5 Mr Richard Caborn|
51. Mr Caborn was the Member for Sheffield Central
when he met the undercover reporter on or about 10 March.
The interview was referred to in a Sunday Times article
of 28 March. On the
same date, the Member for Chelsea and Fulham, Greg Hands, made
a formal complaint to the Commissioner about Mr Caborn.
The Commissioner's findings
52. The Commissioner concludes that Mr Caborn committed
several breaches of the rules of the House, which he suggests
were more likely to be the result of careless oversight than of
deliberate intention. This meant that the breaches were less serious
than they would otherwise have been.
53. The Commissioner's main findings in relation
to Mr Caborn are set out below.
- Mr Caborn spoke to the undercover
reporter about a number of ways in which it is possible to influence
Ministers but the Commissioner accepts that Mr Caborn did not
do so himself in a way that would have breached the rules.
- Mr Caborn's statement to the undercover reporter
that he might be given a peerage, which would then allow him to
gain access to Ministers and others was "ill-judged"
and reflects poorly on him. He also made exaggerated statements
about his work for AMEC. But these statements did not bring the
House and its Members generally into disrepute, so they did not
breach the Code.
- Mr Caborn told the undercover reporter that he
got access to Ministers for the Fitness Industry Association,
for which he was a paid consultant, but the Commissioner accepts
that this claim was wrong and concludes that it did not breach
- Mr Caborn suggested that he had set up or could
set up other meetings; these statements did not breach the rules.
- Mr Caborn properly registered the payments he
received for consultancy work.
- Mr Caborn breached the rules when sponsoring
three events in Parliament on behalf of outside organisations,
because he failed to declare a relevant interest.
- Mr Caborn also breached the rules when in the
course of a meeting with the Chairman of a health authority who
was also a friend and constituent he failed to declare a relevant
54. We set out in full the Commissioner's overall
conclusion in respect of Mr Caborn:
I find that Mr Caborn was in breach of the rules
of the House in not declaring his financial interest in the FIA
when he had a preliminary discussion with the Chairman of the
Sheffield Health Authority about restructuring health services
in Sheffield in a way which could have benefited members of the
FIA; and that he was in breach of the rules of the House in one
failure to declare his registrable interest on a booking form
for a House of Commons dinner, and otherwise failing to declare
his relevant interest, either on the invitation or in his remarks
to those attending three of these events. I have no evidence that
any of these breaches was caused by deliberate intention: it was
more likely that they were the result of careless oversight. They
were therefore less serious on that account. In this comparatively
limited respect, I uphold the complaint against him.
Mr Caborn's evidence
55. We sent Mr Caborn a copy of the Commissioner's
findings of fact and conclusions. Mr Caborn wrote to us on 28
November. He told
us that he accepts the Commissioner's "recommendations",
with the exception of that relating to his meeting with the Chairman
of the Sheffield Health Authority. He also told us that he does
not accept "the personal subjective comments the Commissioner
strays into in parts of the memorandum."
56. Mr Caborn states that his meeting with the Chairman
of his local health authority was carried out in his capacity
as a constituency Member. He has known the Chairman for over 35
years and has had dealings with him in a number of different roles.
Mr Caborn points out that the Chair of a health authority is neither
a Minister nor a Crown Servant. The requirement in the House's
Guide to the Rules for a Member to declare a relevant financial
interest in a meeting with a public official refers specifically
to Ministers and to Crown Servants. Mr Caborn contends that it
did not apply to the meeting he held with the health authority
57. Mr Caborn has also told us that it was the Chairman
of the health authority who raised at the meeting a proposal to
put greater emphasis on prevention of health problemswhich
is the matter to which Mr Caborn's financial interest was relevant.
Mr Caborn's evidence is that he had not intended to raise the
issue himself. If discussion of the proposal had progressed beyond
the preliminary stage, Mr Caborn would have declared his interest.
58. Finally, Mr Caborn invites the Committee to provide
Members and the Commissioner with "clearer guidance"
on "how a Constituency MP operates."
Conclusion and recommendation
59. We note that Mr Caborn has thanked the Commissioner
for reaching the conclusion that his breaches of the rules were
the result of careless oversight and not deliberate intent. He
has accepted the conclusions reached by the Commissioner, with
one exception. He has referred to "subjective personal comments"
by the Commissioner, but without drawing our attention to any
example of such a comment.
60. The conclusion that Mr Caborn does not accept
is that he should have declared his financial interest in the
Fitness Industry Association when he discussed with the Chairman
of the Sheffield Health Authority a proposal for restructuring
local health services in a way that would have benefited members
of the FIA. Mr Caborn suggests that (a) the relevant rule of the
House does not apply to health authority officials; (b) the preliminary
nature of the discussion means that it was not "the appropriate
time" to make such a declaration; and (c) the proposal was
raised without notice by the Chairman of the health authority,
whom Mr Caborn was meeting in his capacity as a constituency Member.
61. The Commissioner has observed in his memorandum
that (a) successive editions of the Guide to the Rules have advised
Members that the requirement to declare a relevant interest applies
to meetings with "public officials", although the rule
itself refers only to Ministers and Crown servants; (b) the nature
of the proposal and the clear financial benefit that it would
have brought to members of the FIA meant that Mr Caborn's interest
was relevant and should have been declared even in the context
of a preliminary discussion; and (c) that Mr Caborn referred in
his meeting with the undercover reporter to legislation being
necessary in order to implement the proposal, which makes it a
Parliamentary matter and not simply a constituency matter.
62. In our view, Mr Caborn should have had greater
regard to the purpose of the rules on declaration when, in the
course of his meeting with the Chairman of Sheffield Health Authority,
a proposal was discussed which, if implemented, would have benefited
financially members of a commercial body in which he had a personal
financial interest. Mr Caborn has accepted that his interest was
relevant, because he has told us that he would have declared it
if the discussion with the health authority had progressed beyond
the preliminary stage. He also told the undercover reporter that
the proposal would benefit the FIA's bottom line.
We return later in this Report to the question of whether the
rule itself could be better expressed.
63. We agree with the Commissioner that Mr Caborn
should have declared his financial interest when he first discussed
with the Chairman of a health authority a proposal to which that
interest was relevant. The fact that the official whom he was
meeting was a contact of long standing and also a constituent
has no bearing on the question of declaration. Mr Caborn accepts
that he also committed further breaches, in that he failed to
declare an interest on several occasions when arranging or taking
part in events on the Parliamentary estate. Like the Commissioner,
we accept that there is no evidence to suggest that any of these
breaches were intentional. Mr Caborn did not bring the House or
its Members generally into disrepute.
64. We recommend that for breaching the Code of
Conduct Mr Richard Caborn apologise to the House through this
Committee in writing and that his entitlement to a Parliamentary
photopass be suspended for six months, with effect from 1 January
69 Appendix 1, paragraph 440 Back
Appendix 1, WE9 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 14 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 717 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 706 Back
Appendix 1, paragraphs 707 and 714 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 708 Back
Appendix 1, paragraphs 709, 710 and 715 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 716 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 709 and unnumbered paragraph after paragraph
714 (points x to xii) Back
Appendix 1, paragraphs 711 and 712 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 717 Back
Appendix 2 Back
Appendix 1, paragraphs 711 and 712 Back
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