Ms Dari Taylor|
1. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has
submitted a memorandum on the outcome of his investigation of
a complaint against Ms Dari Taylor, Member for Stockton South,
by Mr James Wharton, of Stockton South Conservatives. Mr Wharton
expressed his concern that in letters sent between August and
October 2007 Ms Taylor may have misused stationery and postage
provided by Parliament.
2. The Commissioner's memorandum is reproduced at
Appendix 1. It was sent to Ms Taylor for comment and her response
is reproduced at Appendix 2.
3. At the centre of this complaint is the question
of whether Ms Taylor's letters represented an allowable use of
Incidental Expenses Provision and of House of Commons stationery
and postage. However, as is clear from the Commissioner's memorandum,
different considerations apply to the six letters that were the
subject of the complaint. The Commissioner has therefore reached
separate conclusions in respect of each letter. He has also made
some general observations on the wider issues which this complaint,
and other, similar complaints have illustrated, to which we will
return in a later Report.
4. Of the six cases the subject of the complaint,
the Commissioner dismisses two and upholds a third only in part.
The Commissioner concludes that in three cases, official House
of Commons stationery provided by the House and pre-paid envelopes
were misused, and that in the fourth case, official House of Commons
stationery purchased by Ms Taylor was misused.
On the basis of the facts as set out in the memorandum, we
agree with the Commissioner's conclusions.
5. The Commissioner comments that "Not all these
breaches are of equal seriousness."
He states that, in his view, Ms Taylor's use of stationery funded
from the Incidental Expenses Provision and of pre-paid envelopes
to send identical letters to constituents following two 'street
surgeries' conducted by her and her constituency team represented
a more significant breach of the rules than did the two other
6. These were not the first occasions on which Ms
Taylor had misused pre-paid envelopes and stationery purchased
using the Incidental Expenses Provision. In April 2007, in response
to a complaint made to the Serjeant at Arms, Ms Taylor repaid
the cost of pre-paid envelopes and House stationery relating to
25 letters sent following a constituency surgery.
At the time, the House authorities provided advice to Ms Taylor,
drawing her attention to the rules concerning the use of House
stationery and pre-paid envelopes.
Although, as the Commissioner notes, the advice given to Ms Taylor
was not accurate in every respect, "it was made clear to
her by the House authorities that pre-paid envelopes should not
be used for 'common form' letters to residents she had met following
her street surgery." Ms Taylor nonetheless continued to use
pre-paid envelopes for such communications in at least two further
cases in August and September 2007, those being two of the six
cases the subject of the present complaint.
7. According to Ms Taylor, during her eleven years
in the House there have been four occasions in all when a complaint
has been made that she has broken the rules of the House on sending
mail to constituents. In Ms Taylor's opinion, these few breaches
of the House's complex andin her view"ambivalent"
rules show that as a hard-working constituency Member she has
tried her best to comply with them.
8. Ms Taylor does not suggest that she does not understand
the rules. We note that, although the Commissioner asked Ms Taylor
to comment on the advice given following the earlier incident,
and that, in particular, he invited her to tell him how she understood
the rules concerning use of pre-paid envelopes and why she understood
the use of such envelopes for her later correspondence to be permissible,
Ms Taylor did not comment on these matters.
9. Given the clear advice she received from the House
authorities in March 2007 concerning the use of pre-paid envelopes,
it is difficult to see why in August and September 2007 Ms Taylor
continued to use pre-paid envelopes to send correspondence which
was very similar to that in respect of which she had already been
found to be at fault. We agree with the Commissioner that "There
should have been no confusion
about the use of first-class
pre-paid envelopes for such communications."
10. Only approximate numbers of the circular letters
sent out in August, September and October 2007 are known. Ms Taylor
estimates that between 50 and 100 copies of these letters were
sent on each of the three occasions.
She also states that she sent about five circular letters following
'street surgeries' in a twelve-month period.
It is therefore possible that, in addition to the three circular
letters considered by the Commissioner, there have been other
examples of misuse of pre-paid envelopes and stationery. Ms Taylor
herself states in her letter (f) that "Three Saturday mornings
a month I visit different parts of my constituency listening to
concerns of people I represent
[and send] a letter to all
the people in the streets I visited
" and in her letter
(a) that she visits "some 250 houses during an on-street
11. In all four cases where the Commissioner has
upheld all or part of the complaint against Ms Taylor, he has
found that official House stationery bearing the portcullis symbolin
one case purchased by Ms Taylor, in the other cases provided through
the Incidental Expenses Provisionhas been misused. We
strongly deprecate the continued misuse by Ms Taylor of House
stationery for political purposes.
12. We are surprised that an experienced Member
has repeated previous breaches of the rules and has failed to
act in accordance with advice given by the House authorities.
We particularly regret the fact that Ms Taylor has continued to
dispute parts of the Commissioner's findings and we are very disappointed
that she has offered no apology. We conclude that Ms Taylor should
pay the House authorities the sum of £500 and submit an unequivocal
1 Appendix 1, paragraphs 72, 76 and 78. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 80. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 81. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 31. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 83. Back
Appendix 2; see also Ev pp 44, 55. Back
Ev pp 52-54. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 84. Back
Ev p 44. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 82. Back
Ev pp 41, 34. Back