connection with Parliamentary purposes and not for purposes of Party fundraising.

Mr Baker also mentions the provisions in the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members concerning agreements for the provision of services in the capacity of a Member. (The reference in his letter to Section 14 of the Guide is incorrect: it should be to paragraph 49 et seq of the Guide.) As I see it those provisions are intended to apply to remunerated employment by a Member, not activities of the sort alleged in respect of the particular complaint by Mr Baker.

In view of his interest, I am copying this letter to the Serjeant at Arms.

19 December 2006

4.  Letter to the Rt Hon David Cameron from the Commissioner, 9 January 2007

Thank you for your letter of 20 December acknowledging mine of 19 December about this complaint.

I look forward to receiving your response to the complaint. I thought you might find it helpful in preparing that if I were to say now that one point it would be useful for you to cover in your reply would be whether members of the Leader's Group who meet you in your office after Prime Minister's Question Time are given tickets to observe that Question Time from the Gallery of the Chamber beforehand or whether the practice is for them to watch it on the television monitor in your office before meeting you.

This is a point—allied to the main one about the use of your Parliamentary office for this purpose—which I expect some will raise in the context of the complaint and it would be helpful if you could address it when you write to me.

9 January 2007

5.  Letter to the Commissioner from the Rt Hon David Cameron, 10 January 2007

Thank you for your letter of 19th December, regarding your inquiry into the complaint by Norman Baker MP about the use of my House of Commons office.

You have helpfully set out the factors relevant to Mr Baker's complaint.

First, I am glad that you take the view that the provisions of paragraph 49 of the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (incorrectly referred to by Mr Baker as 'Section 14') are not relevant to Mr Baker's complaint. As you say, paragraph 49 (and subsequent paragraphs) deal with paid outside employment by a Member. That is not the subject of his complaint against me.

Secondly, paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members, quoted by Mr Baker, states that: 'Members shall at all times ensure that the use of their expenses, allowances and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters...'. As you note, there are no specific rules relating to the use of Members' offices at the House, although they are provided primarily for use in connection with Parliamentary purposes. As a Leader of a political party, my office, while used primarily for Parliamentary purposes, is also used for a wide variety of other meetings. I, like my predecessors, have always thought it reasonable for me to use my office to meet all those it is necessary for me to meet in my role as a Party Leader, including those who give money to the Conservative Party. However, I can confirm, in response to your question in your further letter to me of 9 January, that members of the Leader's Group who see me in my office after Prime Minister's Question Time watch it on the television in my office beforehand, and are not given tickets to observe PMQs from the Gallery of the Chamber.

If you require any more information, I would be happy to assist in any way I can.

10 January 2007

6.  Letter to the Commissioner from the Rt Hon David Cameron, 9 March 2007

Thank you for your further letter of 5 March, regarding your inquiry into the complaint by Norman Baker MP about the use of my House of Commons office, and for enclosing a copy of the factual sections of your draft report. I welcome this further opportunity to put across my views.

In response to your specific question about the number of lunches of this kind I have held in my office, I can let you know that since I became Leader of the Opposition in December 2005, I have held 7 such lunches. I enclose a full list of when these lunches took place. I must also stress that, in addition to myself there are always other Members of Parliament present at these meetings.

I believe that, as Leader of the Opposition, it would be almost impossible for me to carry out my duties properly if I had to distinguish in the use of my office between Parliamentary business, matters to do with the wider functioning of the Opposition, and matters relating to the Conservative Party. The three activities are, in the case of the Leader of the Opposition, and on a lesser scale with all Members of Parliament, intertwined. It would be very difficult to operate any such distinction.

I fully accept, that for purposes such as the use of Short Money (as you mention in paragraph 13), it is possible to apportion costs in a way which reasonably reflects the use of my staff and other costs. But it would be very difficult, from a practical point of view, if I had to move back and forth between my Parliamentary office and offices outside Parliament as the business conducted in any particular meeting—or during the day—oscillates between Parliamentary, policy or political matters.

Any such ruling would mean that I, and other Members of Parliament, would be prevented from discussing such matters as, for example, Local Elections, Party Conference speeches and meetings, By-Election results, selection of candidates etc in our Parliamentary offices.

Many donors to the Party are also Party Officers and hold advisory positions. Distinguishing between their different roles when organising meetings would be very difficult.

As you note in both your letter of 19 December, and in your draft report (paragraphs 9, 20, and 25), and as Mr Baker also notes in his original letter of complaint, there is no specific rule relating to the use of Parliamentary offices. I, like my predecessors, have always assumed it is allowable for me to use my office to meet all those it is necessary for me to meet as Leader of the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition has a constitutional responsibility to organise the Opposition in all its forms. This includes meeting those who have made donations to the Conservative Party and to the functioning of the Opposition.

I am grateful for having this further opportunity to respond. I very much hope that in reaching your conclusions you will be ready to take account of the practical implications both for me, as Leader of the Opposition, and for other Members of Parliament, in carrying out our day-to-day work

Lunches held in David Cameron's Private Office

Please find below a list of lunches held in my Private Office, Norman Shaw South, with donors to the Conservative Party, since I became Leader of the Opposition in December 2005:

Wednesday, 8 March 2006

Wednesday, 26 April 2006

Wednesday, 24 May 2006

Wednesday, 11 October 2006

Wednesday, 1 November 2006

Wednesday, 22 November 2006

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

9 March 2007



 
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