Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fourth Report

 
 

 
Appendix 2:


Letter to the Clerk of the Committee from Mr Derek Conway, 14 January 2008

I would be grateful if you could submit this letter to Members of the Committee for consideration with Sir Philip's report.

Section (a) Could I draw the Committee's attention particularly to the Commissioner's conclusion that Freddie "was employed to meet a genuine need, as perceived by his father in helping him undertake his parliamentary duties" (para 66). I would in that regard point out that I had no other research assistant and that the Commissioner recognises that Members of Parliament work in different ways and have different needs. With regard to paragraph 65 (page 26 lines 3-4) I would like to make it clear that Freddie was not paid a salary to commute between London and Newcastle, nor was any travel claim made for him.

Section (b) Likewise I would like to draw attention to what the Commissioner concludes in (para 67) namely that Freddie "was able, in terms of his qualifications and skills, to do what was required of him".

Section (c) The Commissioner accepts that Freddie did do the work but has concerns as to how much he did during term-time. In paragraph 71 he notes that the work involved covered researching extracts, scanning newspapers and making cuttings. In paragraph 65 he comments that some of this work could have been done by the House Library staff. However, the Library staff have considerable pressures on their time and cannot in any event assist with marking up Parliamentary Bills which, as I explained in my statement to the Commissioner, was an important part of the work Freddie had to do in regard to my duties as a member of the Speakers Panel. He does, however, accept in (paragraph 66) that there is a great deal of discretion about staffing support. The issue is not, I would respectfully suggest, how it might have been done but how it was done. As indicated, the Commissioner accepts that Freddie had the appropriate intellectual skills to do the work. To that I simply add that he fully applied himself. My son had a deep interest in these matters which motivated him to conscientiously spend the time he and I described to the Commissioner.

His was a geography course with limited time demands in terms of lectures. Many students have part-time jobs, so Sir Philip's doubts about Freddie's capacity to do the work (page 28, line 7) is, I believe, wide of the mark. Freddie frequently travelled between Newcastle and London (never at public expense) and the journey is only 3 hours by train and 4.5 by car. As a young man he was doing a journey which many Hon. Members twice and three times his age travel on a weekly basis—or further.

Section (d) With regard to bonuses, in his first year no bonus was paid and in the subsequent years no salary up-rating applied. My error was in using form SA3 for one-off payments to reflect the combination of up-rating and bonus. I hope the Committee accepts that my error in which form to use was inadvertent and I accept that a proportion of those sums related to a bonus which exceeded the 15% maximum should be repaid.

What proportion of that £4620.90 should be repaid is a matter for the Committee's judgment. I hope the Committee will bear in mind that over the three year period the maximum of the DFA grade would have allowed for a total payment of £48137.79 combined salary and bonus and Freddie was paid £45163.29 salary and bonus which is £2974.50 below the maximum set by the House.

Unfortunately I had not read the Green Book provisions and I accept I was in error for which I apologise unreservedly.

In paragraph 75 Sir Philip expresses his reservations about salary level but does not refer to any breach of the rules. The figures upon which he bases his report were only made by DFA in December 2007 and were not available to Hon. Members.

The Director of Operations has explained to me that he expressed a number of qualifications in providing the figures and that, with regard to paragraph 76, they are based on an average of payments made to all lower grade staff across the UK and Northern Ireland. He offered Sir Philip an "arithmetic mean" but that was a higher figure and would have reduced the discrepancy between hypothetical assertion and actual salary paid to Freddie.

The issue of an appropriate level of payment is a somewhat different allegation from the original complaint. It is not an easy matter to deal with as Members do not have access to the analysis documents on which the Commissioner relies, nor can one get information as to comparable rates of payment as the information is necessarily confidential. That guidance is provided by the DFA annually in a table of employment grades showing a maximum permissible and minimum recommended. It is upon these published grades that I make this submission to the Committee.

Attached is a chart giving the maximum salary that could be paid, the middle of the scale and the actual salary paid, all the figures are pro-rata from the DFA 37.5 hour week to Freddie's contractual 17 hours.

This shows:

Column 1—the three year total as £41858.95 for the permitted DFA maximum.

Column 2—the figures £35097.35 being the actual payment made for the three years to Freddie.

Column 3—the figure of £32770.89 being the mid-point figure between recommended maximum and minimum salary figures.

Column 4—shows year by year that Freddie was paid £6761.60 and 16.95% less than the permitted DFA maximum (in column 1).

Column 5—Freddie was paid over three years £2326.46 and 6.63% more than the mid-point of the scale (in column 3).

The House does not stipulate the point within the grade to which Hon. Members appoint. If the Committee were to conclude, as Sir Philip has argued, that a middle point would have been more appropriate (though DFA had the forms giving his age and salary level and raised no objection to the point set within the scale) then this would have resulted in a salary overpayment of £2326.46 over three years.

In summary, were the Committee inclined to uphold Sir Philip's view on salary, then I would be judged against a scale not available to me and would call in to question the "appropriateness" of every remuneration point selected by Hon. Members for their staff.

I hope the Committee will conclude that actual salary payments to Freddie were well within the published grade, and therefore appropriately approved by the DFA and that no infringement of the rule applied.

F E Conway Salary Scale Analysis
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
YEAR
 
DFA

Max Scale
 
FEC

Actual
 
DFA

Mid-point
 
FEC Compared to Max
 
FEC Compared to Mid-point
 
2004
 
7762.29  6867.56 6077.90 - 894.73  789.66 
2005
 
13905.55  11772.96 10888.16 - 2132.59  884.80 
2006
 
14434.13  11772.96 11297.05 - 2661.17  475.91 
2007
 
5756.98  4683.87 4507.78 - 1073.11  176.09 
TOTALS:
 
41858.95  35097.35 32770.89  - 6761.60 +2326.46  
 83.05%   93.37% -16.95% +6.63%  

N.B. Figures based on DFA published scales, adjusted for the 37.5 hour week to FEC's 17 hour week.

DFA Guidance 2004

NB: Freddie started in September 04 making this a 7 month financial year so all scales are divided by 12 and multiplied by 7 for comparative analysis.

The standard DFA week of 37.5 hours equates to 1137.5 hours and Freddie's part-time 17 hour week to 515.67 hours.

DFA Pay Range Maximum  £17122.68    
Freddie hours equivalent    £7762.29 
DFA Pay Range MID-POINT     
   7762.29

4393.51-

3368.78

2÷

1684.39

4393.51+  

   
      £6077.90  

Freddie ACTUAL 
  
£6867.56 
Comparison:-     
 
Max Grade

7762.29

6867.56

-00894.73
 
 
Mid-Point

6077.90

6867.56

+00789.66
 
  

DFA Guidance 2005

NB: The standard DFA contract of 37.5 hours per week equates to 1950 hours per annum and Freddie's part-time 17 hours per week equates to 884 hours so for comparative analysis scales have been dived by 1950 and multiplied by 884.

DFA Pay Range Maximum  £30674    
Freddie hours equivalent    £13905.55 
DFA Pay Range MID-POINT     
   13905.55

7870.77-

6034.78

2÷

3017.39

7870.77+  

   
      £10888.16  

Freddie ACTUAL 
  
£11772.96 
Comparison:-     
 
Max Grade

13905.55

11772.96

-02132.59
 
 
Mid-Point

10888.16

11772.96

+00884.80
 
  

DFA Guidance 2006

NB: The standard DFA contract of 37.5 hours per week equates to 1950 hours per annum and Freddie's part-time 17 hours per week equates to 884 hours so for comparative analysis scales have been dived by 1950 and multiplied by 884.

DFA Pay Range Maximum  £31840    
Freddie hours equivalent    £14434.13 
DFA Pay Range MID-POINT     
   14434.13

8169.97-

6264.16

2÷

3132.08

8169.97+  

   
      £11297.05  

Freddie ACTUAL 
  
£11772.96 
Comparison:-     
 
Max Grade

14434.13

11772.96

-02661.17
 
 
Mid-Point

11297.05

11772.96

+00475.91
 
  

DFA Guidance 2007

NB: Freddie ended 3rd week of August 07 making this a 20 week year, so all scales are divided by 52 and multiplied by 20 for comparative analysis.

The standard DFA contract of 37.5 hours per week equates to 750 hours and Freddie's part-time 17 hours per week equates to 340 hours.

DFA Pay Range Maximum  £12699.23    
Freddie hours equivalent    £5756.98 
DFA Pay Range MID-POINT     
   5756.98

3258.59-

2498.39

2÷

1249.19

3258.59+  

   
      £4507.78  

Freddie ACTUAL 
  
£4683.87 
Comparison:-     
 
Max Grade

5756.98

4683.87

-1073.11
 
 
Mid-Point

4507.78

4683.87

+ 176.09
 
  




 

 
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Prepared 28 January 2008