about misuse of Parliamentary Dining Facilites:
Comments on Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary Commissioner
Thank you for your letter of 22 March 2007, enclosing
a copy of the above Memorandum. I would be grateful if this letter
was submitted to the Committee for their consideration.
Generally, I welcome the Memorandum, but I would
invite consideration of three points.
1. Paragraph 182 a) recommends that events are "charged
for separately and not funded out of the subscription income of
a club". Many constituency-based clubs (such as the one I
inherited from my predecessor) originally felt that 'subscription
and no charge' better respected the spirit of the rules about
fundraising. However, the conclusion as it stands is logical in
the terms set out in the Memorandum and a welcome clarification.
2. Paragraph 182 d) may require clarification. When
does a "reference" become a "specific reference"?
If a reference (to events being held in the House) in the promotional
material is no more than a statement of fact, could this be construed
as "inducement"? Paragraph 182d appears to leave latitude
to make reasonable mention as a matter of information. The key
objective appears to be to ensure that access to House facilities
should not be advertised as a prime purpose or selling point of
the club in question. Is this what the Commissioner intends?
3. The manner in which the complaints were raised
and publicised is not justified by the Memorandum and I note the
conclusion reached at the end of paragraph 173. However, this
refers merely to the failure to notify Members being complained
Paragraph 5 notes that "Mr Mann issued a press
release" to publicise his complaint two days after writing
to the Commissioner. While politics is inevitably a rough game,
I would submit that this kind of publicising of complaints to
the Commissioner is rarely (if ever) justifiable in the public
interest. It causes considerable and frequently unwarranted distress
to those complained against, damages the reputation of Parliament,
and is contrary to the Code itself (paragraph 15)
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 therefore ask what action the Committee is planning
to take to ensure better enforcement of this aspect of the Code
in respect of the Commissioner's work.
I recommend for the Committee to amend its rules
and procedures, and if necessary, to recommend changes to the
Standing Orders of the House, to remove the temptation for Members
to use complaints to the Commissioner as a platform for publicising
attacks on other Members of the House. Any Member who causes a
complaint to be publicized in any way should be regarded as in
contempt of the House or as having committed a breach of Privilege.
He/she would be dealt with accordingly, perhaps resulting in suspension
by resolution of the House. This might also stem the flow of perhaps
vexatious complaints which take up unnecessary time and resources
of the Commissioner and his staff.
In addition, I recommend that the Committee should
act on the suggestion by the Commissioner in paragraph 195, as
this would also help remove the pretext for complaints against
individuals, when merely general rulings and guidance on the conduct
of members are being sought.
Thank you for your attention.