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depend essentially upon, or arise out of, the Members position as a Member of Parliament.
Surely we cannot get additional remuneration for anything that relates to our work as a Member of Parliament. I invite Members to take a look at category 3it is clearly wrong that anybody should have such a facility. Will my hon. Friend clarify what is meant by that?
Chris Bryant: There are two elements that I can clarify. First, the House has always made it clear that nobody should be a paid advocate in their work as a Member of Parliament. I understand that my hon. Friend is suggesting that the definition strays close to that. All Members of the House would want to ensure that nobody was paid for performing their function as a Member of Parliament. I should also point out that paragraph 27 continues:
In addition the Member should register any clients of the consultancy which he or she knows have benefited from such advice.
if a fundraising event raises more than £1000, a Member benefiting should register the event.
I think that that is possibly a new category of registration to which Members will have to commit themselves and I note that there have not been many such events registered in the Register of Members Interests thus far.
I want to refer briefly to the thresholds. In categories 5, 6 and 7, as the right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire said, it is right that the registration threshold should remain at 1 per cent. of our salary. However, in relation to sponsorship under category 4 where the benefit does not come directly into our pockets but to our constituency associations, our constituency Labour parties or whatever organisation there might be, the law specifies that the threshold should be £1,000. It seems sensible, just in case the law were ever to change, that we should be aligned directly with the law rather than with the specific figure of £1,000. That is why the motion refers to that. We might also want to consider whether the £200 threshold at which one has to check whether a donation is from a permissible source, has to return it if it is not and has to register it with the Electoral Commission should be aligned with the legal situation rather than with the specific figure of £200. We might want to return to that at another date.
Sir Patrick Cormack (South Staffordshire) (Con): Does that mean that if the hon. Gentlemans constituency Labour party had a coffee morning or whatever and raised £1,000 he would then have to register it here?
Chris Bryant: Would that a Rhondda Labour party coffee morning raised more than £1,000. I am simply reading out paragraph 34, which makes it clear that if the amount is more than £1,000, Members have to register it in the Register of Members Financial Interests.
I now come to the next steps. First, the Electoral Commission is happy to confirm, as it did to the Chairman of the Standards and Privileges Committee, that the requirements that we are placing on hon. Members today meet all the requirements under the 2000 Act, and it will write to the Justice Secretarythe Lord Chancellorto say so. He then expects to lay a commencement order before Parliament for section 59 of the Electoral Administration Act 2006 and paragraph 16 of schedule 7A to the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000, so that dual reporting will finish by the end of June.
Financial contributions to constituency associations...which are not linked to a Members candidacy...that is where the donation would have been forthcoming irrespective of the identity of the candidate...do not have to be registered on the Register of Members Interests.
Members might, in this context, ask themselves such questions as Did I write to or meet the donor asking for a contribution?, Was a letter sent out headed Campaign to [Re-] Elect [name], Was I the guest of honour at a dinner
where donations were sought? and Have I a particular relationship to the donor,
John Bercow (Buckingham) (Con): If the Deputy Leader of the House would be so good as to press the rewind button, he will recall that a few minutes ago he referred, without evaluation, to the Electoral Commissions requirement for disclosure of the fact of participation in the armed forces parliamentary scheme and similar such schemes. That is in contrast to the non-requirement on the part of the House. Does he find that position satisfactory? I did not get a clear sense that he had a particular view. I am not quite sure why the Electoral Commission is holding out for something on which the House is not insisting.
Chris Bryant: My feeling about the armed forces parliamentary scheme is that it is pretty difficult to evaluate, on a commercial basis, the cost of lying in a tent in Basra being shelled. It is pretty difficult to estimate whether that is worth £1,000 or more. However, when Members are not sure what the value of such a thing is, but guess that it might be more than £1,000, there is provision for them simply to attest to the fact that they have had that benefit. The honest truth is that it does no one a disservice to over-register; for instance, registering the fact that they have had the benefit of being involved in the armed forces parliamentary scheme would redound to their benefit, rather than to their discredit.
Dr. Gavin Strang (Edinburgh, East) (Lab): This is coming as a revelation to us. Let us take the example of a dinner that my constituency Labour party held in August. I was at the top table and said a few words, and there was then an address by Tony Benn. The dinner made just over £1,000perhaps £1,200for the party. Obviously, that money would be available for it to spend on any party function, including electioneering. Is the Deputy Leader of the House sayingI am quite happy with thisthat in future, either my local party, which is clearly an accounting unit, or I should register that £1,200, or whatever the sum, and say where it came from?
Chris Bryant: The regulations before us today do not affect the law. They do not change what ones local party has to declare. All that they change is what an hon. Member has to declare. An hon. Member is required to declare any donation above £1,000 that is associated with them in some way, whether that is because it is for their re-election, because they sought the donation, or because they were a speaker at the event. Those are the tests that the Standards and Privileges Committee has set for us that decide whether we should declare such events. If an event makes more than £1,000 profit, and it is tied to the candidacy of an individual, or the individual invited people or was the guest of honour, they would have to register itthat is, if the threshold remains at £1,000.
Chris Bryant: Absolutely not. Let me see whether I can make the position clearer. Where there is a direct relationship between the hon. Member and the donation or the event, the Member has to register with the House authorities, but a direct relationship includes being the person who sent out the invitations, who speaks at the event or who is the guest of honourthese are all in the report. Hon. Gentlemen who are making odd faces at me from the Opposition Benches need to read the report.
Andrew Mackinlay: I interrupt only because the body language signifying confusion among hon. Members is considerable. The right hon. Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young) clearly disagrees with what the Deputy Leader of the House is saying. Hon. Members deserve some clarity and precision on the matter. [Interruption] The Deputy Leader of the House says, I am correct. Clearly, that is not the view of the architect and author of the report, so can somebody help us? Hands up.
Similarly, if a fund-raising event raises more than £1,000, a Member benefiting should register the event.
Members might, in this context, ask themselves such questions as, Did I write to or meet the donor asking for a contribution?, Was a letter sent out headed Campaign to [Re-] Elect [name], Was I the guest of honour at a dinner where donations were sought?
John Bercow: I was slightly concerned when the hon. Gentleman finished his remarks by saying that that passage was a pretty generous catch-all. It is precisely because it is a rather generous catch-all that there might be cause for concern. He refers to a guest of honour speaking at a dinner at which donations might be solicited. He will understand that a humble Back Bencher like me, or a Back Bencher who ought to be humble, is not regularly invited to speak at fundraising events that raise such sums, so I am not speaking self-interestedly, but is it not rather disturbing that there should be such a draconian requirement of which Members could quite innocently fall foul?
Chris Bryant: Perhaps the hon. Gentleman mistook me. The Member who has to register is a Member who is benefiting. For instance, if there is a fundraising dinner in ones constituency to raise money for ones constituency association, and it is headed, The hon. Member for such-and-such a constituency invites you to a dinner and will be the guest speaker, and there is a general election coming up, there is clearly a direct benefit, and the benefit of £1,000 is significant.
Sir Patrick Cormack: This is an important point. It involves all of us. The hon. Gentleman just referred to the possibility of a general election approaching. When an election has happened, there may be five years until the next one. All our constituency parties, whatever their political complexion, have events to raise money. People often pay extremely modest prices for tickets, such as £5 or £10. The cumulative effect of such an evening, perhaps because of a raffle, may well be that the £1,000 barrier is crossed. Is he really saying that in the year after an election, if his party or mine raises £1,000 at a fish and chip supper, a coffee morning or whatever it might be, the Member has to register?
Bob Spink: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way. I make him absolutely right; the acid test must be whether a Member will benefit. We are talking about whether £1,000 is raised for their political organisation. The whole objective of that organisation is eventuallywhether in five years time or next monthto return them as a Member of Parliament, so that money will be used to benefit the Member and further their return to this House. If more than £1,000 is involved, it should always be declared.
Chris Bryant: Whenever there is a benefit to the hon. Member, it is important that they should declare. We are talking about a Register of Members Financial Interests. If an hon. Member was clear in their mind and heart that the event in question absolutely did not benefit them, clearly they would not have to register. However, simply reading paragraphs 29 and 34 together would make them understand that they were required to register the event if there was a doubt in their mind about whether they did benefit, and if the benefit involved was more than £1,000.
It is not possible to give an exhaustive list of what might be considered linked to an individual, and, as always, Members who are in any doubt should consult the Registrar.
Chris Bryant: It is the event that has to be registered. There is no requirement for sums below £1,001the threshold kicks in above £1,000and it is the profit of the event, the benefit, that has to be more than £1,000.
Mr. Peter Hain (Neath) (Lab):
As my hon. Friend knows, I have unwillingly become a bit of an expert on this stuff. I agree with many of the points made by Opposition Members. What I have just heard seems to be nonsense on stilts. I regularly have annual dinners in
Neath. If 200 people come to one, paying £15 a ticket, and some pensioners take part in a raffle, and the profitfrom a couple of hundred different peoplegoes over £1,000, as it often does, that is surely different from my writing to somebody asking them for sponsorship. If sponsorship money from a single individual came to more than £1,000, I would be in a sense obligated to that person and that should be registered, but the way in which this matter has been described seems to me a complete mess.
Chris Bryant: If there were a fundraising dinner whose tickets cost not £15, as in my right hon. Friends casein my constituency they normally cost £20but £500, the order of magnitude would be rather different. The issue is whether there is a significant financial benefit to the individual; the key point is whether that benefit is more than £1,000. If hon. Members are in doubt, they should consult the Registrar of Members Financial Interests so that they can have absolute clarity. However, I reassert that the rules say that the interest should be registered when there is a benefit of more than £1,000.
Dr. Strang: I was happy to register a visit to an Arsenal game that cost me very little, because the registrar would always say that we should register everything. However, the Minister is saying that if any dinner with any speaker makes a profit of more than £1,000, it should be registered. We should be telling the registrar what to do, not the other way around.
Chris Bryant: I can only keep on reasserting what I have asserted several times. If hon. Members do not like it, they should urge the Standards and Privileges Committee to change what it has laid down. The report makes it very clear what should happen when there is a benefit to an hon. Member by virtue of sponsorship of their constituency party or constituency association, by stating that
if a fund-raising event raises more than £1000, a Member benefiting should register the event.
In the process of deciding whether they have benefited, an hon. Member would want to bear in mind the following: is this an event that is directly related to my re-election or where I have solicited people into making contributions or paying for tickets to come, and is it focused around my membership as a Member of Parliament?
I shall end my remarks as I intended to do. I hope that the process of going to a single system of reporting instead of dual reporting will be unanimously supported by the House; that this will provide us with a much clearer, more consistent, efficient and transparent system; and that, to use a valleys word, it will be tidy.
Alan Duncan (Rutland and Melton) (Con):
I had hoped that this was going to be a very straightforward and simple debate and that all I would need to do was stand up, speak for two minutes, thank everybody and hope that everything was lovely and tidy, hunky-dory and tickety-boo, and that there would be no problems. However, although the House will have appreciated the Ministers speech, it appears that he has unintentionally somewhat muddied the waters, and I sense that there is
now some concern in the House about the precision with which the new system will work. Although what is proposed is billed as the abolition of dual reporting, a sentence on page 19 of the guide to the rules suggests that it is not entirely that:
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