Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Fourth Report

Appendix 3:

Letter from the Chairman of the Committee to Mr Derek Conway, 15 January 2008

At its meeting this morning, the Committee on Standards and Privileges had a first discussion of the memorandum submitted by the Commissioner in the light of his investigation of Mr Barnbrook's complaint against you relating to your employment of your younger son as a research assistant.

In the light of its discussion, the Committee asked me to extend to you a further invitation to give oral evidence before it decides how to dispose of this case in the light of the Commissioner's findings. If you choose to take up this invitation, the session will be held on Tuesday next, 22 January, at 9.45 am in Committee Room 13. As with all the Committee's evidence sessions on standards matters, it would be held in private, but the transcript would be published with the Committee's report.

The Committee has decided not to require you to give oral evidence if it is your preference not to take up this invitation. It will draw no inference from the fact that you have chosen not to do so.

Letter from Mr Derek Conway to the Chairman of the Committee, 16 January 2008

Thank you for your letter of 15th January. I do not seek to specifically come before the Committee, as I hope I have sufficiently covered the issues in my responses to Sir Philip's inquiry and my submission on his memorandum to the Committee. As you will have observed there is a considerable amount of evidence in this matter and I do not think that my attendance would assist the Committee. I understand from your letter that the Committee does not require oral evidence from me.

I have accepted personal error and offered apologies for my shortcoming in maintaining records and in the confusion between forms SA2 and SA3.

On the mathematics, I accept that the figure of £4620.90 is correct, if one treats it as a bonus only. I equated it in my mind as partly bonus and partly salary increase. The Committee I hope will bear in mind that, ironically, had I paid the maximum permitted salary, when in fact I paid him no increase in those years, he would have received a salary increase larger than the excess of the bonus payment.

I simply make this point to underline that the payments were within the permitted maximum limits overall and that the figures, including the excess bonus payment, could have been paid in a fashion that would not have given rise to this problem. I accept, however, my fault in how I handled this.

I realise I should have studied the Green Book and I hope the Committee will bear in mind that the payment of bonuses is widespread, as indicated by the latest circular letter from DFA (14 Jan 08 attached) which makes no mention of the 15% cap rule.

The question of the level of payment will rest with the Committee deciding whether the House should assess every salary paid to a Member's staff for "appropriateness" or whether the presently published grades scale is adequate. In this regard I am being judged retrospectively upon assumed information not available to DFA until a month ago and not made known to any Member. The retrospective aspect is, I believe, important. The contract which detailed matters such as Freddie's age and his responsibilities would not, I believe, have been accepted by the DFA if it was out of line with comparable contracts.

As I stated in my letter to Dr Ward of 14th January 2008, this part of the investigation is somewhat different to what was originally alleged. I hope the Committee will bear in mind that it is difficult to deal with in view of the limited material available to any Member about comparable salaries.

My contention that Freddie was paid 6% above the mid-point and well below the upper quartile of the lowest grade causes me to hope that the Committee resolves that no infringement of this provision applied.

Annex: Circular letter from the Director of Operations, Department of Resources, 14 January 2008

End of Year bonuses for Members ' staff

This letter is to let you know that following the practice of previous years, bonus nominations to Members' staff received after 14 February 2008 in respect of work done in the 2007-08 allowance year will be processed and paid in May 2008. This is in order for the Department of Resources to provide better certainty to Members on their spending and financial commitments and to manage effectively the large increase in payment requests at this time of year. Only in exceptional circumstances will bonuses be paid in March or April, for example, where a formal contractual commitment exists.

Bonuses held back and paid in May will be recharged to the 2007-08 allowance year. However, as in previous years, employers' national insurance contributions (ERNIC) for payments made after 5 April 2008 will be charged to the 2008-09 allowances unless you indicate to the contrary. If you would prefer other ERNIC arrangements to be made and you have the necessary funds, please confirm this in writing to the Validation Team at the address below and we will make the necessary arrangements.

If you have any queries or concerns please do not hesitate to call the Enquiry Team on extension 1340 or alternatively e-mail via

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