Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Third Report

Annex C: Letter from the Parliamentary Commissioner to Sir George Young, 7 December 2006

Complaint by John Mann MP and Kevan Jones MP

I have received a complaint from the above two Members in which you are named (along with several other Members). I am writing to inform you of the complaint and the evidence which has been given to me, and to invite your response.

A copy of the letter of complaint from Mr Mann and Mr Jones (dated 23 November) is enclosed.[100] You will see that the complaint focuses on the alleged misuse of House of Commons dining facilities to raise money for the Conservative Party. In particular it is claimed that certain dining clubs, including Patrons' Clubs run by a number of Conservative constituency associations, raise money for Party funds by offering their members the opportunity to dine in the House, in the case of Patrons' Clubs in return for an inflated membership subscription.

Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members provides 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."

The relevant rules relating to the use of private dining rooms at the House are to be found in the Banqueting Regulations. I have enclosed a copy for your convenience. I draw your attention in particular to Section 5, especially paragraphs 5.1, 5.3 and 5.5.

The letter of complaint from Mr Mann and Mr Jones was accompanied by a substantial file of supporting material. I am enclosing a copy of the material from the file which particularly relates to you. This consists of a copy of your constituency engagement diary for 1999, which on page 4 indicates that you hosted a Basingstoke Patrons' Club lunch at the House of Commons.

Based on this material, the essence of the complaint which Mr Mann and Mr Jones appear to be making against you is that Basingstoke Patrons' Club is a fund-raising device for the Basingstoke Conservative Association, and that the lunch you hosted at the House was not charged for at cost but was part of fund-raising for the party. The implication they make is that you thus breached paragraph 5.1 of the Banqueting Regulations, which provides that the private dining rooms (and by implication other dining facilities of the House) are not to be used for "direct financial or material gain by a…..political party."

As you know the Committee on Standards and Privileges has decided that it will not normally be appropriate for me to investigate a complaint that goes back more than seven years. Since, however, I understand the complaint against you is already public knowledge and the seven years passed only last summer, I think it appropriate to write and give you the opportunity to respond to the complaint. One matter it will be important to clarify is whether you actually sponsored (ie made the booking for) the lunch or whether you hosted it purely in the social sense.

In accordance with the procedures set out in the enclosed note,[101] I now invite your response to the complaint. As the outcome of the complaints I have received is likely to turn in part on the interpretation of the Banqueting Regulations to which I have already referred, I am seeking advice from the House's Director of Catering Services and the Clerk of the Administration Committee on the issues raised. I am also checking with them whether the Banqueting Regulations in force in 1999 were the same as are in force now.

I shall consider your response and their advice carefully before deciding how to proceed.

If you would like a word about the complaint, please do not hesitate to ring me on the number above.

100   EV1, p. 64. Back

101   Not printed. Back

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