9. Responsibility for ensuring that an event at the
House conforms with the relevant rules rests with its Sponsor.
Although Sir George stepped in at a late stage to host the Basingstoke
event, he thereby assumed at least some of the responsibilities
of Sponsor when he did so. As paragraph 2.1 of the Rules in force
in 1999 (and of the current rules) says: "The Sponsor is
responsible for the cost and good conduct of the function, and
for ensuring that the terms and conditions of booking are complied
10. It would be prudent for a Member who steps in
to help a colleague in such circumstances to be sure that the
event is one they are happy conforms with the Rules. That said,
such a Member might reasonably be expected to assume that the
colleague who has initially sponsored the event has taken reasonable
steps to ensure, when he or she signed the relevant sponsorship
form, that the event complied with the regulations in force.
Sir George's involvement was limited to taking over from Mr Hunter
as sponsor for the duration of the event (which Mr Hunter would
have been obliged to cancel had he been unable to find a temporary
replacement who could attend). I do not think a Member who steps
in for a colleague as Sir George did can be held to carry responsibility
as the Sponsor of an event except for during the period when he
is acting as such.
11. However, the key point in relation to the complaint
against Sir George - and one which distinguishes it from all the
other complaints against Members named by Messrs Mann and Jones
- is that, whether or not the Basingstoke Patrons' Club as it
was run at that time conformed with the model described by Mr
Mann and Mr Jones in their complaint and summarised in paragraph
2 above, the rules in force in June 1999 did not prohibit the
use of the private dining rooms for fundraising - whether direct
or indirect - by a political party. Indeed, they were entirely
silent on that specific point. The Director of Catering Services,
with whom I have discussed this matter, concurs with this view.
The terms and conditions of membership at the time of the Basingstoke
Patrons' Club are therefore not relevant to the question as to
whether this function was properly sponsored.
12. There is one other aspect of the rules in force
in June 1999 which is relevant to an evaluation of the case.
Then (as now) the Banqueting Regulations prohibited the use of
the private dining rooms "as an inducement to recruit
new members of outside organisations or non-parliamentary associations".
I have discussed this aspect with Mr Hunter, who tells me that
he cannot recall the prospect of lunches at the House being held
out as an inducement to prospective members of his Patrons' Club.
The complainants have not presented any evidence to the contrary.
The function does not, therefore, appear to have breached this
provision, so there is no basis for me to conclude that it was
improperly sponsored on this ground. Nor in any event, for the
reasons I have set out in paragraph 10, can Sir George be held
responsible, in my view, for the manner in which the Basingstoke
Patrons' Club conducted itself, apart from conduct specifically
arising during the (it appears, very limited) time when he was
acting as sponsor in place of Mr Hunter at its lunch on 29 June
13. I have seen no evidence which suggests that this
function was organised for any purpose which was prohibited by
the rules of the House then in force or that its sponsorsMr
Hunter and, in respect of attendance at the function itself, Sir
George Youngfailed to comply in any respect with their
obligations under the rules in force at the time for hiring refreshment
rooms in the House of Commons for private functions. I have
therefore dismissed the complaint against Sir George.
14. I shall be reporting separately to the Committee
on the remaining complaints which, as I stated earlier, fall to
be considered on the basis of a different set of Banqueting Regulations.
Subject to any comments by the Committee, I propose to write today
to Messrs Mann and Jones informing them of my conclusion on this
specific complaint. For the sake of completeness in relation
to their complaint, the Committee may wish to consider attaching
this note when it publishes its report on the remaining complaints.
96 Not reported. Back
See EV 1, p. 64. Back
See EV 3, p. 66, and EV 4, p. 70. Back
This provides "It is a basic courtesy that a Member making
a complaint to the Commissioner should at the same time send a
copy of the letter of complaint to the Member concerned". Back