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Mr. Brazier: I am willing to give way once more, but each time I have tried to debate a point with my hon. Friend—including all the way through the Second Reading debate—I have found him unwilling to answer the particular problems that I have raised. I am happy to give way on the issue of expense, but before I do so let me say that he raised the question of the expense involved in the procedure. I want to remind people of the expense involved in
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trying to deal with pedlars who are illegally street trading. I set out on Second Reading—I will not bore you or stretch your patience, Mr. Deputy Speaker, by doing so again—how terribly expensive it is to cope with a street trader hiding behind a peddling licence. I raised that point in discussion with my hon. Friend, and not once did he reply to my point. I hope that this time he will do so.

Mr. Chope: I am very grateful to my hon. Friend for giving way. In paragraph 64 of the Durham university report, I found what I hope is a very succinct summary of my concern. It states:

on the issue of distinguishing between street trading and peddling,

and so on. They are described as

and so on. Such statements have been made too often in the course of the proceedings on this Bill. I hope that my hon. Friend will accept that it is wrong to conflate the street trader, the lawful pedlar and the rogue.

Mr. Brazier: My hon. Friend has repeated his allegation again, so it is clearly on the record twice. To establish his point, he needs to show a point where one of the promoters of the Bills has conflated the two things. There is no point in going back to the Durham report for it. The plain fact is that all the way through these proceedings the MPs supporting the promoters of these Bills have sought to explain that nobody wants to attack genuine pedlars—people who go from place to place, selling their wares. He has accused us again of conflation, and the record will show that, but the problem is pedlars who act as illegal street traders and can hide behind their pedlars’ licences. The kind of inflammatory statement that he quoted from the Durham report may well be dug out in relation to some councils, but I have heard nobody in the various debates—I have been here for them all, except for part of the last one—who has conflated the two groups in the way that he suggests.

I have spoken for longer than I intended. The plain fact is that legitimate businesses will go to the wall because of the activities of such people, and I urge the House to allow all four of these Bills, not just the Canterbury City Council Bill, to be carried over.

9.18 pm

Mr. John Heppell (Nottingham, East) (Lab): I shall be very brief. The hon. Member for Christchurch (Mr. Chope) referred to the fact that the sponsors are not speaking for these Bills. May I make the point, so that it is on the record, that all the Nottingham MPs are here tonight to vote for the Nottingham City Council Bill and the other Bills covered by the motion? We have not spoken because the hon. Gentleman’s machinations have meant, as we know, that to speak could do harm to the Bill.

I shall say no more, and hope that other Members will be as brief as I have been. The Bill was a good Bill when it started. The machinations of the hon. Member for Christchurch have not made it a bad Bill. The will of
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the House is that the Bill should be revived, and I hope that it will be revived, along with the other three Bills.

Question put.

The House divided: Ayes 183, Noes 8.
Division No. 97]
[9.19 pm


Alexander, Danny
Allen, Mr. Graham
Austin, Mr. Ian
Baron, Mr. John
Battle, rh John
Bayley, Hugh
Begg, Miss Anne
Beith, rh Sir Alan
Benn, rh Hilary
Betts, Mr. Clive
Blackman, Liz
Blackman-Woods, Dr. Roberta
Bottomley, Peter
Brake, Tom
Brazier, Mr. Julian
Brennan, Kevin
Brokenshire, James
Brooke, Annette
Brown, Lyn
Brown, rh Mr. Nicholas
Browne, rh Des
Bryant, Chris
Burden, Richard
Burnham, rh Andy
Burrowes, Mr. David
Burt, Alistair
Burt, Lorely
Byrne, rh Mr. Liam
Challen, Colin
Clark, Greg
Clark, Paul
Clifton-Brown, Mr. Geoffrey
Cohen, Harry
Cooper, Rosie
Crausby, Mr. David
Cryer, Mrs. Ann
Cunningham, Mr. Jim
Cunningham, Tony
David, Mr. Wayne
Davidson, Mr. Ian
Davies, Mr. Dai
Davis, rh David
Dean, Mrs. Janet
Dobbin, Jim
Donohoe, Mr. Brian H.
Doran, Mr. Frank
Eagle, Maria
Evans, Mr. Nigel
Farrelly, Paul
Farron, Tim
Flello, Mr. Robert
Flynn, Paul
Foster, Mr. Don
Francois, Mr. Mark
Gardiner, Barry
George, Andrew
George, rh Mr. Bruce
Gibson, Dr. Ian
Gilroy, Linda
Goodman, Helen
Goodwill, Mr. Robert
Green, Damian
Grieve, Mr. Dominic
Griffith, Nia
Hain, rh Mr. Peter
Hall, Mr. Mike
Hamilton, Mr. David
Hanson, rh Mr. David
Harris, Mr. Tom
Hayes, Mr. John
Healey, rh John
Heath, Mr. David
Henderson, Mr. Doug
Heyes, David
Holmes, Paul
Hope, Phil
Horwood, Martin
Howarth, David
Hoyle, Mr. Lindsay
Hughes, rh Beverley
Huhne, Chris
Humble, Mrs. Joan
Iddon, Dr. Brian
Illsley, Mr. Eric
James, Mrs. Siân C.
Jenkins, Mr. Brian
Johnson, Ms Diana R.
Jones, Helen
Jones, Mr. Kevan
Jones, Lynne
Joyce, Mr. Eric
Kaufman, rh Sir Gerald
Khan, Mr. Sadiq
Kidney, Mr. David
Ladyman, Dr. Stephen
Lancaster, Mr. Mark
Laws, Mr. David
Laxton, Mr. Bob
Lazarowicz, Mark
Leech, Mr. John
Lepper, David
Levitt, Tom
Lewis, Mr. Ivan
Lidington, Mr. David
Lloyd, Tony
Loughton, Tim
Lucas, Ian
Mackinlay, Andrew
Mactaggart, Fiona
Mann, John
Marris, Rob
Marshall-Andrews, Mr. Robert
McAvoy, rh Mr. Thomas
McCabe, Steve
McCafferty, Chris
McCarthy, Kerry
McCarthy-Fry, Sarah
McGrady, Mr. Eddie
Meale, Mr. Alan
Merron, Gillian
Michael, rh Alun
Mitchell, Mr. Andrew
Moffatt, Laura
Mole, Chris
Moore, Mr. Michael
Morgan, Julie

Mulholland, Greg
Mullin, Mr. Chris
Munn, Meg
Norris, Dan
O'Brien, Mr. Stephen
O'Hara, Mr. Edward
Öpik, Lembit
Paterson, Mr. Owen
Pearson, Ian
Pelling, Mr. Andrew
Penning, Mike
Pope, Mr. Greg
Pound, Stephen
Prosser, Gwyn
Purchase, Mr. Ken
Reed, Mr. Jamie
Rennie, Willie
Robertson, Hugh
Rosindell, Andrew
Rowen, Paul
Roy, Mr. Frank
Roy, Lindsay
Russell, Bob
Sanders, Mr. Adrian
Selous, Andrew
Sheridan, Jim
Simpson, Alan
Skinner, Mr. Dennis
Smith, rh Mr. Andrew
Smith, Angela E. (Basildon)
Smith, Geraldine
Smith, Sir Robert
Soulsby, Sir Peter
Spellar, rh Mr. John
Straw, rh Mr. Jack
Stunell, Andrew
Swinson, Jo
Taylor, David
Thornberry, Emily
Thurso, John
Touhig, rh Mr. Don
Truswell, Mr. Paul
Twigg, Derek
Viggers, Sir Peter
Vis, Dr. Rudi
Waltho, Lynda
Watson, Mr. Tom
Webb, Steve
Williams, Mark
Williams, Mr. Roger
Willott, Jenny
Wilson, Phil
Winterton, Sir Nicholas
Wright, Mr. Anthony
Wright, David
Wright, Mr. Iain
Younger-Ross, Richard
Tellers for the Ayes:

Martin Salter and
Mr. John Heppell

Campbell, Mr. Gregory
Chope, Mr. Christopher
Davies, Philip
Donaldson, rh Mr. Jeffrey M.
Hollobone, Mr. Philip
Knight, rh Mr. Greg
Liddell-Grainger, Mr. Ian
Winterton, Ann
Tellers for the Noes:

Mr. James Gray and
Mr. Peter Bone
Question accordingly agreed to.
21 Apr 2009 : Column 205


21 Apr 2009 : Column 206


Support for Mutual Societies

9.32 pm

Mr. Jeffrey M. Donaldson (Lagan Valley) (DUP): I wish to present a petition to the House of Commons on behalf of more than 30,000 people across Northern Ireland. It relates to the Presbyterian mutual society. The petition is as follows:

We note that in the case of the Dunfermline building society in Scotland, there was Government intervention. We hope that Presbyterians in Northern Ireland can be treated with the same degree of generosity by a Presbyterian Prime Minister and his Government. The petition continues:

I thank colleagues in the House from Northern Ireland constituencies, including my hon. Friend the Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Campbell), and the hon. Member for South Down (Mr. McGrady), both of whom have supported the cause of savers with the Presbyterian mutual society. The petitioners pray that the House will come to their aid in this matter, and the petition concludes:


21 Apr 2009 : Column 207

Councillor Paul Buchanan

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn. —(Helen Goodman.)

9.35 pm

Mr. Ian Liddell-Grainger (Bridgwater) (Con): I am delighted to have the opportunity in an Adjournment debate to talk about Mr. Paul Buchanan. This is a short debate with a short title, but I am here to tell the House of some extraordinary events in the life of an elected councillor for the county of Somerset.

Mr. Buchanan is not a constituent of mine; nor, by any stretch of the imagination, is he is a supporter of my party. He is a Liberal Democrat, so we ought to be classified as sworn political enemies. However, sometimes there are bigger things in life than party loyalty, and when a man is made to suffer without good reason and has no right of redress, it matters not a jot what his party loyalties may be.

I became interested in the case of Paul Buchanan partly because his own political leadership disowned him. It puzzled me that a man should have a grievance that nobody was prepared to hear. Even his local Member of Parliament refused to take up the case. I am pleased to say that this House has a long and proud tradition of defending the weak and standing up for those who have no voice. Parliament, after all, is supposed to be the highest court in the land.

Tonight I bring before the House the strange case of Paul Buchanan. His world has been turned upside down, his career prospects have been badly damaged, his political ambitions in local government have been ruined and his good name has been rubbished, all because of the actions of one highly placed, highly paid and quite unscrupulous public official—the chief executive of Somerset county council, Mr. Alan Jones. This is a true story. Mr. Jones is guilty of deliberate deceit and victimisation. He deliberately set out to destroy Paul Buchanan. The tactics that Jones used make Damian McBride look like an angel.

I have the evidence right here. To his credit, Mr. Buchanan has at no time broken any confidences to me. All my information has come from available transcripts which were deemed by the Adjudication Panel for England to be “in the public domain”. The documents that I have collected were part of recent hearings against Paul Buchanan. I attended one of the proceedings.

The evidence against Alan Jones is damning. On 4 April 2007 Alan Jones composed a six-page letter of complaint about Paul Buchanan and sent it to the Standards Board for England. At that time Mr. Buchanan was deputy leader of his party and hoped to be the new leader. Without the intervention of the chief executive, he would probably have succeeded, but with a very poisoned pen Jones totally undermined him.

The letter is a bizarre piece of writing. Jones attempts to play the reasonable father-figure, describing Mr. Buchanan as “young, able and enthusiastic”. Then the venom starts to flow. Paul Buchanan is accused of secretiveness, undermining staff, aggression, threatening behaviour, rudeness, intimidation, anger, disrespect, fraud, sexism, racism, homophobia, and abuse of his office as an elected councillor. There is barely concealed hatred
21 Apr 2009 : Column 208
of the man in every sentence. It is the ultimate hatchet job. Indeed, if there was a prize for the black arts, Alan Jones would win it, hands down.

Jones did not want the Standards Board to investigate. He wanted an instant political execution. He asked for Buchanan to be suspended there and then. I can only hazard a guess at the reaction when his letter was received. The Standards Board would have been forgiven for thinking that Paul Buchanan was an unstable nutcase with homicidal tendencies. In fact, the really unstable character was the one who made the complaint—Somerset county council’s most senior officer. Unfortunately, the Standards Board does not investigate complaints against officers; there is a gaping hole in the justice system. It is manifestly unfair that no legal process has yet been created by which officers can be independently investigated—unless, that is, they commit actual crimes. I invite the Minister to comment on that vital general point when he responds, and to see whether he can do anything to help.

The Standards Board had very few options. It was obliged to launch a full-blown inquiry into Mr. Buchanan, even if it doubted the wild complaints about him that Alan Jones had brought. The board went about its task relentlessly for two years. It conducted literally hundreds of interviews and produced thousands of pages of transcripts. When it rejected Alan Jones’s first batch of complaints, Jones wasted no additional time disputing its findings. I sympathise a little with the Standards Board; it was dealing with a deranged obsessive. The first investigator, or ethical standards officer, as the board calls them, retired halfway through the tortuous process—probably exhausted. Lawyers came and went, and it dragged on. Heaven only knows what it cost—and the result? Eventually, 16 of the original complaints were rejected completely and four others were referred to a higher court—the Adjudication Panel. That meant more delay and more uncertainty for Paul Buchanan.

The panel, with a bench of barristers in tow, finally met in Somerset over recent weeks. Key witnesses were called to give evidence again—remarkably few, actually, because most did not want to have anything to do with it. The panel had access to all the original documentation and threw out three more complaints. One tiny charge was upheld. Paul Buchanan had been heard swearing under his breath. He was deemed to have been a little careless and ticked off with a censure—the mildest possible sanction. That is mad. Frankly, after two years in limbo, my language would have been extremely fruity and very loud indeed.

My fascination with the case, however, is with what really lies behind it. Why on earth did a chief executive, earning £160,000 a year, with 17,000 staff and huge responsibilities, go to so much trouble to make complaints about a young, ambitious councillor? Mr. Jones’s explanation was beyond belief. He said that Mr. Buchanan’s behaviour was

That statement would stack up only if the charges against him were proved, but they were not. Paul Buchanan has been acquitted of everything serious. Let us remember the allegations: secretiveness, undermining staff, aggression, threatening behaviour, rudeness, intimidation, anger, disrespect, fraud, sexism, racism, homophobia—and, I suspect, leaving the toilet seat up.

21 Apr 2009 : Column 209

It is not credible that Alan Jones made an innocent mistake in complaining about Buchanan. Mr. Jones’s charges were too specific, and they were backed up with too much detail and too much personal bile. It was a wholly personal vendetta. It is open to anyone—fellow councillors, council employees and ordinary members of the public—to make complaints to the Standards Board, but Jones extracted statements from junior staff who were perhaps too scared to go against the boss.

So, why on earth did Jones want to get Buchanan? And, what had Buchanan got on Jones? I am sorry if it sounds conspiratorial, but there is a big hint of conspiracy in all this. Mr Buchanan unfortunately knew too much for his own good. Back in 2005 there was gossip about Alan Jones having an affair with a member of staff called Jenny Hastings. Everybody at county hall knew about it; it was no secret. What Buchanan did not know, however, was that when the affair came to an end, Ms Hastings made very serious allegations of harassment against Alan Jones.

Obviously, engaging in such harassment is a sackable offence. The allegations had to be dealt with by a confidential panel of elected members, including Councillor Cathy Bakewell, the lady who led the council at the time. The panel did not reach a quick conclusion; everything was delayed because Mrs. Bakewell was taken seriously ill halfway through. These things happen. Paul Buchanan was then deputised to take on many of her responsibilities, but Cathy Bakewell never told him about the Alan Jones inquiry. Alan Jones, however, did tell him—and in lurid detail. Perhaps he wanted to curry favour with the man most likely to be the next leader of the county council. Until that moment, Paul Buchanan was unaware of any allegations and did not know about the confidential panel either; he was not even on it. Jones pleaded with Buchanan to help. Buchanan rightly told Jones that he could not. Big mistake: Alan Jones has a long memory and, as we will see, bears grudges.

By the time Councillor Cathy Bakewell returned to work, it was deemed too dangerous to punish Jones by sacking him. At that time, Jenny Hastings was threatening an industrial tribunal—a very public way of exposing the antics of her erstwhile lover. Meanwhile, the Audit Commission was due to inspect the council. There is nothing like a four-star sex scandal to scupper a council’s chances of an “excellent” four-star rating. Behind closed doors and with the help of ACAS, a deal was sealed to buy off Ms Hastings. It cost £140,000 of taxpayers’ money—slightly less than Alan Jones’s annual salary. Somerset county council thought that it had got everyone involved to sign a confidentiality agreement, but it carelessly left at least one person off the list, which is why I know how much she was paid. There were also some very large extra payments. In the next couple of years, millions of pounds were spent on mysterious “staff restructuring” at Somerset county council. Did any of that money help buy the silence of those on the inside who knew the gory details? Were those in the know given golden goodbyes when they retired?

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