Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


Appendix 1: Memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


Contents

  Page

  • Complaints against Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Mr Adam Price and Mr Hywel Williams  12
  • Introduction to the Complaints  12
  • The Complaints Themselves  13
  • Relevant Provisions of the Code of Conduct and the Rules of the House  14
  • Other Relevant Matters: the Electoral Commission and PPERA  15
  • My Inquiries  16
  • Mr Elfyn Llwyd  16
  • Mr Adam Price  17
  • Mr Hywel Williams  18
  • Comments by the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)  19
  • Response by Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams  21
  • Was the Publication of the Reports Coordinated?  23
  • Findings of Fact  26
  • Conclusion  27
  • (a) Content  27
  • (b) Timing of Publication  28
  • (c) Method of distribution  30
  • (d) Did what happened constitute party political campaigning?  31
  • Written evidence received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards  34
  • 1.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mrs Betty Williams, 26 April 2007  34
  • 2.  Letter to Mr Speaker from Mr Ian Lucas, 26 April 2007  35
  • 3.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Wayne David, 26 April 2007  36
  • 4.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Wayne David, 16 May 2007  36
  • 5.  Section 72 and parts of Schedule 8 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000  37
  • 6.  Letter to Mr Elfyn Llwyd from the Commissioner, 27 April 2007  39
  • 7.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 30 April 2007  40
  • 8.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 8 May 2007  41
  • 9.  Letter to Mr Adam Price from the Commissioner, 3 May 2007  41
  • 10.  Letter to Mr Adam Price from the Commissioner, 23 May 2007  42
  • 11.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 25 May 2007  42
  • 12.  Letter to Mr Hywel Williams from the Commissioner, 27 April 2007  44
  • 13.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 30 April 2007  45
  • 14.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 12 July 2007  45
  • 15.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 13 July 2007  46
  • 16.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 13 July 2007  47
  • 17.  Letter to the Commissioner from the Director of Operations, DFA, 9 August 2007  48
  • 18.  Letter to Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Mr Adam Price and Mr Hywel Williams from the Commissioner, 5 September 2007  48
  • 19.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 20 September 2007  49
  • 20.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 18 September 2007  49
  • 21.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 2 October 2007  50
  • 22.  Agreed Note of Meeting with Miss C, 11 October 2007  50
  • 23.  Agreed Note of Meeting with Mr D, 11 October 2007  52
  • 24.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 23 October 2007  53
  • Complaints against Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Mr Adam Price and Mr Hywel Williams

    Introduction to the Complaints

    1. Elections to the National Assembly for Wales were held on 3 May 2007. On 25 April 2007, Mrs Betty Williams (the Member for Conwy) sought to raise on a point of order her concerns about what she described as a "full-page campaigning advertisement for a Member of Parliament for the Welsh nationalists" which that day had appeared in the "Daily Post", a regional newspaper circulating in north Wales and adjacent areas.[31] Mrs Williams was subsequently advised by Mr Speaker that if she wished guidance, the way forward was for her to discuss the position with the House's Department of Finance and Administration (DFA); but if she wished to allege a breach of the House's rules, and so a misuse of a Parliamentary allowance, she should take the matter up with me.

    2. The following day Mrs Williams wrote to me expressing concern that Mr Elfyn Llwyd (the Member for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy) and Mr Hywel Williams (the Member for Caernarfon) had made inappropriate use of the newly-introduced Communications Allowance.[32] On the same day, Mr Ian Lucas (the Member for Wrexham) also wrote to me, enclosing a copy of a letter he had sent Mr Speaker objecting to advertisements placed by Mr Williams and Mr Llwyd in the "Daily Post" on 25 and 26 April respectively, and asking me to consider whether the two Members had breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct.[33]

    3. Mr Wayne David (the Member for Caerphilly) e-mailed me expressing similar concerns on 26 April. In his e-mail, he asked me to investigate the content and timing of the advertisements placed by Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, and to consider "intervening immediately so that no further advertisements are placed by Plaid Cymru before the Welsh Assembly elections".[34] In reply I advised Mr David that whilst I would consider his complaint, I had no power to intervene as he requested. If he considered that what had happened raised issues in relation to electoral law and what is permissible during an election period, he should contact the Electoral Commission.

    4. In addition to those placed by Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, Mr David mentioned in his letter advertisements placed by a third Plaid Cymru Member in the "South Wales Guardian", the "Llanelli Star" and the "Carmarthen Journal", and enclosed with his letter a copy of the "South Wales Guardian" for 25 April containing an advertisement by Mr Adam Price (the Member for Carmarthen East and Dinefwr). I therefore informed Mr David that I was treating his letter as a complaint against Mr Price as well as the other two Members. Mr David subsequently sent me a copy of the advertisements placed by Mr Price in the other two newspapers.[35]

    The Complaints Themselves

    5. In the following paragraphs I summarise the detail of the complaints made by Mr David, Mr Lucas and Mrs Williams against Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams, both individually and collectively.

    6. The essence of the complaint made against all three Members is that they have misused the Communications Allowance by using it to fund a publication which is party political and campaigning in nature. Against all three Members, it is alleged that:

    b)  The use of the Plaid Cymru logo in the advertisements is not proportionate and discreet.

    c)  The content of the advertisement includes inappropriate reference to devolved matters, and strays across the boundary from the Parliamentary into the party political.

    d)  The appearance of the Members' advertisements a week or so prior to the Welsh Assembly elections was not coincidental but a deliberate ploy designed to influence the outcome of those elections.

    e)  The distribution of the newspapers containing the advertisements was in excess of that strictly required if the objective was simply to inform each Member's constituents of what the Member had been doing on their behalf.

    7. In addition to these points of general application, it is also alleged that:

    i)  Mr Llwyd's advertisement twice makes inappropriate reference to action he has taken "together with colleagues in the Assembly".[36]

    ii)  Mr Williams's advertisement includes a questionnaire inviting readers to let him know what they think on a range of national and devolved policy issues.[37]

    iii)  Mr Williams's advertisement also claims that the Government is shutting the benefits and tax offices in Porthmadog and Bangor, the latter not being in Mr Williams's constituency but in that of Mrs Williams.[38]

    Relevant Provisions of the Code of Conduct and the Rules of the House

    8. Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct approved by the House on 13 July 2005 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."

    9. The advertisements placed by Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams all say that they have been funded by the House of Commons, two of them referring specifically to the Communications Allowance (CA). This new allowance (incorporating some of the former purposes of the Incidental Expenses Provision) became available to Members on 1 April. The purpose of the allowance is to help Members improve proactive communication with their constituents. Extensive guidance on the new allowance was circulated to Members at the time of its introduction.[39]

    10. The guidance includes a new section of the "Green Book" relating to the Allowance. Paragraph 6.1.1 says in relation to the scope and purpose of the Allowance:

    "The CA may only be used to help Members inform their constituents about what they have been doing and to consult them on issues of importance to them locally. It cannot be used to meet personal costs or the costs of party political activities or campaigning. The main areas of expenditure available from the CA are outlined below. It is each Member's responsibility to ensure that all expenditure funded by the CA is wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on their Parliamentary duties."

    Paragraph 6.2.1 on 'Principles and Propriety' says:

    "You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you - or someone close to you - is obtaining an element of profit from public funds; or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation. The content of any communications paid from the allowances must not seek to compare the Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents."

    11. The booklet of guidance issued to Members about the allowance also includes advice on the rules to be followed if a Member is using the CA to pay for producing a newsletter or other publication. Relevant provisions include:

    a)  "No party political or campaigning material is allowable in any part of a publication funded, wholly or in part, from the allowance" (paragraph 7).

    b)  "You must not use the Communications Allowance

    • to fund publications that promote, criticize or campaign for or against anyone seeking election.
    • To advance perspectives or arguments with the intention of promoting the interests of any person, political party or organisation you support, or damaging the interests of any other such person, party or organisation" (paragraph 15).

    c)  "The use of party logos, whilst not disallowed entirely, is restricted to proportionate and discreet use; alternatively you may prefer to use the House emblem (the Crowned Portcullis) as this reflects the Parliamentary nature and purpose of the material being circulated" (paragraph 16).

    d)  "The content of publications should not seek, directly or indirectly, to compare a Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputations of political opponents" (paragraph 23).

    e)  "Gauging public opinion on local issues is allowable. But surveys that seek opinions and views purely on national and international matters are unlikely to be acceptable" (paragraph 26).

    Other Relevant Matters: the Electoral Commission and PPERA

    12. As well as making complaints to me, a number of Welsh Labour Members also complained to the Electoral Commission about the advertisements issued by the three Plaid Cymru Members, suggesting that they constituted "campaign expenditure" as defined by Section 72 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA). I have appended the text of Section 72 and parts of the related Schedule 8 at WE5. It is relevant to note that Section 72(2) defines "campaign expenditure" as expenses incurred by or on behalf of a registered political party for election purposes. Section 72(4) defines "election purposes" as including not just promoting the election of candidates of the party but "otherwise enhancing the standing of the party" or its candidates in connection with future relevant elections, whether imminent or otherwise. In short, the definition in PPERA of what constitutes "campaign expenditure" is a broad one.

    13. On 28 September, the head of the Wales Office of the Electoral Commission wrote to the Member for Llanelli (one of those who had complained to the Commission) saying:

    "The Commission has made clear to Plaid Cymru that in our view, the costs of the advertisements should be included within the party's election campaign spending expenditure return, and we and the party are discussing this point among others with a view to agreeing final versions of the return - we are going through a similar process with the other parties involved in the Assembly elections.

    "As you know, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner has also been asked to consider the issues raised in relation to the current guidance on the use of the House of Commons Communications Allowance. We will of course want to take account of the Commissioner's views in deciding how to deal with such issues in the future."

    This was subsequently mistakenly reported in some sections of the media in Wales as meaning that Plaid Cymru must repay the cost of the advertisements to the House.

    14. The task of the Commission in adjudicating on complaints in relation to the application of PPERA is a separate and different one from my own in considering complaints that the rules of the House concerning the expenditure of Parliamentary allowances have been breached. The rules of the House relating to the Communications Allowance do not define what constitutes party political campaigning as comprehensively as PPERA defines "campaign expenditure", although the extracts I have quoted in paragraph 11 above indicate that there is a good deal of common ground. It is clearly important that Members should have in mind the provisions of Section 72 when considering the use of their CA, a matter to which I shall return later. However, the fact that the Commission has expressed the view set out in the preceding paragraph on the complaints made to it does not determine the outcome of the complaints made to me, to the consideration of which I now turn.

    My Inquiries

    15. Having set out the nature of the complaints against the three Members, the relevant provisions of the Code and rules of the House, and related matters involving the Electoral Commission, I now describe the result of the inquiries I made of each Member, including their response to the complaints.

    MR ELFYN LLWYD

    16. I wrote to Mr Llwyd on 27 April about the complaint by Mrs Williams.[40] Mr Llwyd replied on 30 April.[41] Mr Llwyd said that the whole of his publication had been approved by the relevant official in the DFA. Mr Llwyd's assistant had specifically checked whether there was any restriction on the timing of issue of such newsletters or advertisements by a Member. In an e-mail dated 25 April the official concerned had said:

    "Further to our conversation, I can confirm that there is no restriction as to when annual reports or adverts can be produced by an MP, other than during the dissolution period prior to a General Election.

    "Members are able to contact their constituents in the run-up to other elections (e.g. the Welsh Assembly) as long as the content meets the usual guidelines (i.e. no political or campaigning material). They should, however, exercise additional caution during these periods."

    17. Mr Llwyd further commented that:

    i)  The Plaid Cymru logo had been included in the draft sent to the DFA, which had been approved by the Department.

    ii)  He did not believe that the content of the publication breached the principles of the Allowance. It did not mention any political party or suggest a vote in favour of a particular party or individual.

    iii)  The reply from the DFA official quoted in the preceding paragraph indicated that the timing of the publication was acceptable.

    iv)  The "Daily Post" was the morning paper serving his constituency. Although its circulation went beyond the constituency, no local paper had a circulation confined to the constituency. Any other arrangement would have been more expensive, and the DFA had not objected to what had been done (indeed had said distribution was not of concern to them[42]).

    18. I subsequently shared with Mr Llwyd the complaints by Mr Lucas and Mr David. I have appended to this report Mr Llwyd's letter of 8 May in which he responds to those complaints in similar terms to his response to that by Mrs Williams.[43]

    MR ADAM PRICE

    19. I wrote to Mr Price on 3 May informing him of the complaint by Mr David,[44] and again on 23 May forwarding Mr David's subsequent letter of 16 May.[45] Mr Price replied on 25 May.[46]

    20. Mr Price rejected any suggestion that he had, or had intended to, contravene the House's rules. His staff had sought advice from the DFA in order to ensure that the requirements of the rules were met. Specifically:

    i)  He had been told (in terms similar to those quoted in paragraph 16 above) that timing publication during the Welsh Assembly election period was not a problem so long as the text did not include political or campaigning material.

    ii)  The use of the Party logo had been authorised by the DFA and was permissible under paragraph 16 of the guidelines about newsletters (see paragraph 11 (c) above).

    iii)  The entire text of his advertisement had been approved in advance by the DFA.

    iv)  Mr David's allegation that the text of the advert "bears an uncanny similarity to the issues in Plaid's manifesto in the Welsh Assembly elections" was entirely wrong. Most of the content was specific to his constituency, while the rest was not directly relevant to the Assembly election. It had not mentioned his party or suggested for whom people should vote.

    v)  Including an advert in a local paper was an approved means of communication with constituents. As to the circulation of the papers concerned, Mr Price continued:

    "My adverts appeared in the three main local newspapers that circulate in my constituency—the South Wales Guardian, the Llanelli Star and the Carmarthen Journal. None of these newspapers circulate exclusively within my constituency but also cover the Llanelli, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and Neath constituencies[47]. In the case of the Llanelli Star we requested that the advertisement be limited to the edition that covered my constituency but were informed by the publishers that an advert had to be carried in all editions of the newspaper."

    21. In relation to Mr David's suggestion in his letter of 16 May that Mr Price and the other two Members concerned had "clearly acted in a concerted way",[48] Mr Price said that he did not personally recall discussing this matter with Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, although he was aware of their intention to place advertisements in their respective local papers. The allegation that he had conspired to breach the Code was wholly unwarranted given his repeated efforts to ensure that what was being done was within the House's rules.

    MR HYWEL WILLIAMS

    22. I wrote to Mr Williams on 27 April about the complaint by Mrs Betty Williams and subsequently sent him copies of the complaints by Mr Lucas and Mr David.[49] Mr Williams replied on 30 April.[50] According to Mr Williams, he too had cleared the text of his advertisement with the DFA, making a number of minor changes in the process to ensure that the Department was content. The use of the Plaid Cymru logo had been approved in that process[51], as had the timing of the publication. The headings in the questionnaire at the end of his advertisement referred both to Westminster matters and to matters which were partly, but only partly, devolved. Many of the staff in the Bangor benefits office were in fact his constituents even though the office itself was not in the constituency. As to the means of circulation of the advertisement, the "Daily Post" was the most widely read local newspaper in Mr Williams's constituency. There was no newspaper that circulated exclusively in the constituency.

    Comments by the Department of Finance and Administration (DFA)

    23. Reflecting the key role of the DFA in the development and administration of the arrangements for the Communications Allowance, as well as in relation to these particular publications, I wrote to the Department seeking its comments on the complaints and on the responses of Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams. I have also discussed the issues raised with senior officials in the Department.

    24. The Department's Director of Operations told me that, while all three Members had intimated their intention to claim the cost of their respective publications from the Communications Allowance, to date only two invoices had been submitted, by Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, both of which had been paid.[52]

    25. The Communications Allowance had been introduced on 1 April, with, in some respects, a more permissive set of rules than previously applied to similar expenditure under the Incidental Expenses Provision (IEP). However, many of the rules and much of the guidance relating to the new allowance would have been familiar to Members, as there were many similarities with IEP arrangements, including the Department's procedures for receiving newsletters and reports prior to publication.

    26. The Director of Operations confirmed that all three Members had sought advice on the text of their reports prior to publication. In the case of Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams the text had been submitted as a Microsoft Word document. Mr Price had submitted his as a proof copy. All three Members had been offered suggestions for amending the text and all three had acted on them. Mr Llwyd and Mr Price had submitted a revised text, which the Department had approved. Mr Williams, however, had not submitted a revised text and it had subsequently become clear that he had made certain additions to his report as published (including the questionnaire at the end of it) that had not been seen in advance by the Department.

    27. The Director of Operations went on to say that, as regards the content of the three publications, he was satisfied that those of Mr Llwyd and Mr Price met the rules and guidelines for the new allowance. However the questionnaire added by Mr Williams to his advertisement or report did not, because, in the view of the Director, it was a survey about national or devolved (but not local) issues, of the sort that is precluded by paragraph 26 of the relevant guidelines (quoted in paragraph 11 (e) above). On this basis alone and subject to the outcome of my inquiries, the Department could not agree to meet any claim for reimbursement submitted by Mr Williams.

    28. On the use of the Plaid Cymru logo, the Director of Operations commented:

    "You will have gathered … that Mr Price was the only Member of the three to show the Department a proof copy of his report. The proof showed the logo as it would appear in the published version. We were content with Mr Price's use of the logo, which was considered to be discreet and proportionate. Using this yardstick, we also believe Mr Llwyd's use of logo is broadly acceptable. Mr Williams's publication has a larger and more prominent logo. I would personally question whether this was indeed discreet and proportionate, but any such judgement would be a fine one on which the House rules could fairly be interpreted differently."

    29. In respect of the timing of the publications in proximity to the Welsh Assembly elections, the Director of Operations pointed out that there is no bar on Members publishing newsletters in the run-up to a non-Westminster election, although "the tenor of the guidance given to Members is that care is needed".[53] Mr Price had acceded to a request, made with this in mind, to remove a picture of an Assembly Member. The Director did not consider that any of the three Members had acted contrary to the rules in this respect, therefore.

    30. However, in the Director of Operations' view, the method of publication and distribution of all three reports raised more difficult issues. The publication of the Members' reports to their constituents in the form of an advertisement feature in a newspaper was, generally, acceptable, although presentationally it did not give the report a distinct "look and feel". The apparently wide distribution of the reports, well beyond constituency boundaries, was more troubling. The Director continued:

    "Our working assumption in our review process is that distributions of reports and newsletters are confined as far as possible to the Member's constituency, recognizing that local newspaper circulation may well extend a little beyond a Parliamentary constituency boundary. My staff and I were surprised, therefore, to learn of the very wide circulation of the newspapers involved, especially as one Member made specific reference to us of the fact that his report would be distributed "via the local newspaper"."

    31. Finally the Director of Operations expressed a concern that:

    "… whilst we believed all three Members approached the Department independently, subsequent events might suggest that the timing and publication of the reports were, in fact, coordinated. Whether any such coordination was by the Members themselves, their Parliamentary offices or their political party I would not wish to speculate. However, I now consider there is a case to answer that taken together the reports were part of a campaign. The rules are clear that campaigning is not permitted, although campaigning itself is not defined in the rules. The proximity to the election also gives strength to the claim that this was to some degree a party political campaign, even though individually the reports were broadly non-party political. If proven, this would preclude reimbursement of the costs incurred."

    Response by Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams

    32. I informed each of the Members of the comments by the Director of Operations when sending them a draft of the factual sections of this report, and invited their observations.

    33. Mr Llwyd expressed surprise at the Director's comments.[54] He referred again to the fact that the "Daily Post" was the only daily newspaper in North Wales serving his constituency. His PA, who is also the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer, had discussed the manner and timing of distribution of his report to his constituents with the relevant official in the DFA. She had been advised that the use of a local newspaper was an acceptable method of distributing a report, and that if there was no newspaper which circulated exclusively in the constituency, the use of one which circulated more widely was acceptable. He had acted on this advice. It was therefore, he argued, unreasonable that he should now be criticised for having done so.

    34. Mr Llwyd also contested the concern expressed by the Director of Operations (described in paragraph 31 above) that the proximate publication of the three advertisements amounted to 'campaigning'. The relevant official in the DFA had approved the content of his publication and had also known of the intended publication of the reports by the other two Members, but had not raised any objection. The three publications had each been different, which, he submitted, also indicated that they were not part of a coordinated campaign. Having followed the advice he had been given to the letter, he was astonished that he was now being told he had a case to answer.

    35. Mr Price noted that the Director of Operations had not criticised the content of his advertisement.[55] Like Mr Llwyd, he insisted that all three newspapers he had used to distribute his report to his constituents had been chosen purely because they were the principal local newspapers covering his constituency. He rejected the notion that he had effectively conspired with the other two Members to subvert the rules of the CA for party advantage. His staff had checked with the DFA that publication of a report during a non-Westminster election period was acceptable, provided the report made no mention of Assembly candidates and did not contain campaigning material. The Plaid Cymru office in Westminster had confirmed that similar advice had been given to Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams.

    36. Mr Price said that he had made the decision to publish his report independently, had shown the full proof of it to the DFA, and had adopted the amendments suggested. The content of his report was not in any way party political. The coincidental publication of reports by Members of the same party could not in itself be a sound basis for accusing the Members concerned of having mounted a 'campaign', with the deliberate intention of diverting Parliamentary allowances for party purposes.

    37. In conclusion, Mr Price expressed concern that having acted in good faith on the advice he had been given, his integrity was now being questioned by other Members for what he regarded as party political reasons. If advice given by the DFA could not be relied upon, the CA would become a "minefield for all concerned", with the consequent possibility of vexatious complaints being made about Members which would only damage the reputation of the House.

    38. Mr Williams also replied on 13 July,[56] focusing on an explanation of why his publication had contained a survey, contrary to paragraph 26 of the guidance on the CA (see paragraph 11(e) above). The survey had been a late addition to his report, drawn up in ignorance of paragraph 26 and without reference to the DFA. Had Mr Williams known that it was unacceptable, he would have withdrawn it, as he had amended earlier drafts of the document to incorporate the DFA's comments. He accepted responsibility and apologised for what had happened. His breach of the rule was entirely unintentional and he would do his utmost to ensure a similar breach did not happen again.

    39. In the light of his experience, Mr Williams suggested that paragraphs 14, 15, 26 and 27 of the rules and guidance about newsletters be relocated together, so that it was clearer what sort of surveys were permissible in such publications.

    40. In view of the criticisms made by two of the three Members of the comments by the Director of Operations—including the alleged gap between what he had said to me and the advice given earlier by less senior officials in his Department—I invited the Director's further observations on these points. The Director of Operations emphasised the importance of the trust that needs to exist between Members and his staff. He continued:

    "Broadly, Members need to know that DFA staff are acting with full authority from me and the Head of Department. They must be confident that the staff involved in this work are experienced and sufficiently senior to do the job properly. Equally, my staff need to know in each case that all the facts will be put before them clearly and unequivocally so that their advice can closely match the circumstances. This is most easily done in the context of reviewing text, where in almost all circumstances Members provide the complete text on which we then offer comments. Photographs and captions can be more difficult because, apart from the Member, those in the photo are unlikely to be known to my staff. Distribution is also difficult because we are unlikely to know the geography of a constituency well.

    "In these three cases I am as confident as I can be that at no time were my staff provided with the full facts by the Members or their staff about the wide distribution that was planned. Nor were they directly told of the degree of coordination that was involved between the three Members or their offices. I am confident because had it been so, cautionary advice would have been provided to the Members and staff concerned. It is possible, therefore, that misunderstandings arose between my staff and those of the Members about what was to be inferred or implied from a number of conversations.

    "What this means in practice is that at no stage did a member of staff advise that distribution on the scale of that which took place was 'not an issue' for the Department (paragraph 2 of Mr Llwyd's letter)."

    In his letter of 23 October 2007 at WE 24, Mr Elfyn Llwyd has said that he, Mr Williams and Plaid Cymru staff all strongly dispute this assertion by the Director.

    41. In a further letter responding to Mr Price's of 13 July,[57] the Director of Operations explained the importance of the full facts being placed before his staff so that they could give Members accurate and comprehensive advice. He had not alleged that Mr Price had conspired to subvert the House's rules to gain party advantage or had deliberately diverted his allowances.

    "My point has always been that there appears to have been a degree of coordination in the publication of the three reports, that this occurred at a politically sensitive time in Wales, that this could be construed as a 'campaign' and that campaigning using the allowances is not permitted, although campaigning itself has not been defined in the rules. One man's sense of what constitutes a campaign may well not be another's."

    The Director confirmed that he stood by the advice the Department had offered throughout the case, though he was conscious how fine were some of the judgements involved, and shared Mr Price's concern to ensure that the systems employed to support the new CA worked effectively.[58]

    Was the Publication of the Reports Coordinated?

    42. Bearing in mind the Director's concern that publication of the three reports might have been coordinated, I met him and the senior officer in his department who had dealt with the reports (Mr B) in order better to understand the precise sequence of events which had led up to publication. I also made some further inquiries of the three Members concerned and subsequently spoke to the two members of staff in their respective offices who had handled the publications (Miss C and Mr D).

    43. As regards the Members, I wrote to each of them on 5 September asking for precise information on:

    i)  Who had drafted and approved the content of their report.

    ii)  Who had approved the timing of the report's publication.

    iii)  Who had placed the report in the media.

    iv)  How much each publication had cost.

    The text of my letter is at WE 18.

    44. Mr Elfyn Llwyd replied on 20 September.[59] His report had been drafted by Miss C, the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer, He had approved the content, which Miss C had previously checked with the DFA, before publication. Miss C had advised Mr Llywd to use his CA at the earliest opportunity in order to inform his constituents of the work he had done during the previous financial year. His staff had been assured by the DFA that it was not contrary to the House's rules for the allowance to be used during the National Assembly election period. Miss C had placed the report in the press based on the dates when space was available. The cost of the publication had been £5,169.82.

    45. Mr Adam Price said that his report had been drafted under his guidance by his press officer, Mr D.[60] He, Mr Price, had approved the content and decided on the timing of the report. He had wanted to get a report out as soon as possible covering the period of the previous financial year. He had delegated to Mr D the discussions with the publishers as to the precise publication date and the cost and format of the report. However he himself had decided on the method of distribution (that is, using a newspaper advertising feature) and Mr D's discussions had been carried out with his full knowledge and approval. The total cost of publication had been £5,471.49.

    46. Mr Hywel Williams replied on 2 October.[61] As with Mr Llwyd, the draft of his report had been prepared by Miss C, who had shown successive drafts up to and including the penultimate one to the DFA and to him for approval. Miss C had then added the survey previously mentioned, but had not sought his approval or the DFA's for this addition. He believed this was a genuine oversight on her part. Mr Williams said that the introduction of the CA had given him (and other Members) the opportunity to communicate directly and economically with a large number of constituents through inserting a report in the local press. He had decided to do so early in the financial year so that he could say what he had done over the previous year, while retaining the possibility of issuing a further report later on in the present financial year. Miss C had been assured by the DFA that issuing the report at the time of the National Assembly elections was not a problem. Miss C had made the arrangements for placing the report in the press, at a total cost of £5,170.14.

    47. My conversations with Miss C and Mr D (agreed notes of which are at WE 22 and 23) and with DFA officials broadly confirmed what the three Members had told me. The key points to emerge from my conversation with Miss C were:

    i)  Miss C had had the idea of Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams producing an annual report early in the financial year, following the introduction of the new Communications Allowance. She had also advised that it should be distributed as an insert in a newspaper as this would reach more people. Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams had reacted positively to her suggestions.

    ii)  She had checked with the DFA whether there was any bar on issuing reports during an Assembly election and if two reports could be issued at the same time. She had also checked with the Department the proposed content of the two publications, including the proposed inclusion of party logos, and the intended method of publication through a newspaper insert.

    iii)  Miss C acknowledged that she had thought there might be some general advantage to Plaid Cymru in producing the reports during the Assembly election period but denied that she had been seeking any specific campaigning advantage. The reports had concentrated on the record of the two Members concerned and had neither praised their party nor denigrated others.

    iv)  Except in relation to the addition of the survey to Mr Williams's report, at all times she had acted under the direction of the two Members.

    v)  Whilst she had become aware that Mr Price was planning to produce a report in the same fortnight as Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, she had not herself discussed the plans of the two Members for whom she had worked on this matter with anyone in Mr Price's office.

    vi)  Had she known that there were any legitimate grounds for criticism of her actions, she would not have gone ahead with publication. She had checked every aspect with the DFA except the questionnaire she had added to Mr Williams's report, an oversight she greatly regretted.

    48. Mr D said that he had produced Mr Price's report under Mr Price's direction. Mr Price had conceived the idea of publishing a report and the method of its publication, and it had been Mr Price's decision to proceed. Mr D had discussed the proofs of the report with Mr B in the DFA. The timing of publication had been determined by Mr Price's wish to publish a report as soon as possible after the start of the financial year and thereafter by practical considerations, such as the availability of space in the chosen newspapers. While he had discussed all aspects of the project with Mr Price, he had not at any point discussed it with Miss C, although he had checked the issue of timing with another member of staff in the Plaid Cymru Westminster office, Mr E, who had assured him that publication of the report during an election campaign was acceptable to the House authorities provided the content of the report was not party political or campaigning in nature.

    49. With the one exception I have noted earlier (see paragraph 40 above), DFA officials confirmed the account Miss C and Mr D had given me of their contacts with the Department. In particular they confirmed that, although neither they nor Miss C had any written record of this, the question of timing of the publication of the reports during an election campaign had probably been discussed between Mr B and Miss C before their further discussion of the matter on 25 April (the day on which Mr Williams's report had been published). Mr B also confirmed during my conversation with him that he had seen the approaches about the reports which he had received from staff of the three Members concerned as being discrete, not linked. He had certainly responded to them in that way, partly no doubt because they were simply three among many draft reports he was processing at that time.

    Findings of Fact

    50. On 25 and 26 April 2007, a week or so prior to the elections to the National Assembly for Wales, Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams published newsletters or reports to their constituents in the form of an advertising feature, in English and Welsh, in the main, local or regional newspapers circulating in their constituencies. In the case of Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams, the publication has already been funded from the Communications Allowance, pending the outcome of this current complaint; Mr Price has intimated his intention to seek similar reimbursement.

    51. All three Members had sought advice from the Department of Finance and Administration before publishing their reports. All three had been offered suggestions for amendment, and all three had acted on those suggestions. Mr Llwyd and Mr Price re-submitted their amended text, which was approved by the Department. Mr Williams, however, did not. Rather, Miss C, the member of staff who had worked on his report (and on that of Mr Llwyd) added text to the draft after it had been seen by the Department. The Department believes that, as far as the content of the three publications is concerned, this additional material (in the form of a survey)—which Mr Williams alone included in his report—was in breach of the guidelines on publications funded by the Communications Allowance.

    52. Although the same guidelines hint at the need for particular care in relation to publications timed during an election period, they do not prevent the publication of reports during such a period. Nor, in the view of the Department, was the chosen method of publication of the reports—as an advertisement feature in a newspaper—inappropriate or unusual.

    53. However, in all three cases the distribution of the reports went significantly wider than the boundaries of the constituencies of the Members concerned, and wider than the DFA had appreciated. The Members argue that in each case, the extent of distribution was dictated by the fact that there is no single local paper that covers their constituency alone,[62] and that were they to have tried to limit circulation, any other arrangement would have been more expensive. The DFA has also expressed concern that the timing and manner of publication of the reports was coordinated, with a view to gaining some party advantage. The three Members, however, deny this, pointing out that the relevant DFA official had known of the publication of all three reports and had not raised objection. The staff of the Members who, under the Member's direction, managed the production and publication of their reports, also deny any collusion.

    Conclusion

    54. The complaints against the three Members centre on the content, timing of publication and method of distribution of their reports. I examine each of these elements in turn.

    (A) CONTENT

    55. There is one respect in which the content of the newsletter or report issued by one of the Members clearly broke the rules for Communications Allowance-funded publications. This is Mr Williams's inclusion of a questionnaire which invited his constituents' views on matters of UK national and Assembly policy. This was a breach of paragraphs 26-27 of the guidelines on producing newsletters and other publications from the Communications Allowance (CA). Mr Williams says that the questionnaire was a late addition by a member of staff unfamiliar with the rules. He has accepted responsibility and apologised for its inclusion, as has Miss C, the member of his staff concerned. It appears that this breach of the House's rules was inadvertent. Nonetheless it was a straightforward breach. I therefore recommend that in this respect the complaint against Mr Williams be upheld.

    56. Additionally, the complainants argue that the reports produced by all three Members include inappropriate reference to matters devolved to the Welsh Assembly and cross the boundary from the Parliamentary to the party political. There is no bar on Members communicating with their constituents on matters devolved to the Assembly. Although their inclusion in a newsletter in the immediate run-up to the Assembly elections might be seen as an attempt to build support for Plaid Cymru candidates, I do not think the two references by Mr Llwyd to action he had taken "together with colleagues in the Assembly" are wholly inappropriate. Constituents do not focus on bureaucratic boundaries and they are entitled to know that their MP is working with others on problems which both may be in a position to help resolve. On the other hand, I notice that, under the heading 'Iraq', Mr Llwyd says:

    "We have led the campaign against the Prime Minister over his actions in the lead up to the war in Iraq. We continue to be at the forefront of calls for a full Parliamentary inquiry into the war."

    The "we" referred to in this context can only be Plaid Cymru or, more narrowly, its Westminster representatives. As to the content of Mr Williams's report, on balance I find Mr Williams's explanation as to why he referred to the threatened closure of a benefit and tax office in Mrs Williams's neighbouring constituency plausible. To sum up my view on the matters to which I have referred in this paragraph of my report, none of them is sufficient individually to sustain a complaint. Their significance—and any perceived difficulty over the content of the three reports in these respects—in my view lies more in the timing of their publication close to the Assembly elections than in the actual content itself.

    57. One other aspect of the content of the reports is less easily disposed of. That is the prominent use of the Plaid Cymru logo, together with the party's colours of yellow and green, in the three reports. Again the use of party logos and colours is not prohibited by the House's present rules, although the guidelines on publications funded from the CA urge discretion:

    "The use of party logos, whilst not disallowed entirely, is restricted to proportionate and discreet use; alternatively you may prefer to use the House emblem (the crowned portcullis) as this reflects the Parliamentary nature and purpose of the material being circulated."[63]

    58. I would not personally describe the use of the Plaid Cymru logo in any of the three reports (particularly that of Mr Williams) as "discreet". When combined with the timing of their publication in the middle of the Welsh Assembly election campaign, it would not be surprising if anyone reading the reports should see them as primarily Party rather than Parliamentary in character. However, what constitutes the "proportionate and discreet" use of a party logo is a matter of opinion; the test is a subjective rather than an objective one. Comparing the use of the Plaid Cymru logo in these three cases with the use of different party logos by other Members, it does not seem to me that it falls outside the range of common practice by Members. I note that my views on this aspect are congruent with those of the DFA. I do not therefore recommend upholding the complaints on this ground.

    59. That said, I believe there is a very real question as to whether what happened in these three cases in relation to the use of a party logo, and what I have seen evidenced in others, should be regarded as acceptable. I believe that what constitutes acceptable practice in this area should be reviewed. I intend to return to this issue in a later report.

    (B) TIMING OF PUBLICATION

    60. I suspect that the complaints about the content of the three reports would not have been so strident if they had not been published in the middle of the elections to the National Assembly for Wales. I turn now to consider the timing of the reports' publication.

    61. The reports were all published a week or so prior to polling in the Assembly elections. As the Director of Operations in the DFA has pointed out, although paragraph 17 of the guidance on publications funded from the CA says that care should be taken close to an election in respect of the publication of photographs of Members wearing party rosettes, nothing in the guidance prohibits Members publishing newsletters in the run-up to a non-Westminster election. Staff had checked this point with the DFA on behalf of the Members concerned and had been specifically advised of the absence of any such restriction, although the DFA official giving the advice had added (reflecting the spirit of paragraph 17):

    "They [Members] should, however, exercise additional caution during these [election] periods."

    62. The three Members broke no clear rule of the House therefore in issuing their reports when they did. All three Members took care to consult the DFA on the timing as well as the content of their publication. Mr Llwyd and Mr Price have both resisted strongly any notion that the near-simultaneous publication of the three reports was part of a concerted plot to extract party advantage from the use of the new Communications Allowance. Mr Price says[64] that while he knew of the intention of the other two Members to place advertisements in their respective local newspapers, he does not recall discussing the matter directly with them. The staff of the Members concerned—Miss C and Mr D—deny discussing with each other the arrangements they were making for the publication of the reports of Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams (Miss C) and Mr Price (Mr D) respectively. On the other hand Miss C (the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer) handled the arrangements for producing the reports of two of the three Members and was aware that the third, Mr Price, planned also to produce a report in the same fortnight.[65] It seems clear that, whatever the state of knowledge of the three individual Members, the Plaid Cymru organisation at Westminster was well aware of what was happening, although Miss C denies any decision to concert publication of the reports.[66]

    63. Mr Llwyd and Mr Price point out that DFA officials were also well aware of the three planned publications, and could have raised objection but did not do so. The Members therefore proceeded, they contend, in good faith. They also point out that banning the coincidental publication of newsletters by Members of the same party could require considerable coordination by the DFA, and adversely affect those parties with fewer Members whose constituencies are drawn from the same broad geographical area.

    64. I do not myself think the primary mischief, if mischief there was in this case, arose from the near-simultaneous publication of the three reports. Rather it arose from their publication so close to the Assembly election. What happened raises the question of whether Members should be barred from circulating publications funded from Parliamentary allowances within the period of campaigning for elections to non-Westminster bodies. (There are already restrictions on publications in the run-up to a Parliamentary election.) I propose to consider this matter in a later report.

    (C) METHOD OF DISTRIBUTION

    65. The DFA's Director of Operations has expressed concern about the wide distribution of the three Members' reports, going well beyond their constituency boundaries. Although, he says, publishing a report in the form of an advertising feature in a local paper is acceptable, the assumption the Department has had in mind in regarding it as an acceptable practice has been that, by and large, distribution will be confined within the boundary of the constituency of the Member concerned.

    66. In the case of each of the Plaid Cymru Members, distribution went well beyond their constituencies. The Members say that this reflected the fact that no local newspaper circulates solely in their respective constituencies. Mr Llwyd also asserts that the relevant DFA official told both Miss C and another Plaid Cymru official who enquired about the point that it was not an issue for the Department if the newspaper chosen crossed boundaries into other constituencies, if there were no papers circulating entirely in the Member's own constituency. The Director of Operations disputes this interpretation of what was said. He insists that his staff were not informed of the extent of distribution planned.

    67. Inquiries made by the Registrar of Members' Interests on my behalf have confirmed that there is no daily paper which circulates exclusively in the constituency of either Mr Llwyd or Mr Williams. There are weekly publications, some of which overlap, and others which have at least some extra-constituency publication. Miss C says that she advised Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams to publish in a daily paper because the local weekly papers were not widely read and she believed that using a daily paper would reach more people.[67] She realized that the local daily paper circulated well beyond the two Members' constituencies but from her contacts with the DFA she believed (erroneously, according to the Director of Operations)[68] that this was not a problem.[69]

    68. Mr Price placed his report in three weekly (not daily) local papers. He says that while none of these circulates exclusively in his constituency, they are the three main local newspapers that do circulate in his constituency. In the case of the Llanelli Star, he tried to limit publication to the edition that covered his constituency but was told by the publishers that this was not possible.[70] Inquiries of the paper by the Registrar have confirmed this.

    69. The question I am left with is why all three of the Members concerned felt that publication of their report by means of an advertising feature in the appropriate daily or weekly paper was the right option for distributing it. The evidence suggests that they believed this would enable them to reach most people and be most cost-effective. I have doubts, however, as to whether their arguments in this latter respect are well-founded. For example, Mr Llwyd suggests[71] that to have used two weekly publications rather than the one daily would have doubled the cost of publication. Whether this is in fact true would depend on the relative rates charged by each paper. There are also other means of publishing such reports which are regularly employed by Members (including Members with geographically dispersed constituencies). According to information given me by the DFA, the average cost of publishing a report in leaflet form and having it delivered by the Royal Mail or some other distribution company is around half the cost incurred by each of the Members involved in this case. Knowing that the resulting distribution would go well beyond their constituency boundaries in the middle of an election campaign, it is difficult to conclude that the fact that all three Members chose the options they did was merely coincidental.

    (D) DID WHAT HAPPENED CONSTITUTE PARTY POLITICAL CAMPAIGNING?

    70. It will be clear from what I have said so far that, with the exception of the survey included in Mr Williams's report, I do not think the content of any of the three Members' reports clearly breached the rules of the House. Nor did the three Members break any rule of the House in issuing their reports when they did, or in choosing the method of distribution they did. Nevertheless the question remains whether, putting all the circumstances together, what happened constituted a breach of paragraph 6.1.1. of the Green Book relating to the use of the Communications Allowance, which says that the allowance cannot be used to meet "the costs of party political activities or campaigning".[72]

    71. As I have already noted,[73] the rules of the House do not comprehensively define what constitutes party political campaigning. However they do make it clear that promoting any party or person at the expense of another, or criticising anyone to the benefit of another would constitute campaigning activity (see the extracts from the guidance on the CA quoted at paragraph 11 (b) and (d) above). It was clear from my conversation with Miss C (who played a major role in the production of two of the reports) that she was aware of the need to avoid campaigning in this sense and convinced that, because neither of the reports included such material, they were therefore not campaigning in nature.[74] This view is clearly shared by all three of the Members concerned in this case.

    72. In my view, however, there is another aspect to campaigning, which is not the "hard selling" of particular candidates or policies but the "softer sell" involved in raising the profile of a party or its activities as an election approaches. Miss C acknowledged that she had in mind the possible advantage to Plaid Cymru in the reports of Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams appearing at the time of the Assembly election campaign. It was because she was aware of this and the possible adverse reaction from other parties that she was so careful to check with the DFA what was permissible.[75] I cannot believe that all three Members, having been told that there was no bar to what they were intending to do, were unmindful of the potential advantage to their party of raising the profile of what they had been doing as Members, and therefore the profile of Plaid Cymru, at this electorally sensitive time.

    73. When I put together the coincidental timing and manner of distribution of the three reports I am left, like the DFA's Director of Operations, with the distinct feeling that, although none of the individual actions by the three Members clearly broke a specific rule of the House (with the exception of Mr Williams's inclusion in his report of an inappropriate survey, see paragraph 55 above), and although they were careful to seek advice from the DFA (Mr Williams and the survey again being the exception) and to act on it, the result of the Members' actions taken as a whole was a breach of the spirit of the rules relating to publications funded from the CA, and of the prohibition on the use of that allowance for party political or campaigning purposes. I say that not because I regard the written content of the newsletters as clearly party political in character (although in some respects it verges on being so), but because their widespread publication using party logos and colours a week before a close-fought Assembly election campaign was bound, in my view, to enhance the electoral profile and claims of Plaid Cymru generally across a far wider area than the specific constituencies to which the reports were notionally addressed.

    74. To conclude, while I am sure that the Committee will want fully to have in mind when assessing whether any penalty should be imposed on the three Members the fact that (with the exception of Mr Williams's survey) they were very careful to seek and follow the DFA's advice in relation to their reports, I recommend that the complaints against Mr Llwyd, Mr Price and Mr Williams be upheld on the grounds that, taking together the proximity of the publication of the reports in relation to the Assembly elections and the extensive manner of their distribution, the effect of the reports as a whole was to constitute campaigning and therefore to breach paragraph 6.1.1 of the Green Book. The complaint against Mr Williams should also be upheld on the separate and specific ground that his report included a survey of a prohibited character. As I have already noted, Mr Williams has apologized for the inadvertent inclusion of this survey.

    75. Whatever the Committee's conclusion about whether or not to uphold the complaints, I believe that the experience of these cases points to the need for further consideration of the rules on the CA, in respect in particular of:

    i)  the publication of Parliamentary reports or newsletters during a non-Westminster ( i.e. devolved parliament or assembly and local government) election campaign, and

    ii)  the use of party logos and colours in such publications.

    It is also important that Members are aware of the potential implications of section 72 of PPERA when considering these matters.

    76. I understand that the Members Estimate Committee plans to review the CA rules a year or so after their introduction. I intend to make specific recommendations on the above points in a further report for consideration in the context of that review.

    6 November  Sir Philip Mawer

    Written evidence received by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

    1.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mrs Betty Williams, 26 April 2007

    I am concerned whether the Members for Caernarfon and Meirionnydd Nant Conwy have made inappropriate use of the Communications Allowance and should be grateful for your ruling.

    In the Daily Post, Wales newspaper on 25 April a two-page advertisement appears in the name of Hywel Williams MP for Caernarfon. A copy of each page is enclosed, very slightly reduced in size from the original. As the copies are taken from faxes the colours are not accurately represented. The third sheet shows more clearly the top centre logo and party description. The advertisement covers several local and national policy issues, including an invitation to readers to comment and respond to matters such as health and education which are specifically devolved to the National Assembly for Wales. The advertisement contains the statement "This communication was funded by the House of Commons". I wish to ask whether it is appropriate conduct for a Member to utilise the Communications Allowance in such a way, highlighting matters that are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, not least during the course of an election to that institution. The timing of this advertisement is, I believe, designed to impact upon elections to the National Assembly on 3 May.

    A further advertisement appears in the same newspaper on 26 April in the name of Elfyn Llwyd MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy. Copies are enclosed and further reference is made to that later in this letter.

    Mr Williams' advertisement is headed by a prominent Plaid Cymru logo of daffodil and words. Yet Communications Allowance guidance (April 2007) available to all Members and to members of the public and party officials clearly states in Appendix Two Section 16:

    "The use of party logos, whilst not disallowed entirely, is restricted to proportionate and discreet use".

    There is nothing proportionate or discreet in the use of the Plaid Cymru logo in this advertisement, and the prominence of the party logo is clearly designed to politicise the advertisement.

    The advertisement contains the statement "I'm outraged that the Government is shutting the benefits and tax offices in Porthmadog and Bangor". Bangor is not in Mr Williams' constituency. It is in the constituency of Conwy which I represent. The statement itself is not borne out by any government pronouncement or policy.

    As to the advertisement of 26 April in the name of Mr Elfyn Llwyd this too has a prominent Plaid Cymru logo. At the foot the advertisement reads, "This communication is funded by the House of Commons Communications Allowance".

    I believe that the appearance of two such advertisements on consecutive days reinforces my view that the purpose is to influence voting intentions at the Assembly elections on 3 May.

    Section I.7 of the Communications Allowance guidance states:

    "Parliamentary resources may not be used for communicating information about your political activities or those of the party to which you belong"

    and I question whether these advertisements follow that guidance.

    In Appendix One, section 6.2.1 on Principles and Propriety states: "You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you—or someone close to you—is obtaining an element of profit from public funds, or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation. The content of any communications paid from the allowances must not seek to compare the Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another, or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents". I believe the advertisements depart from these principles.

    The distribution of this newspaper can not be regarded as purely "local" to the Member concerned as it covers the whole of North Wales. The circulation in either Member's constituency is a minor part of the full circulation of this daily newspaper. I am led therefore to ask whether these Members are not using the communications allowances to communicate most effectively with their constituents, but rather, to communicate with a wider audience on behalf of Plaid Cymru. If so I ask whether this is an appropriate use of parliamentary allowances.

    I am aware that the Communications Allowance is designed to assist Members in their communications with their constituents. I note that the guidance is quite clear, stating (section 3.1) "The Communications Allowance is for the specific purpose of communicating proactively with your constituents". Yet these advertisements are much more than communications with constituents. Whether intentional or inadvertent, the timing (in the final stages of an Assembly election), the content (including devolved and political campaigning matters, and prominent Plaid Cymru logo), and choice of newspaper (far beyond the constituency circulation) can be seen as an attempt to influence the outcome of an election to a devolved institution.

    I therefore seek your guidance on this matter, and request that, if necessary, any appropriate action be taken.

    As this matter has implications for imminent claims and/or election expenses I am writing in similar terms to Mr A, Director of Finance and Administration.

    26 April 2007

    2.  Letter to Mr Speaker from Mr Ian Lucas, 26 April 2007

    I write to object to the use of the House of Commons Communications Allowance by the above Members [Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams] in newspaper advertisements in the Daily Post on Wednesday April 25 and Thursday April 26. I enclose copies of the advertisements for your information.

    I object on a number of grounds:

    1.  Both advertisements were placed in the immediate run-up to the Election for the National Assembly for Wales eight and seven days before polling day respectively. To my knowledge, no such advertisements have been placed by these Members in this newspaper before, notwithstanding the previous availability of the Incidental Expenses Allowance to fund legitimate communications. I suggest that the advertisements were deliberately timed by Plaid to influence voters in the run up to that Election. I note that publication was co-ordinated by Plaid on successive days.

    2.  That the advertisements are published for Party advantage and campaigning is supported by the prominent use of the "Plaid" party logo at the head of each advertisement. Paragraph 16 of Appendix Two of The Communications Allowance and the use of House stationery (April 2007) states "The use of party logos, whilst not disallowed entirely, is restricted to proportionate and discreet use". The use of the logo in the advertisements is neither proportionate nor discreet.

    3.  Neither advertisements are directed to constituents of the above Members specifically. Rather, they are general in their content, referring exclusively to general issues which apply equally to constituents and non-constituents. This breaches the Principle in Paragraph 6 of the above guidance which states: "The purpose of the publication must be to inform constituents about your work as a Member…". The Daily Post newspaper covers ten North Wales Parliamentary constituencies and these communications cover all those, with additional expense borne by the taxpayer of more widespread publication.

    4.  The advertisement by Elfyn LIwyd MP refers specifically to the work of general "colleagues in the Assembly" in the paragraph. In the context of the three paragraphs above, and in particular the timing and obvious use of the Plaid logo, this tends to canvas support for Plaid Assembly Candidates for the National Assembly.

    I believe that all Members of Parliament are brought into disrepute by use of the Communications Allowance in this way.

    I would be grateful if you could please consider these matters urgently and, in particular, prior to the Assembly Election on May 3rd. For the future, please issue guidance for use of the Communications Allowance in pre-election periods.

    26 April 2007

    3.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Wayne David, 26 April 2007

    I write as a matter of urgency on an extremely important issue.

    Yesterday and today two double page advertisements have appeared in the 'Daily Post', a newspaper which circulates right across North Wales.The advertisements have been placed by Hywel Williams, Plaid Cymru MP for Caernarfon, in the first instance, and by Plaid Cymru MP for Meirionnydd Nant Conwy, Elfyn LIwyd. The total cost of these advertisements, I am told, is £17, 860 including VAT. The advertisements indicate that they have been funded by the House of Commons Communications Allowance.

    My concerns are as follows:

    1.  These advertisements have been placed in the Daily Post one week before the Welsh Assembly Elections and when postal votes for those elections have already been sent out. There can be absolutely no doubt that these advertisements are a blatant attempt to influence voters in the run up to the Welsh Assembly elections.

    2.  These advertisements appear to contradict the Parliamentary Rules for the use of the Communications Allowance in a number of respects;

    The use of the Plaid Logo is hardly "discreet".

    The advertisements are not targeted on the respective constituencies of the Members concerned, but are clearly addressing a wider audience.

    The points referred to in the advertisements bear an uncanny similarity to the issues in Plaid's manifesto for the Welsh Assembly elections and reference is made to the Welsh Assembly on at least one occasion.

    I understand that another Plaid Cymru MP has placed advertisements in the 'South Wales Guardian', the 'LIanelli Star' and the 'Carmarthen Journal'.

    During the last week of the Welsh Assembly election these advertisements have become a major issue in the campaign and I am, like many other Welsh MPs, very concerned that the reputation of the House of Commons is being badly damaged by these advertisements. I would therefore ask you to investigate fully the content of these advertisements and their deliberate placing in newspapers in an attempt to influence the outcome of the Welsh Assembly elections.

    However, I would also respectfully ask that you give consideration to intervening immediately so that no further advertisements are placed by Plaid Cymru before the Welsh Assembly elections.

    26 April 2007

    4.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Wayne David, 16 May 2007

    Thank you for your letter of 3 May concerning the complaints I have made against Elfyn Llwyd MP, Hywel Williams MP and Adam Price MP.

    Following your request for more information please find enclosed copies of the advertisings placed in the Carmarthen Journal on 25 April and in the LIanelli Star on 26 April. I am told that the advertisements in the LIanelli Star appeared in all editions of the newspaper, including the edition which circulates exclusively in the Parliamentary constituency of LIanelli.

    You will note that the advertisements appeared a week before the Welsh Assembly Election and at a time when postal ballots had already been issued.

    I would ask you to also to note that I telephoned the House of Commons fees office on 25 April and asked whether it would be possible for an MP, such as myself, to place an advertisement in a local or regional newspaper close to the Welsh Assembly Election date. I was advised that they would not give authorisation for such an advertisement to appear. And yet on that same day and on the day following, the three Plaid Cymru MPs placed advertisements in a number of Welsh papers.

    In addition to the comments I have made above and my previous comments, I would ask you to consider the fact that the three MPs clearly acted in a concerted way. In doing so, their aim was not to inform their own constituents of the work they were doing in their respective localities, but to maximise their Party's position in the imminent Welsh Assembly Election.

    16 May 2007

    5.  Section 72 and parts of Schedule 8 of the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000

    72 Campaign expenditure

    1.  The following provisions have effect for the purposes of this Part.

    2.  "Campaign expenditure", in relation to a registered party, means (subject to subsection (7)) expenses incurred by or on behalf of the party which are expenses falling within Part 1 of Schedule 8 and so incurred for election purposes.

    3.  "Election campaign", in relation to a registered party, means a campaign conducted by the party for election purposes.

    4.  "For election purposes", in relation to a registered party, means for the purpose of or in connection with—

    promoting or procuring electoral success for the party at any relevant election, that is to say, the return at any such election of candidates—

    standing in the name of the party, or

    included in a list of candidates submitted by the party in connection with the election, or

    otherwise enhancing the standing—

    of the party, or

    of any such candidates, with the electorate in connection with future relevant elections (whether imminent or otherwise).

    5.  For the purposes of subsection (4)—

    the reference to doing any of the things mentioned in paragraph (a) or (as the case may be) paragraph (b) of that subsection includes doing so by prejudicing the electoral prospects at the election of other parties or candidates or (as the case may be) by prejudicing the standing with the electorate of other parties or candidates;

    a course of conduct may constitute the doing of one of those things even though it does not involve any express mention being made of the name of any party or candidate; and

    it is immaterial that any candidates standing in the name of the party also stand in the name of one or more other registered parties.

    6.  "Relevant election" has the same meaning as in Part II.

    7.  "Campaign expenditure" does not include anything which (in accordance with any enactment) falls to be included in a return as to election expenses in respect of a candidate or candidates at a particular election.

    8.  Where a registered party is a party with accounting units—

    expenses incurred or to be incurred by or on behalf of any accounting unit of the party shall be regarded as expenses incurred or to be incurred by or on behalf of the party, and

    references to campaign expenditure incurred or to be incurred by or on behalf of a registered party accordingly extend, in relation to the party, to expenses which constitute such expenditure by virtue of paragraph (a).

    9.  In this section "candidates" includes future candidates, whether identifiable or not.

    10.  Nothing in this Part applies in relation to expenses incurred or to be incurred by or on behalf of a minor party.

    SCHEDULE 8

    CAMPAIGN EXPENDITURE: QUALIFYING EXPENSES

    PART 1

    QUALIFYING EXPENSES

    Expenses qualifying where incurred for election purposes

    1.  For the purpose of section 72(2) the expenses falling within this Part of this Schedule are expenses incurred in respect of any of the matters set out in the following list.

    LIST OF MATTERS

    1)   …

    2)  Advertising of any nature (whatever the medium used).

    Expenses in respect of such advertising include agency fees, design costs and other costs in connection with preparing, producing, distributing or otherwise disseminating such advertising or anything incorporating such advertising and intended to be distributed for the purpose of disseminating it.

    3)  …

    4)  …

    5)  …

    6)  …

    7)  …

    8)  …

    Exclusions

    2.  …

    PART II

    SUPPLEMENTAL

    Guidance by Commission

    3.  …

    Power to amend Part 1

    4.  —

    1)  The Secretary of State may by order make such amendments of Part 1 of this Schedule as he considers appropriate.

    2)  The Secretary of State may make such an order either—

    a)  where the order gives effect to a recommendation of the Commission; or

    b)  after consultation with the Commission.

    6.  Letter to Mr Elfyn Llwyd from the Commissioner, 27 April 2007

    I enclose a copy of a letter of complaint and supporting material which I have received from Ms Williams. Her complaint concerns an advertisement which you placed in the "Daily Post" on 26 April. You will see that she also complains about an advertisement placed in the same paper by Hywel Williams on 25 April.

    The advertisement was apparently funded from the recently introduced Communications Allowance (CA). Ms Williams complains, in essence, that it breaches the rules relating to the Allowance in that, judged from the perspective both of its content and of the timing and manner of its publication, it crosses the line between Parliamentary and party political communication.

    Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members approved by the House provides:

    "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."

    As you will know, extensive guidance was produced by the House's Department of Finance and Administration to accompany the introduction of the new Allowance and a booklet containing that guidance was circulated to all Members last week. Prior to that similar guidance was available from 30 March to all Members in electronic form on the Parliamentary intranet.

    The guidance includes a new section of the "Green Book" relating to the Allowance. Paragraph 6.1.1 says in relation to the scope and purpose of the Allowance:

    "The CA may only be used to help Members inform their constituents about what they have been doing and to consult them on issues of importance to them locally. It cannot be used to meet personal costs or the costs of party political activities or campaigning. The main areas of expenditure available from the CA are outlined below. It is each Member's responsibility to ensure that all expenditure funded by the CA is wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on their Parliamentary duties."

    Paragraph 6.2.1 on 'Principles and Propriety' says:

    "You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you - or someone close to you - is obtaining an element of profit from public funds; or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation. The content of any communications paid from the allowances must not seek to compare the Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents."

    Ms Williams suggests that your advertisement is party political and campaigning in nature in that:

    1)  The advertisement prominently displays the Plaid Cymru logo.

    2)  The content of the advertisement breaches the principles of the Allowance I have earlier set out.

    3)  The timing of its publication one week prior to the Welsh Assembly elections, and in close proximity to the advertisement placed by Mr Williams, means that it is designed to affect those elections.

    4)  The paper in which the advertisement was published has a circulation far wider than your constituency.

    I should be grateful if, in accordance with the procedures for investigating complaints laid down by the House—a note on which I enclose—you will let me have your response to Ms Williams's complaint. It will be helpful if, when you do so, you will ensure that it covers the points listed above. If you wish a word about the matter, at any point, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

    I am writing in similar terms to Hywel Williams. I am also copying this letter to the Director of Operations in the Department of Finance and Administration who I shall consult in the light of your reply before deciding how to proceed.

    27 April 2007

    7.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 30 April 2007

    I thank you for your letter of the 27th instant, the contents of which I note.

    Mrs Betty Williams did attempt to raise a Point of Order on the floor of the House on Wednesday (25th), and after that exchange with the Speaker, I approached her and advised her that the Annual Report (Mr Williams's) which appeared in the Daily Post had been vetted and approved verbatim. I further told her that I would be sending out my Annual Report by the same means on the following day, Thursday (26th). Despite this, Mrs Williams spectacularly tried to introduce the matter during Business Questions and was roundly admonished by Mr Speaker.

    I should note that the whole of the Report was approved by Mr B, Quality Assurance Manager, Operations Directorate, Department of Finance and Administration. In order to be absolutely correct I requested my PA, Miss C, to e-mail Mr B to make sure that there was no issue with the timing. I enclose a copy of the e-mail which deals with the timing point.

    Turning to the four issues

    1)  The Plaid logo was on the draft and was approved for inclusion by Mr B.

    2)  I contend that it does not breach the principles of the Allowance in any way whatsoever. It does not mention any political party and does not suggest to anyone that they should vote for the party or any named individual in any election.

    3)  The timing issue is dealt with by Mr B in his e-mail.

    4)  The Daily Post is the morning paper which serves Meirionnydd Nant Conwy—but it is true to say that it does have a wider circulation. There is no local paper which has a circulation confined to the constituency. Even the two weeklies serving the constituency go far beyond its boundaries. In any event it would have doubled the cost since the Report would have appeared in two publications, and not one as in this case. When this aspect was discussed by Miss C with Mr B, Mr B said that it was of no concern to the Fees Office anyway.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.

    30 April 2007

    8.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 8 May 2007

    I thank you for your letter of the 1st instant enclosing a copy of a letter from Mr Ian Lucas MP.

    I have replied to your letter regarding the complaint from Mrs Betty Williams MP.

    In relation to the specific complaints now made by Mr Lucas, I would reply as follows:

    1.  There is little I can add to the response to Mrs Williams's complaint and I consider that Mr Lucas is casting around in an attempt to justify his complaint. I reiterate that I took detailed advice on the timing of the annual report and was told that there was no problem at all, according to the Fees Office.

    2.  The use of the party logo was specifically authorised by the Fees Office.

    3.  The distribution point was addressed in my letter to you about Mrs Williams's complaint. The Fees Office said that distribution did not concern them.

    4.  The wording was approved by the Fees Office.

    I would therefore be pleased if this letter were read in conjunction with my earlier one regarding Mrs Williams's complaint.

    Finally, it is interesting that Mr Lucas is adamant in his assertions that rules have been breached and yet in his concluding sentence he calls for guidance to be issued on the use of the Communications Allowance in pre election periods.

    It is because of the need to ensure the proper use of public funds that my colleagues and myself sought approval on all these points before embarking on publication.

    As for the letter from Mr Wayne David MP I believe that I have covered those points already.

    If I can be of further assistance please do not hesitate to contact me.

    8 May 2007

    9.  Letter to Mr Adam Price from the Commissioner, 3 May 2007

    I understand that Mr David has informed you of the complaint he has made to me about an advertisement which you placed in the 'South Wales Guardian' (and possibly also, I understand from him, in the 'Llanelli Star' and the 'Carmarthen Journal') on 25 April. I enclose a copy of Mr David's letters to me of 26 and 30 April and of the advertisement in question. (You will see that Mr David also complains about similar advertisements placed in other newspapers by Elfyn Llwyd MP and Hywel Williams MP. I am separately in touch with them about these matters.)

    The essence of Mr David's complaint is that the advertisement you placed—which was funded from the Communications Allowance (CA)—broke the rules relating to that Allowance in that, judged from the perspective both of its content and of the timing and manner of its publication, it crosses the line between Parliamentary and party political communication.

    Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members approved by the House provides:

    "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."

    As you will know, extensive guidance was produced by the House's Department of Finance and Administration to accompany the introduction of the new Allowance and a booklet containing that guidance was circulated to all Members two weeks ago. Prior to that similar guidance was available from 30 March to all Members in electronic form on the Parliamentary intranet.

    The guidance includes a new section of the "Green Book" relating to the Allowance. Paragraph 6.1.1 says in relation to the scope and purpose of the Allowance:

    "The CA may only be used to help Members inform their constituents about what they have been doing and to consult them on issues of importance to them locally. It cannot be used to meet personal costs or the costs of party political activities or campaigning. The main areas of expenditure available from the CA are outlined below. It is each Member's responsibility to ensure that all expenditure funded by the CA is wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on their Parliamentary duties."

    Paragraph 6.2.1 on 'Principles and Propriety' says:

    "You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you - or someone close to you - is obtaining an element of profit from public funds; or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation. The content of any communications paid from the allowances must not seek to compare the Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents."

    Mr David sets out his particular concerns about your advertisement clearly in points 1 and 2 of his letter. In accordance with the procedures set out in the enclosed note, I should be grateful if you will now give me your response to his complaint. It would be helpful in that context if you would confirm whether or not you placed similar advertisements in the 'Llanelli Star' and the 'Carmarthen Journal'.

    If you wish a word about this matter, at any point, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Meanwhile I am also copying this letter to the Director of Operations in the Department of Finance and Administration who I shall consult in the light of your reply before deciding how to proceed.

    3 May 2007

    10.  Letter to Mr Adam Price from the Commissioner, 23 May 2007

    You will recall that I wrote to you on 3 May about this complaint.

    I am enclosing a copy of a further letter I have received from Mr David, following a request I made to him for further information about the advertisements he said had been placed by you in the Llanelli Star and the Carmarthen Journal. I have not enclosed the copy of these advertisements he has sent me, as they will already be available to you.

    I should be grateful if, when replying to my letter, you will also let me have any comments you wish to make on the points Mr David makes in the letter enclosed. It would be particularly helpful to have your comment on his assertion that the advertisement you placed in the Llanelli Star appeared in an edition of that paper which circulates exclusively in the Parliamentary constituency of Llanelli rather than in your own.

    In the last paragraph of Mr David's letter (enclosed), he asks me "to consider the fact that the three MPs clearly acted in a concerted way". Since this point is not one he had made in previous correspondence, I am copying this letter and Mr David's to Mr Llwyd and Mr Williams so that they may have the opportunity to comment on it should they wish to do so.

    23 May 2007

    11.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 25 May 2007

    Thank you for your letter of 3rd and the 23rd May in relation to a complaint made to you by Wayne David MP. I apologise for not responding to you until now but my role as the lead negotiator for my party in the Coalition discussions to form an administration in Wales following the elections to the National Assembly has meant that I have not had the opportunity to consider these matters in detail.

    In your most recent letter you ask me to comment on Mr David's comment that the three MPs "acted in a concerted way". I am not sure what impropriety is being implied here I do not personally recall discussing this matter directly with Elfyn and Hywel, but I was aware of their intention to place advertisements in their respective local newspapers.

    In response to the general complaint made by Mr David I would reject outright any suggestion either that I contravened the rules in fact or that there was any intention to do so. Indeed, a member of my staff, acting on my behalf and at my express request, took detailed advice from the House authorities in order to ensure that what I was proposing to do was entirely compliant with the published rules for the new Communications Allowance.

    Specifically:

    • I asked if the timing of the publication in the middle of the National Assembly for Wales election campaign presented any problems. I was told it did not, provided that the text did not overtly promote a candidate in that campaign (see e-mail from Mr B). The text of the advert complied fully with that advice.
    • The use of the party logo was authorised by the Fees Office and is permissible under Paragraph 16 of Appendix Two of the Communications Allowance rules. It appears twice as the adverts were fully bilingual.
    • The entire text was approved in advance by the House authorities (see enclosed e-mail from Mr B). Wayne David's allegation that the text of my advert "bears an uncanny similarity to the issues in Plaid's manifesto in the Welsh Assembly elections" is entirely without foundation in the case of my insert which referred to local social care services in my constituency, my surgeries and case work, rural post offices and crime (both non-devolved matters), the campaign by the PCS union against staff cuts in HMRC and the fight to save a local dairy and the local Remploy factory. Most of the content therefore was local and specific to my constituency, while the rest was not directly relevant to the Assembly election. The text did not mention my party nor did it suggest to anyone they should vote for any party in any election.
    • I think that Wayne David's suggestion that our action risked damaging the reputation of the House of Commons has to be treated with some degree of scepticism given his admission in the subsequent letter that he had also sought to place a similar advertisement. I cannot comment on the different advice that he received but you will see from the enclosed e-mails the extent to which we went in ensuring that everything that we did was within the letter and the spirit of the rules.
    • Including an advert in a local weekly newspaper was specifically approved by the House Authorities as a permissible means of communicating to constituents. My adverts appeared in the three main local newspapers that circulate in my constituency—the South Wales Guardian, the Llanelli Star and the Carmarthen Journal. None of these newspapers circulate exclusively within my constituency but also cover the LIanelli, Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire and Neath Constituencies. In the case of the Llanelli Star we requested that the advertisement be limited to the edition that covered my constituency but were informed by the publishers that an advert had to be carried in all editions of the newspaper. We can provide you with written confirmation of this if it is required.

    I trust that this furnishes you, albeit belatedly, with the information you need to conclude your investigation. The very serious allegation being made against me, that I conspired to breach the Code of Conduct, is wholly unwarranted given my repeated efforts at seeking prior approval from the proper authorities for the intended communication. I do not know what more I could have done to ensure that what was being proposed was entirely within the rules. I can only conclude that this complaint is politically motivated but I am thankful for this opportunity to respond.

    Please do not hesitate to contact me it you require any further information.

    25 May 2007

    12.  Letter to Mr Hywel Williams from the Commissioner, 27 April 2007

    I enclose a copy of a letter of complaint and supporting material which I have received from Ms Williams. Her complaint concerns an advertisement which you placed in the "Daily Post" on 25 April. You will see that she also complains about an advertisement placed in the same paper by Elfyn Llwyd on 26 April.

    The advertisement was apparently funded from the recently introduced Communications Allowance (CA). Ms Williams complains, in essence, that it breaches the rules relating to the Allowance in that, judged from the perspective both of its content and of the timing and manner of its publication, it crosses the line between Parliamentary and party political communication.

    Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members approved by the House provides:

    "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."

    As you will know, extensive guidance was produced by the House's Department of Finance and Administration to accompany the introduction of the new Allowance and a booklet containing that guidance was circulated to all Members last week. Prior to that similar guidance was available from 30 March to all Members in electronic form on the Parliamentary intranet.

    The guidance includes a new section of the "Green Book" relating to the Allowance. Paragraph 6.1.1 says in relation to the scope and purpose of the Allowance:

    "The CA may only be used to help Members inform their constituents about what they have been doing and to consult them on issues of importance to them locally. It cannot be used to meet personal costs or the costs of party political activities or campaigning. The main areas of expenditure available from the CA are outlined below. It is each Member's responsibility to ensure that all expenditure funded by the CA is wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on their Parliamentary duties."

    Paragraph 6.2.1 on 'Principles and Propriety' says:

    "You must avoid any arrangement which may give rise to an accusation that you - or someone close to you - is obtaining an element of profit from public funds; or that public money is being diverted for the benefit of a political organisation. The content of any communications paid from the allowances must not seek to compare the Member's party favourably with another, promote one party at the expense of another or seek to undermine the reputation of political opponents."

    Ms Williams suggests that your advertisement is party political and campaigning in nature in that:

    1.  It highlights matters that are devolved to the National Assembly for Wales, to which elections are to take place on 3 May.

    2.  It is headed by prominent display of the Plaid Cymru logo.

    3.  It contains an incorrect claim in relation to the alleged closure of benefits and tax offices in Porthmadog and Bangor. Moreover Bangor is not in your constituency.

    4.  The timing of its release 8 days prior to the election, and in close relation to the advertisement placed by Mr Llwyd, means that it is designed to affect those elections.

    5.  The paper in which the advertisement has been placed has a circulation far wider than your constituency.

    I should be grateful if, in accordance with the procedures for investigating complaints laid down by the House—a note on which I enclose—you will let me have your response to Ms Williams's complaint. It will be helpful if, when you do so, you will ensure that it covers the points listed above. If you wish a word about the matter, at any point, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

    I am writing in similar terms to Elfyn Llwyd. I am also copying this letter to the Director of Operations in the Department of Finance and Administration who I shall consult in the light of your reply before deciding how to proceed.

    27 April 2007

    13.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 30 April 2007

    Thank you for your letter of the 27th in respect of the complaint made by Mrs Betty Williams MP and thank you also for the enclosed copy of her letter.

    I have to say that I am disappointed that Mrs Williams has complained to you directly without raising the matter with me. Had she done so, I could have reassured her that the insert in the Daily Post had been approved in detail by the Department of Finance and Administration.

    It was the subject of a number of e-mails between Ms C from the Plaid Cymru office and Mr B of the Department of Finance and Administration. We made minor changes at his request and he was satisfied with the version that went into the newspaper.

    Turning to the points raised by Mrs Williams:

    1.  In the Report I do invite constituents to let me know what are the most important issues for them. The headings refer both to Westminster matters and to matters which are partly, but only partly, devolved.

    2.  The use of the 'Plaid' logo was approved.

    3.  The benefits office has in effect been closed as the claim processing jobs have been transferred to centres far from the Caernarfon constituency. The government is consulting about closing (or what amounts to closing) the tax offices. The Bangor office is not in my constituency. However many of the staff are my constituents and its future, or lack of it, is a vital issue for them, and is of wider economic significance for my constituency.

    4.  The timing of the Report was approved.

    5.  The Daily Post is the most widely read local newspaper in my constituency. There is no newspaper that circulates exclusively within my constituency.

    I hope that these points are helpful. I am of course wholly at your disposal should you require further information.

    30 April 2007

    14.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 12 July 2007

    I thank you for your letter of the 9th instant. As a general comment I am quite astonished at the way in which the Director of Finance and Administration has found it convenient to express an opinion that I was in any way culpable in this matter. I feel equally strongly about my colleagues, Mr Price and Mr Williams, but I understand that they will be writing to you separately.

    It appears in my case that the Director is saying that the newsletter which I caused to be published was distributed on a wider basis than strictly the constituency which I represent. This is so but the truth is that the Daily Post is the only daily newspaper in north Wales serving the constituency. I took the step on 25th April of asking my PA, Ms C, who is the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer to meet with Mr B, Quality Assurance Manager in the Department of Finance and Administration, to discuss the issue of distribution and also the question of timing. With regard to the issue of circulation Mr B said that Members may use local newspapers to circulate their communication with constituents and that it was not an issue for the Department of Finance and Administration if the newspaper crossed boundaries to other constituencies if there are no newspapers circulating exclusively in the constituency. This appears to undermine the objection now being raised by the Director of the Department at page 14 line 13. If indeed the Director is now surprised, then he should be surprised that the advice given at the time by a senior member of his staff that this was not an issue. In effect, therefore, he is saying that the advice given to me was wrong and, unfortunately, I acted on that advice. Now he considers it is evidence of my culpability and seeks to impugn my name. I am unhappy with that and it does appear to me to be some kind of ex post facto reasoning that is being applied in order to find fault. I therefore utterly reject that accusation.

    With regard to the Director's second complaint which appears further down on page 14 about the issue of campaigning, he justifies his complaint by saying that the proximity to the Welsh Assembly election gives rise to some degree of party political campaign and goes on to say that in my case "though individually the reports were broadly non-party political. If proven, this would preclude reimbursement of the costs incurred." This is a rather weak assertion by the Director and he should know that every single word of the newsletter which I caused to be published was minutely approved by the said Mr B, and Mr B was satisfied that there was no party political content in the newsletter otherwise he would have advised me to withdraw the same. I should also point out at this stage that Mr B was the officer who dealt with all three publications. Mr B knew that these three newsletters were going to be published at or around the same time. If, as the Director is now concluding, there could be an element of campaigning, why did Mr B not advise me of this at the time, or indeed any of my colleagues? I do not think that there has been any campaigning and I did not refer to party politics or devolved matters. Also, had this been a case of pure campaigning on our part, surely it would have been wiser had we sent out the exact same message threefold, which is how a successful election campaign is run. In this case, the three newsletters are different and completely independent of each other. I do think that if this matter is of any moment that it should have been raised before publication, given that we are not dealing with a situation where different people advised myself and my colleagues.

    I would therefore suggest that this is hardly a case for action, and if my comments appear to be rather strident it is because of the fact that I always considered that advice from House officials was there to be relied upon and not to be qualified at a later stage. I have followed their advice to the letter and I am astonished that I am being informed that there is here a case to answer.

    I thank you for allowing me the courtesy of explaining my position to you in response to the Director's sadly unjustified comments.

    12 July 2007

    15.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 13 July 2007

    Thank you for your letter of the 9th July enclosing the copy of your draft report and asking me for further comments.

    You ask specifically for my response to the points made by the DFA Director of Operations. In my case, as the Director of the DFA effectively absolves any of the charges in respect of the content of my report, it is his comments in paragraphs 30 and 31 that are most directly relevant.

    In paragraph 30 the director of the DFA expresses the view that 'the method of publication and distribution of all these reports raised more difficult issues'. He goes on to refer to an unnamed member "who made specific reference to us, of the fact that his report would be distributed 'via the local newspaper'". The suggestion is that this reference to local newspapers is misleading in all three cases. I should like to point out that three newspapers that I used are indeed the principal local weekly newspapers covering my constituency. The fourth newspaper that covers my constituency, The Tivy Side Advertiser is only distributed in the Teifi Valley portion of Carmarthenshire and therefore, I decided not to use it for this purpose. Had I indeed intended to influence the outcome of the forthcoming Assembly Election then I would have proceeded as it circulates in the Ceredigion constituency which was a key target seat for my party.

    The Director made the more serious allegation at paragraph 31 that I effectively conspired with colleagues to subvert the rules of the allowance to gain party advantage. This is a very serious charge for a Senior Officer in the House to make against Honourable Members. The evidence, if it can be termed as such, that is proffered is literally coincidental, the fact that Members published reports during an election period and that members of the same party published reports at the same time. My recollection of the sequence of events is as follows:

    Once the Communications Allowance was introduced on the 1 April 2007 I asked my staff to begin preparations for the publication of an annual report covering the 2006-2007 period. I judged this to be the most efficient use of the new allowance as this would allow me to publish at least 3 annual reports in the remainder of this Parliament, assuming a General Election was to be held in May 2009.

    I was aware from the debate on the Communications Allowance on the floor of the House that concern had been expressed about the publication of reports during non-Westminster elections under the previous IEP arrangements. I asked my staff to enquire whether the rules had changed as a result of these discussions and they were informed by the DFA that publication during the active period of an Assembly election campaign was permissible provided it made no mention of Assembly candidates and contained no campaigning material. I asked my staff to double check this as I was particularly concerned that the report should not give rise to an accusation that I had in any way sought to misuse the allowance. My staff asked for further advice from the Plaid Cymru Westminster Team who confirmed that the advice they had received from the DFA had also been given to Mr LIwyd and Mr Williams who intended producing their own reports.

    On the basis of the above I was satisfied that we should proceed but asked my staff to ensure that the DFA received the full proof of the draft report and that any suggested amendments should be adhered to in full. Contrary to the DFA Director of Operation's inference, I made the decision to publish a report independently, my staff approached the DFA independently and the matters covered in the text of my report bear little resemblance to those covered by the other Honourable Members. If the Director is now ruling that any three members of the same political party who publish a report in the same week constitute 'a campaign' prohibited under the rules then this will have to be expressly made clear from this point on. Ensuring no more than two Members from the same party publish a report in the same week, will however require considerable co-ordination from the Department as, in an average week, we would expect five or six Labour Members to publish a report given their strength in the House. I need not point out that setting one rule for the larger parties and another for minority parties would itself contravene the rules of the House, not to speak of the basic principles of natural justice.

    Circumstantial and entirely coincidental evidence will never be sufficient basis, I hope, for the serious charge of deliberately diverting parliamentary allowances. In the case of the Communications Allowance the key issue, as I was advised, is that both the content and the means of distribution are deemed appropriate, as they were in my case. The DFA approved the text of my report without qualification or reservation and I cannot accept therefore, the DFA's Directors comment that my report was 'broadly non-party political' It was entirely non party-political within the terms of the guidelines and nothing within it could be construed as campaigning material.

    Despite the attempt to impugn my integrity which was the original source of this complaint I welcome your decision to publish this report to highlight the shortcomings of the current system whereby a Member, having acted in good faith and repeatedly having sought the advice of the House Authorities, may still find himself subject to unfounded accusations by other Members seeking to pursue a political agenda. Unless the system is improved I fear that you will be inundated with vexatious complaints by Members seeking to malign the reputation of their opponents. The fact that the Department of Finance and Administration is not prepared to stand by their original advice in cases such as this renders the Communications Allowance a minefield for all concerned and it will be the reputation of Parliament that will suffer unless a clear and transparent system of advice is developed.

    I hope that you will find these comments useful in your deliberation, and remain,

    13 July 2007

    16.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 13 July 2007

    Thank you for your letter of the 9th of July. I write to give you an explanation of how my Report in the Daily Post contained a survey, contrary to paragraph 27 of the rules and guidance.

    The main body of the text had been submitted and approved. The survey was a late addition, drawn up without reference to paragraph 27, and this due to an oversight by a member of my staff. Furthermore, this final version was not then submitted to the Department of Administration for approval. I assure you that had I been alerted to the unacceptability of this late addition, I would have had it removed immediately. As you are aware, I had complied fully with earlier requirements for modifications to the text.

    The ultimate responsibility for the text lies with me and I apologise unreservedly for the inclusion of the survey. However, I hope that you will accept that its inclusion was an oversight compounded by a further mistake and that I had no intention of breaching the rules and guidance. Indeed, I would submit that the survey is so obviously contrary to paragraph 27 that it could scarcely be other than a glaring mistake. I have investigated the circumstances and assure you that I will do my utmost to ensure that such an unfortunate sequence of events does not happen again in respect of the communication allowance.

    Lastly, may I respectfully suggest that for the purposes of absolute clarity paragraphs 14, 15, 26 and 27 of the rules and guidance are relocated together and perhaps slightly rewritten. This might then prevent the casual reader from merely assuming that there is permission for surveys for use locally i.e. as per the sixth bullet point of paragraph 14.

    13 July 2007

    17.  Letter to the Commissioner from the Director of Operations, DFA, 9 August 2007

    Thank you for letting me have sight of Mr Adam Price's letter of 13 July in response to yours of 9 July and its enclosure. You invited me to send any comments on the points made by Mr Price.

    I am very sorry that Mr Price feels so strongly that my staff and I have acted in some sense unfairly or unwisely as events have unfolded. I do not believe this to be the case. I can only repeat what I said in respect of a similar letter from Mr Llwyd and stress the importance of the full facts being placed before my staff so that accurate and comprehensive advice can be given. In this case it is possible that misunderstandings arose between my staff and those of the Member.

    On the specifics, I would respectfully disagree with Mr Price that I have alleged that he conspired to subvert the rules to gain party advantage. Nor have I alleged the deliberate diversion by him of the parliamentary allowances. My point has always been that there appears to have been a degree of coordination in the publication of the three reports, that this occurred at a politically sensitive time in Wales, that this could be construed as a 'campaign' and that campaigning using the allowances is not permitted, although campaigning itself has not been defined in the rules. One man's sense of what constitutes a campaign may well not be another's.

    I do not dissent at all from Mr Price's assertion that his report had been cleared by the Department and in doing so we accepted that the content was non-party political in so far as this is defined in the rules. The reference in my earlier letter to 'broadly non-party political' was a reference, perhaps poorly expressed, to the content of the three Plaid Cymru Members' reports taken together and in particular that the report of Mr Williams had strayed beyond the rules (something that Mr Williams accepts was a mistake made by a member of his staff).

    Finally, I understand the sentiments expressed by Mr Price in the penultimate paragraph of his letter and like him I wish to ensure that the systems employed to support the new Communications Allowance are improved by learning the lessons of cases such as this. However, I do indeed stand by the advice the Department has offered throughout this case, which was always done to the best of our ability and on the facts as we understood them. Furthermore, my staff and I remain conscious of how fine some of the judgements are likely to be in this area.

    9 August 2007

    18.  Letter to Mr Elfyn Llwyd, Mr Adam Price and Mr Hywel Williams from the Commissioner, 5 September 2007

    Further to my letter of 23 July about these complaints, I have been reflecting further on the background to them and have realised that there are a few further factual points it would be helpful to clarify before I complete my report to the Committee on Standards and Privileges. I apologise that I did not put these to you earlier.

    The points are these:

    1.  I have assumed that it was you who approved the content of your report. Can you please confirm this? Can you also tell me who drafted it?

    2.  Who approved the timing of the report's publication? Was this you or one of your staff? If the latter, who was it?

    3.  Who placed the report (or advertising feature) in the media? Was it you or someone acting on your behalf? If the latter, who was it?

    4.  How much did the publication of the report cost?

    As regards the first three of these questions, I have assumed to this point that in each instance it was you yourself who gave the necessary approval or oversaw the placing of the material in the media. However, it occurred to me that I should check before finalising my report that this assumption was correct, as I do not want to proceed on a false premise. Hence I should be grateful if you could let me have the answer to each of the queries I have raised.

    My apologies again for troubling you on these points but I hope you will understand why I do so.

    5 September 2007

    19.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 20 September 2007

    I thank you for your letter of the 5th instant.

    In relation to your questions I would reply as follows:

    1.  Miss C, the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer, drafted the report on my behalf, and delegated some of the work to other members of Parliamentary and Constituency staff. She sent a copy of the text to Mr B of the Finance and Administration Office for approval. I approved the content before it was sent for publishing.

    2.  Miss C advised me that I should use the House of Commons Communication Allowance at the earliest opportunity in order to inform my constituents of the work I had done the previous financial year. I agreed with this rationale. My staff received assurances from Mr B that it was not against regulations for the allowance to be used in Wales during the course of elections to the National Assembly.

    3.  Miss C placed the feature in the media based on the dates when "media space"' was available.

    4.  £5,169.82.

    I trust that the above answers your queries but if you need any further information please do not hesitate to contact me.

    20 September 2007

    20.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Adam Price, 18 September 2007

    Thank you for your letter of the 5th of September. In reply to your queries I can confirm the following:

    I approved the content of the report which was drafted, with some amendments by me and under my guidance, by my press officer Mr D, based at my constituency office. The decision on timing—I wanted to get a report out to cover the period of the last fiscal year as soon as possible—was mine, though I delegated to Mr D the discussions with the publishers as to the precise publication date. I left the detailed discussions on the cost of the advert, format, etc to Mr D, but all of this was done with my full knowledge and approval, and the decision to opt for a publication insert was mine after weighing up the available options. The total cost of the advertising in the three publications was £5,471.49.

    I hope this furnishes you with the information you need.

    18 September 2007

    21.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Hywel Williams, 2 October 2007

    Thank you for your letter of the 5th September and please accept my apologies for the delay in replying to you.

    You ask four questions and my replies are as below:

    1.  I approved all the material that went into my press report up to and including the penultimate draft. These drafts were also seen and approved by Mr B of the Finance and Administration Office. The drafts had been drawn up by Miss C, the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer. As I explained in a previous letter she then inserted a survey but did not pass it on to me for approval nor to Mr B. I believe that this was a genuine oversight on her part. I'm sure that Mr B would have drawn her attention to the rules regarding the insertion of such surveys. I trust that I would have done the same.

    2.  In the past I have not followed the practice of some MPs in sending out large numbers of letters to constituents on a regular basis. I have always believed that this practice is wasteful and eventually self defeating. The advent of the Parliamentary Communication Allowance however allowed me to communicate directly and economically with a large number of my constituents who read the Daily Post. By inserting a press report immediately I could pass on information about my work in the previous year. This immediate placement of the report would then allow me to insert a further report later on in the year using some of the remainder of the Parliamentary Communication Allowance. I understand that Miss C consulted with Mr B in the Finance and Administration Office in respect of the timing of the press insert and was assured that its coincidence with the National Assembly elections was not a problem.

    3.  The arrangements for placing the report in the newspaper were made by Miss C.

    4.  The cost of the publication of the report was £2,585.07 for the Welsh language version and £2,585.07 for the English version making a total of £5,170.14.

    I hope that these answers provide you with the information that you require.

    2 October 2007

    22.  Agreed Note of Meeting with Miss C, 11 October 2007

    Present: Miss C; Sir Philip Mawer, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PM); and Miss Alda Barry, Registrar of Members' Interests (AB).

    1. PM explained that his focus in the inquiry was on the actions of those MPs who were the subject of complaint but that it would be helpful to him to know what part Miss C had played in the publication of the reports by Members which were at the heart of the complaints. He explained the process that would be followed and said that anything Miss C said might be published in the context of his report but not otherwise. He and the Committee were sympathetic to requests to refrain from publishing confidential material where it was not essential to the resolution of an inquiry.

    2. PM asked what was Miss C 's role? Miss C explained that she worked for the Plaid Cymru MPs, not for the party as such. Her job title was Plaid Cymru Parliamentary Press Officer. She shared an office with Elfyn Llwyd (EL). (PM noted that EL referred to her as his PA as well as the parliamentary press officer.) She had been in post for two years. In principle the other staff in the office were a researcher and a secretary but at present there were only herself and the secretary.

    3. PM commented that from the responses to his queries from EL and Hywel Williams (HW), it appeared that Miss C had particular responsibilities in relation to those two Members. Miss C agreed that, in relation to the present matter, she had worked for those two Members.

    4. Miss C said that the idea of producing annual reports had been her own and that it had been a response to the introduction of the Communications Allowance (CA). It had seemed appropriate to produce a report as soon as possible, so as to allow for the possible production of a second report later in the same financial year. She agreed that it would previously have been possible to produce a report using the IEP, but said that this had not been done. The reaction of the two MPs to her suggestion had been positive and they had asked her to check with the DFA whether this would be acceptable in terms of timing. She had spoken on the telephone to Mr B of the DFA and asked him if there was any bar on issuing reports during an Assembly election and if two reports could be issued at the same time. Subsequently, on the day HW 's report had appeared (25 April), she had gone to see Mr B and asked him if it was acceptable to issue EL 's on the next day.

    5. PM said that a note he had been given by Mr B suggested that his first conversation with Miss C about timing had occurred on 25 April. Had there been any conversations before that? Miss C thought so, although she had no record of them.

    6. PM said that Mr B had provided information that on 5 April he had received an e-mail from EL's office enclosing a proposed annual report and that he had understood that this was to be a leaflet. There had followed exchanges in which Mr B had asked for amendments (which had been made) and had reminded Miss C about the necessary imprint about the use of parliamentary funds. Miss C had asked about the use of party logos, Mr B had responded and it had been agreed that Miss C would send HW 's report to the DFA the next week.

    7. Miss C said that she had sent HW 's report to Ms F of the DFA on 12 April. Miss F had responded saying that she had sent the text to Mr B for review and that some changes would be requested. Miss C had sent Mr B an e-mail seeking a speedy response.

    8. PM said that according to his information, Miss C had been to see Mr B on 25 April at his monthly advice surgery and at that meeting specific concern had been expressed about the timing. Had there been any discussion about this before 25 April? Miss C said that she and Mr B had spoken quite a lot on the telephone and that she recalled she had been given assurances that it was ok to publish a report provided the content was acceptable. In retrospect she should have asked for these assurances in writing.

    9. PM commented that all the MPs who were the subject of the complaint had told him that they had asked their staff to check in advance of publication that the timing was acceptable and had been told that this had been done. If there had been no discussion of the timing until the first report (that of HW) had appeared, this was a matter of some significance. Miss C said that she was aware that questions might be asked, which was why she had asked Mr B on 25 April for written advice, as previous discussion with him on the point had been by telephone only. (Note: In response to a question from PM, Mr B has subsequently confirmed that, although he too has no written record of the point, Miss C probably discussed the timing of publication of the reports with him prior to 25 April as well as on that day.)

    10. PM asked what discussion Miss C had had with EL and HW about the timing of publication. Miss C said that she had suggested that publication should be as soon as possible. They had agreed but had asked her to check the propriety of the timing. She had told them that she had received assurances and they had told her to proceed.

    11. PM asked whether, given that she had expected that there might be adverse reaction to the timing of publication in some quarters, Miss C had herself seen any advantage to Plaid Cymru in producing the report at this time? Miss C said that whilst she had thought that there might be some general advantage, she had not been aiming at any specific campaigning advantage. She had been thinking about the interests of the Members' constituents. The reports had concentrated on the MPs' own records and had not either praised their party or denigrated others.

    12. PM suggested that if Miss C was aware that the Labour party might object she must have thought that others might think there was an advantage to Plaid Cymru. Miss C said that that could have been in her mind.

    13. PM asked Miss C what, to her mind, would have constituted campaigning. Miss C said that campaigning material would have involved being more negative about other parties.

    14. Summing up this part of the discussion, PM asked if it would be fair to say that Miss C had expected that there might be some adverse reaction from other parties and had therefore thought that it would be appropriate to check the timing of publication with the DFA; that she was aware of the wider context in which the reports would appear and was anxious not to fall foul of the restriction on campaigning? It would be naïve to say that anyone might not be aware of the advantage to Plaid Cymru in the reports' coming out when they did. Miss C agreed, adding that that was why she had checked carefully with Mr B the propriety of what the two Members were proposing to do.

    15. PM turned to the method of distribution. In the light of various possibilities, who had decided to use the newspaper approach? Miss C said that she had: she had advised the MPs that this method would reach more people. The Daily Post was a regional and not a local paper; however, in EL's constituency there were three or four weekly papers but they were not widely read and the same applied in HW's. Further, it was the only daily paper and, for reasons which she could not now recall she had preferred the idea of a daily rather than a weekly; it was also widely read.

    16. PM asked if Miss C had been aware that the Daily Post circulated well beyond the Members' constituencies. Miss C replied that she had been, and had checked with Mr B who had said 'that's not really a matter for us'. PM commented that the DFA now said that that was not an accurate reflection of their position.

    17. PM asked if Miss C had spoken to the two MPs about the method of publication. Miss C said that she had. The decision had been theirs. Had she had any contact with Mr D of Mr Adam Price's (AP) constituency office? No, though she had been aware that Adam Price was producing a report in the same fortnight.

    18. Miss C confirmed that there had been no decision to concert publication of the reports.

    19. PM commented that there must have been some communication with AP's office because AP had written to PM saying (in his letter of 13 July) that he had asked his staff to double-check with the Plaid Cymru team that the timing was acceptable. Miss C had no recollection of speaking to Mr D but would ask her colleague if she had done so. (Note: from the evidence of Mr D, it appears that the point of contact was not Miss C but Mr E in the Plaid Cymru Parliamentary office.)

    20. Miss C assured PM that if she had known that there were legitimate grounds for criticism she would not have gone ahead with the publication. She had checked with the DFA everything except the questionnaire included in HW's report, which was an oversight she greatly regretted. PM thanked her for apologising for having been instrumental in that breach of the rules but reminded her that responsibility for observing the rules ultimately lay with the Member concerned.

    21. PM concluded by explaining that Miss C would be sent a copy of the draft note of the meeting for checking and amendment, and that he hoped to be able to submit his report to the Committee on Standards and Privileges for their meeting on 30 October. He would appreciate her help in achieving this target.

    11 October 2007

    23.  Agreed Note of Meeting with Mr D, 11 October 2007

    Mr D, constituency staff of Adam Price, MP; Sir Philip Mawer, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards (PM); Miss Alda Barry, Registrar of Members' Interests (AB).

    1. The conversation was conducted with the telephone on loudspeaker so that Miss Barry could also hear it.

    2. PM explained the process he followed in his inquiries. He reminded Mr D that anything he said might be published in the context of his report but not otherwise. He and the Committee would be sensitive to any requests to treat information as confidential to the extent that it was not material to the inquiry.

    3. PM asked who had conceived the idea that Adam Price's (AP's) report should be published when it was.

    4. Mr D said that the idea had come from AP. He had told Mr D that he and other Members had been given a communications allowance, and the two had then discussed publishing a report. Mr D could not remember when the matter had first been raised but it would have been soon after the House had agreed to the allowance.

    5. PM asked whether, when the idea had first been mooted, Mr D had discussed it with Miss C or anyone else? Mr D replied that he had not discussed it with Miss C; she worked at Westminster, he in the constituency. Apart from AP, his only discussions had been with Mr B in the DFA, with whom he had discussed the proofs of the report. The decision to go forward had been taken entirely by AP.

    6. PM asked what discussion Mr D had held with AP about the timing of the publication. Mr D said that AP was keen for publication to be as soon as possible after the start of the financial year. (PM noted that it appeared from AP's letter of 13 July that the reason for this was that he was anxious to maximise the number of annual reports which could be published before the possible date of the next general election in 2009.) Mr D added that the precise date of publication had then been dictated by practicalities, such as the availability of newspaper space.

    7. Mr D said that he had discussed the method of distribution of the report (as a newspaper insert) with AP. It had been AP's suggestion to use this method and after discussion with Mr D, he had made the decision to adopt it.

    8. In a brief subsequent telephone conversation, PM asked Mr D how it was possible to reconcile Mr D 's statement that he had not had any conversation with Miss C about the publication of the report with the statement in AP's letter of 13 July that, prior to publication, his staff had checked with the Westminster Plaid Cymru team that publication during the Assembly election period was ok. Mr D replied that while he had not spoken to Miss C, he had discussed the question of timing with Mr E, another member of staff of the Plaid Cymru Westminster office. Mr E had assured him that the proposed timing of publication of the report was acceptable to the House authorities. Mr E had not, however, played any part in decisions about the timing or content of the report.

    11 October 2007

    24.  Letter to the Commissioner from Mr Elfyn Llwyd, 23 October 2007

    I thank you for your letter of the 23rd October, the contents of which I have noted.

    There is one other matter of greater substance, and that is the assertion by the Director of Operations at the DFA at paragraph 40 on page 17. Perhaps I should state here that Miss C's recollection was correct in all respects and if necessary she would swear an affidavit accordingly. She sought advice on distribution before the reports were published, and she was told that distribution was 'not an issue' for the Department.

    She sought advice on a second occasion and asked for it in writing. By this time there had been a complaint about Mr Hywel Williams's report having been published and Mr B declined to reduce his earlier advice to writing.

    On an even earlier occasion, Mr B had said this to Ms G our Office Manager in London. I cannot for one moment accept that both are wrong. I do however think that it is important to clarify this situation and it is plain that there was a conversation between Miss C and Mr B on the question of distribution beyond constituency boundaries and the advice was given that it was not an issue. It is important that a reading of the report does not give a false impression that this conversation did not take place. I accept that there is an issue of contention and it is not whether that conversation took place and the advice given but whether that advice would have been given if more precise information about distribution had been given to the DFA. That said, it should be pointed out that the DFA did not ask at any time for the precise extent of the distribution, and having received the 'not an issue' response the conversation did not develop very much further, therefore both members of staff, Mr Hywel Williams and myself all take issue with this assertion by the Director of Operations.

    You will know that it is not desirable for such an inquiry to be dragged out unnecessarily and you will appreciate that I am anxious to assist in any way I can to bring this matter to a head, but I could not allow this assertion to remain unchallenged.

    23 October 2007



    31   Official Report, Vol 459, No 79, col 941. Back

    32   The text of Mrs Williams's letter is at WE 1. Back

    33   The text of Mr Lucas's letter is at WE 2. Back

    34   Mr David subsequently wrote confirming the terms of his e-mail: the text of his letter is at WE 3. Back

    35   See Mr David's letter of 16 May at WE 4. Back

    36   See Mr Lucas's letter at WE 2. Back

    37   See Mrs Williams's letter of 26 April at WE 1. Back

    38   Ibid. Mrs Williams also says that Mr Williams's reference to the claimed closures "is not borne out by any government pronouncement or policy". Back

    39   The guidance was contained in a booklet sent to all Members which, for the first time, brought together in one place guidance on the new allowance with information on the use of House stationery and related matters. The booklet is available on the House's website at www.parliament.uk. Back

    40   The text of my letter is at W 6. Back

    41   See WE 7. Back

    42   This is disputed by the DFA-see paragraph 40 below. Back

    43   See WE 8. Back

    44   Letter at WE 9. Back

    45   Text at WE 10. Back

    46   Mr Price's reply is at WE 11. Back

    47   Some also cover part of the Gower constituency. Back

    48   See WE 4. Back

    49   The text of my letter of 27 April is at WE 12. Back

    50   See WE 13. In a letter of 7 May (not appended), Mr Williams said that he had no further observations on the complaints by Mr David and Mr Lucas. Back

    51   The DFA has pointed out that while its officials indicated that the logo could be included in the publication, they did not see a copy of the advertisement showing the size of the actual logo to be used. Back

    52   Since the completion of this memorandum, DFA has confirmed that all three Members have submitted invoices, and these have all been paid. Back

    53   The Director of Operations drew attention in this respect to the statement in paragraph 17 of the guidelines on newsletters that "Photographs of Members wearing Party rosettes can be acceptable, but again should be proportionate and should not appear when the publication is to be circulated close to or during an election period". Back

    54   Letter of 12 July at WE 14. Back

    55   Letter of 13 July at WE 15. Back

    56   Letter at WE 16. Back

    57   WE 15. Back

    58   Letter of 9 August at WE 17. Back

    59   WE 19. Back

    60   Letter of 18 September 2007 at WE 20. Back

    61   WE 21. Back

    62   Checks made by my office have confirmed this. Back

    63   Paragraph 16 of the guidelines refers. Back

    64   Letter of 25 May at WE 10. Back

    65   WE 22, paragraph 17. Back

    66   Ibid, paragraph 18. Back

    67   Ibid, paragraph 15. Back

    68   See paragraph 40 above and WE 24. Back

    69   WE 22, paragraph 16. Back

    70   WE 10. Back

    71   WE 7. Back

    72   For the relevant text of paragraph 6.1.1, see paragraph 10 above. Back

    73   Paragraph 14 above. Back

    74   WE 22, paragraphs 11-14. Back

    75   WE Ibid Back


     
    previous page contents next page

    House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

    © Parliamentary copyright 2007
    Prepared 19 November 2007