Sir John Butterfill, Mr Stephen Byers, Ms Patricia Hewitt, Mr Geoff Hoon, Mr Richard Caborn and Mr Adam Ingram - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents



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.[1] 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 former Members.

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.[2] 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

2   The evidence is published in full in Volume II of this Report Back

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Prepared 8 December 2010