1. In early 2010, the Sunday Times newspaper
and the makers of the Dispatches television programme arranged
for a number of Members of Parliament each to meet an undercover
reporter. The MPs were told that the meetings were with a representative
of a US communications company, which was considering forming
an advisory board in the UK. The premise was that the Members,
all of whom were standing down at the forthcoming General Election,
were being considered for a remunerated post on the board or for
consultancy work. The company was fictitious, although a website
had been set up to make it appear genuine.
2. Records of the meetings were subsequently used
by the Sunday Times and by Dispatches in articles
and in a broadcast, in which it was suggested that the conduct
of some of the Members concerned had in various ways been contrary
to the rules of the House. Members had been recorded discussing
how, after the election, they might assist the fictitious company
to gain access to Ministers and officials. Some had spoken of
what appeared to be previous achievements in this field. It was
alleged that the Members had brought the House into disrepute.
3. Immediately following the first reports in the
Sunday Times, some of the Members who had attended meetings
with the undercover reporter sought to refer their conduct to
the Commissioner. The Commissioner subsequently received complaints
from other Members, some of which were against the Members who
had also sought to refer themselves. A valid complaint takes precedence
over a self-referral. The Commissioner accepted complaints against
five Members for investigation and with our agreement he accepted
one self-referral. The Members were Sir John Butterfill (who referred
himself), Stephen Byers, Patricia Hewitt and Geoff Hoon (all complained
against by Justine Greening) and Richard Caborn and Adam Ingram
(both complained against by Greg Hands).
4. On 22 November, the Commissioner sent us a memorandum,
reporting on his investigation.
We are grateful to the Commissioner for the thoroughness of his
work. In particular, we welcome his decision to obtain certified
transcripts of the meetings each of the six Members had with the
undercover reporter; this has ensured that his conclusions are
based on more complete evidence than if he had relied just on
the extracts reported or broadcast by the media. We also endorse
the Commissioner's decision to present his findings and conclusions
on each of the six cases separately, but in a single memorandum,
which has enabled him to draw together some common threads. We
have adopted the same approach in our Report.
The structure of this Report
5. The Commissioner's memorandum contains a full
description of the part each of the Members played in their meetings
with the undercover reporter and considers in detail whether each
Member's conduct during the meetings or in actions described during
the meetings may have been in breach of the rules. We have not
set out in detail all the findings of the Commissioner, which
are reproduced in full at Appendix 1. Instead, in the following
sections of our Report we highlight in turn what appear to us
to be the more significant findings in respect of each of the
6. We sent copies of the relevant parts of the Commissioner's
memorandum to each former Member, for comment. Three of them submitted
written evidence and one of these three also gave oral evidence.
The evidence is summarised in the relevant sections.
We also present our conclusions on each former Member, in some
cases with recommendations. Finally, we comment on the broader
points made by the Commissioner.
1 Volume II, Appendix 1 Back
The evidence is published in full in Volume II of this Report Back