Jack Dromey - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents

Jack Dromey


1. In this Report we consider a memorandum from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, reporting on his consideration of a complaint made against Jack Dromey, the Member for Birmingham, Erdington. The complaint was that Mr Dromey failed to register in time payments made to him in respect of his employment as Deputy General Secretary of the Unite the Union (hereafter 'Unite') from May 2010 to October 2010. There was a subsequent, related, complaint that Mr Dromey had failed to declare his interest in several debates where it would have been appropriate to do so. The complaints were made by the Member for North West Leicestershire, Andrew Bridgen.

2. The Commissioner's memorandum is appended to this Report. In accordance with the established procedure, we supplied Mr Dromey with a copy of the Commissioner's memorandum and asked him if he wished to give evidence to the Committee, orally or in writing. Mr Dromey has written to the Committee, indicating his willingness to give evidence, but expressing his acceptance of the Commissioner's findings, and apologising for his breaches of the rules. Those letters are also appended to the Report. We did not consider it necessary to take oral evidence.

The Commissioner's findings


3. At the time of his election in May 2010 Mr Dromey was the Deputy General Secretary of Unite. Members are required to register their financial interests and are responsible for notifying changes in their registrable interest within four weeks of each change occurring.[1] The categories of registration most pertinent to Mr Dromey's case are Category 2, remunerated employment etc, and Category 11, Miscellaneous. Under Category 2 Members must register "the precise amount of each individual payment made, the nature of the work carried on in return for that payment, the number of hours worked during the period to which the payment relates and [...] the name and address of the person, organisation or company making that payment."[2]

4. Mr Dromey's Register entry of 4 June 2010 under the heading of "2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc" was as follows:

Deputy General Secretary of Unite Union. I am leaving this position and have declined my salary in the meantime.

Mr Dromey had intended to leave the position, and to accept no payment at the time when the Register entry was made. Things then changed. As Mr Dromey told the Committee "the Union asked me to continue my employment to deal with a particular internal matter of great importance that only I could deal with and this continued longer than we had anticipated and as a consequence I agreed to accept my subsequent salary in the interim."[3]

5. Mr Dromey continued to work for the union for between 10 and 15 hours a week (except when on holiday) until 30 October 2010. The Commissioner's memorandum indicated that during this period, Mr Dromey received payments for his work as follows:

a salary payment in May which Mr Dromey repaid to the union;

on 4 June 2010 a payment of £7,098 for 40-60 hours work in June 2010;

on 6 July 2010 a payment of £13,977 comprising £8,736 for 40-60 hours work in July 2010 and £5,241 for holiday pay for the period January to July 2010;

on 5 November 2010 a payment of £7,098 for 95-135 hours work in August to October 2010; and

on 5 November 2010 an ex gratia payment of £30,000 on leaving his position as Deputy General Secretary of Unite.[4]

Mr Dromey also had use of a telephone and of a car provided by Unite. A sum of £4,145.90 was deducted from the November payment, which represented the price of his car, since "In accordance with the normal practice for Officers leaving the Union with the Union's consent, Mr Dromey was allowed to purchase his car at a fixed percentage of list price depending upon the age of the car." [5]

6. Mr Dromey registered the ex gratia payment of 5 November 2010 on 7 July 2011, making a new entry in the Miscellaneous category:

  11. Miscellaneous

I received an ex gratia payment of £30,000 on leaving my position as Deputy General Secretary of Unite. (Registered 7 July 2011)

This followed a meeting with the Registrar of Members' Financial Interests, which Mr Dromey sought at his own initiative. The meeting covered a number of topics. As the Commissioner's memorandum says, Mr Dromey's evidence is that at that meeting on 7 July he told the Registrar "he would need to update his Register entry in relation to his employment with the union" and:

The Registrar's evidence is that at their meeting Mr Dromey's entry under Category 2 (Remunerated employment, office, profession etc) was not discussed in detail. He told her that he needed to check something in relation to this entry. She considers that Mr Dromey's exit package from the union was a complex one and she understands why he might have wished to check this information.[6]

After the meeting Mr Dromey requested details of payments received from the union which were not received until the end of August. The entry under Category 2 remained unchanged until 4 October 2011, when Mr Dromey wrote to the Registrar to indicate that it needed to be amended. The amended Register entry read as follows:

2. Remunerated employment, office, profession etc

Deputy General Secretary of Unite Union, 128 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8TN until 30 October 2010. Between the General Election and 30 October 2010, I received £27,867 in salary which included pay in lieu of notice. (Updated 4 October 2011)

The Registrar advised him that as the arrangement to purchase his company car was normal practice and did not relate to his role as MP it did not need to be registered. The Commissioner's memorandum notes Mr Dromey's explanation that the TUC and Labour Party conferences and the September sitting of the House meant that "September was a very busy month [...] which was why he did not send the revised entry until 4 October 2011."[7]

7. The Commissioner's overall conclusion on registration was:

My overall conclusions, therefore, are that Mr Dromey was in breach of the registration rules of the House by failing to register within the required time period the payments he received from June to October 2010 as a result of his employment with Unite, for failing to register in time the ex gratia payment he received in November 2010, for failing to register the additional benefits he received from his employment, for failing to identify the separate payments he received and the hours he worked and for failing to notify the ending of his employment with Unite within the required time period.[8]


8. Mr Bridgen also complained of six occasions on which Mr Dromey contributed to proceedings without declaring a relevant interest. The Commissioner has upheld this complaint in connection with two of these:

Mr Dromey has, however, accepted with hindsight that he should have declared his financial interest in the contributions he made to the debates on 16 September 2010 and on 16 June 2010. The Registrar of Members' Financial Interests agrees with Mr Dromey in respect of the first of these; and would not argue against Mr Dromey on the second, although she believes it to be a more marginal case. My own judgement is that Mr Dromey's interest on account of his employment with Unite was sufficiently relevant to have required him to have declared that interest at the beginning of each of his contributions. He was, therefore, in breach of the declaration rules of the House in not having done so.[9]

9. We note the Commissioner did not uphold the complaint that Mr Dromey had failed to declare a relevant interest in the intervention he made on 22 October 2010 on the Second Reading of the Lawful Industrial Action (Minor Errors) Bill, on the grounds that:

While the Guide to the Rules does not specifically cover this sort of circumstance, I believe it is broadly analogous to a Member asking a supplementary question, where the Member is not required to make any relevant declaration. While I consider Mr Dromey had a relevant interest in relation to the subject matter being discussed, I think to have declared it as he made his brief intervention would have had the effect of unnecessarily impeding the quality and progress of the debate by inhibiting the opportunity for the sort of cut and thrust between Members which his brief intervention demonstrated.[10]

Conclusion and recommendation

10. We agree with the Commissioner that failure to register or declare interests is a serious matter. We note the Commissioner has put it on record that:

I consider that it is relevant that Mr Dromey was a new Member seeking to establish himself in the House and in his constituency. Like other Members, he was under considerable work pressures. It is also to his credit that he has co-operated so fully and openly with my inquiry and has taken the first opportunity to accept that he breached the registration rules and to apologise. There is no evidence that the breaches I have identified in respect of both registration and declaration were intentional, and I trust that Mr Dromey will in future ensure that he gives these matters the priority which they require.[11]

Mr Dromey has co-operated with the Commissioner's inquiry, and apologised for his failure to register at the first opportunity.

11. In his letter to the Committee Mr Dromey says:

I entirely accept that I should have notified the registrar as soon as my circumstances had changed, updating my original registration, but I hope you will accept my failure to do so was entirely unintentional. These were payments were very long-standing employer in a hectic transitional period the end of my employment.

I do not offer for one moment this as an excuse but merely as an explanation. I accept without hesitation that the registration should have been amended, and although I did subsequently update my registration, this was clearly too late and in breach of the rules.

12. We give Mr Dromey credit for taking the initiative to update his registration, but that initial update was incomplete in several respects (see paragraph 7 above). Mr Dromey and the Registrar have since agreed an accurate Register entry:

Category 2: Remunerated employment, office, profession etc

Deputy General Secretary of Unite the Union until 30 October 2010. Address: Unite House, 128 Theobalds Road, Holborn, London, WC1X 8TN. In addition to my salary I had the use of a company car and until 4 September 2010 a mobile telephone.

4 June 2010, received payment of £7,098 for work done in June 2010

Hours: 40-60 hours.

6 July 2010, received payment of £13,977, comprising £8,736 for work done in July 2010, and £5,241 for holiday pay for the period January—July 2010.

Hours: 40-60 hours

5 November 2010, received payment of £7,098 for work done in August—October 2010

Hours: 95-135 hours

Category 11: Miscellaneous

I received an ex gratia payment of £30,000 on 5 November 2010 on leaving my position as Deputy General Secretary of Unite. (See entry in Category 2 above.)

The revision has been held over until our proceedings on this complaint are complete, since we would not expect Register entries to be significantly revised when we were considering a complaint. Such revisions would pre-empt our findings, and make our task more difficult.

13. We consider Mr Dromey's failure to ensure that the Register gave an accurate picture of his relationship with Unite is serious. The Register entry suggested Mr Dromey was employed by Unite for nearly a year after that relationship ended and failed to record significant payments and benefits from that employment.

14. We note the Commissioner's description of the work pressures on Mr Dromey, and his acceptance that the breaches were not intentional. We note that Mr Dromey was a new Member. We are satisfied that when the original Register entry was made Mr Dromey had no intention of accepting further payment from Unite, and that Mr Dromey himself took steps to ensure the Register was accurate, although these were belated and incomplete. Nonetheless, we believe Mr Dromey's failure to ensure his Register entries were updated promptly and fully was a serious breach. There was no question of this being a small payment for occasional pieces of work; by his own evidence, Mr Dromey spent several hours a week on his work for Unite. The payments were significant. The quantity of work he undertook and the scale of the payment should have alerted Mr Dromey to the need to consider his Register entry. While a new Member might not be expected to have the rules at his fingertips, advice was available.

15. We endorse the Commissioner's view that requiring declaration of interests in interventions would impede the quality and progress of debate (although there may be circumstances in which an interest is so germane that it should be declared even in such interventions). Mr Dromey failed to declare a relevant interest in debates on 16 June and 16 September 2010. The Guide to the Rules is clear that "as well as current interests, Members are required to declare both relevant past interests and relevant interests which they may be expecting to have", and specifies that past interests are those held within the previous 12 months.[12] Mr Dromey's connection with Unite should have been declared whether or not the employment remained current.

16. Mr Dromey was sent a copy of the Commissioner's memorandum on 13 January; on 16 January he wrote to the Clerk of the Committee, saying "I would first like to place on record my apology to the Committee that the breaches identified by the Commissioner, whose conclusions I accept in full." Mr Dromey also "accepted the Commissioner's findings with regard to declaring relevant interest in the two debates" in June and September 2010, and apologised for that breach.[13]

17. This matter was too serious to be resolved through the rectification procedure. We note that "In the case of non-registration, rectification requires a belated entry in the current Register, with an appropriate explanatory note; in the case of non-declaration, it requires an apology to the House by means of a point of order."[14] This ensures the relevant interest and the failure to declare it is recorded, but is markedly less significant than a personal statement, announced on the annunciator in advance and heard by the House in silence. Mr Dromey has indicated that: "if this case had been rectified by the Commissioner, I recognise that I would have had to make an apology on a Point of Order on the floor of the House. This, I would be happy to do."[15]

18. We acknowledge Mr Dromey's co-operation with the inquiry, and his immediate and repeated apology. Even so, if Mr Dromey had not been a new and inexperienced Member at the time, we might well have recommended that he apologise to the House by means of a personal statement. As it is, since Mr Dromey has recognised the seriousness of his failure to register and to declare interests we will accept his written apology as an apology to the House. We restrict ourselves to accepting Mr Dromey's offer to apologise by way of a point of order on the Floor of the House for his failure to declare interests and recommending that he updates his entry in the Register in the terms already agreed with the Registrar of Members' Financial Interests, with the appropriate explanation.

1   Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 735, paragraph 13 Back

2   Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 735, paragraph 24 Back

3   Appendix 2 Back

4   Appendix 1, paragraph 57 Back

5   Appendix 1, paragraph 27 Back

6   Appendix 1, paragraph 58 Back

7   Appendix 1, paragraph 55 Back

8   Appendix 1, paragraph 72 Back

9   Appendix 1, paragraph 70 Back

10   Appendix 1, paragraph 71 Back

11   Appendix 1, paragraph 79 Back

12   Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 735, paragraph, paragraph 73 Back

13   Appendix 2  Back

14   Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 735, paragraph 108 Back

15   Appendix 2 Back

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© Parliamentary copyright 2012
Prepared 19 January 2012