Dr Liam Fox - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents

9.  Letter to Rt Hon Dr Liam Fox MP from the Commissioner, 18 October 2011

I would welcome your help on a complaint which I have received from Mr John Mann MP about your use of parliamentary resources.

I enclose a copy of letters of 10, 14 and 17 October which I have received from Mr Mann in relation to the arrangements for your accommodation in London in 2002-03 and about your use of your parliamentary office.[87] I enclose also a copy of my letter of 11 October to Mr Mann to which his letters of 14 and 17 October respond.[88] Finally, I enclose copies of your entries in relation to The Atlantic Bridge in the Register of Members' Financial Interests from the January 2000, 2004, 2005 and February 2010 printed editions of the Register.[89]

I was most grateful for your letter of 12 October with your initial response to Mr Mann's first letter. The purpose of this letter is to set out the allegations and relevant rules and to invite you to let me have some further information to help me take forward this inquiry.

I have consulted the Committee on Standards and Privileges about this matter and it has agreed that, exceptionally, I should include in my inquiries into this complaint matters which go back more than seven years.

In essence, the complaint is that, in 2002-03, your claims for mortgage interest and other claims for your additional accommodation in London met the living costs of someone other than yourself; that you allowed that accommodation to be used for business purposes by that other person; and that you allowed your office on the parliamentary estate to be used for non-parliamentary purposes from 2003 to 2009.

The relevant provisions in the Code of Conduct and its associated rules would appear to be as follows:

  • The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament in place from May 2002 replicated a similar provision to the 1996 Code and provided as follows:

"No improper use shall be made of any payment or allowance made to Members for public purposes and the administrative rules which apply to such payments and allowances must be strictly observed."

  • The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament in place in 2005 replaced that requirement with the following in its paragraph 14:

"Members shall at all times ensure that their use of expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is strictly in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters, and that they observe any limits placed by the House on the use of such expenses, allowances, facilities and services."

  • The Green Book for April 2002 included the following in the Speaker's introduction: "Members are reminded that they are responsible for ensuring that the use of their allowances is above reproach". The information on the Additional Costs Allowance provided at the beginning of Section 3, in answer to the question "What can I claim?" stated: "Only those additional costs incurred in spending time away from home either at Westminster or in the constituency." Paragraph 3.3.1 said additional costs included "any additional costs necessarily incurred in staying overnight for performing Parliamentary duties, excluding any expenses that have been incurred for purely personal or political purposes."
  • The Green Book for June 2003 stated in paragraph 3.5.1: "You are strongly advised to avoid subletting or renting out any part of a property for which you claim the additional costs allowance." It also provided in paragraph 3.12.1 that expenditure which was not allowable under the Additional Costs Allowance included "living costs for anyone other than yourself". The Committee's Tenth Report of Session 2008-09 (...); their Fourth Report of Session 2009-10 (...), their Eighth Report, of Session 2009-10 (...) and their Fifth Report of Session 2010-12 (...) are relevant to the interpretation of this reference, which does not appear in the previous editions of the Green Book.
  • The House authorities have long provided Members of Parliament with facilities, including offices on the parliamentary estate, to assist with their parliamentary duties. In 2006-07 the then Commissioner stated in a memorandum to the Committee: "I am advised by the Serjeant at Arms that no rules relating to permitted uses of Members' offices have been promulgated. It is, however, a fundamental principle underpinning the provision of Parliamentary facilities, services, expenses and allowances to Members that they are provided to enable Members to carry out their responsibilities as Members of the House, that is they are provided for Parliamentary rather than for party purposes." The first reference to the use of facilities in the Members' Handbook appeared in May 2010. This stated that: "facilities and services are provided in order to assist Members in their parliamentary work… They should not be used for party political campaigning or private business activity."

In the light of this summary of the relevant rules, I would welcome your comments on the complaint. In particular, it would be helpful to know:

1.  London accommodation

a.  The month in 2002-03 in which you started the arrangement under which Mr Adam Werritty stayed overnight in your parliamentary funded London accommodation and, if possible, a better idea of how many months he stayed there; the number of nights a week on average he spent there during this period and the number of nights on average you spent there; whether Mr Werritty had other accommodation in which he lived at that time in either London or elsewhere; whether he made any contribution to his living costs, given that he paid you no rent; why the arrangement was made and why it came to an end;

b.  What claims you made against the Additional Costs Allowance over the period when Mr Werritty was staying in your London accommodation, both for mortgage interest and other expenditure; and whether any of these claims took account of Mr Werritty's use of the accommodation, and if so, how this was done.

2.  Business use

c.  What was the full address or addresses of your London accommodation for which you claimed expenses under the Additional Costs Allowance from 2002 to 2009 (when UK Health Group Ltd was dissolved); why in 2002-03 Mr Werritty apparently used the address of your London accommodation as his address as Director in the Companies House annual return for this company; whether he used the same address to register any shares he had in the company at that time; when he changed his address as a Director; why that address was different from his address as a shareholder in the annual return sent to Companies House on 28 February 2008; whether you could confirm that the registered office of the company for 2002 was [London address 1];[90] and finally, whether Mr Werritty undertook any work in respect of UK Health Group Ltd at your London accommodation when he was staying there in 2002-03 or otherwise where he worked for the company in those months.

3.  Office accommodation

d.  What use The Atlantic Bridge made of your parliamentary office in Portcullis House when, as you say in your letter of 12 October, it was being used as its "operational address" from September 2003 to June 2009;

e.  Why your parliamentary office was used by The Atlantic Bridge over this period, and the reasons why the arrangement came to an end in June 2009;

f.  Taking account of the Charity Commission's conclusions that "the activities of the Charity may lead members of the public to call into question its independence from party politics" (paragraph 37 of its regulatory case report published on 26 July 2010) and its statement that the evidence it identified "suggests that the activities of the Charity are promoting a political policy which is closely associated with the Conservative Party" (paragraph 30), why you consider that the use of your offices by The Atlantic Bridge was for parliamentary purposes and was not for party political purposes or campaigning;

g.  Whether Mr Adam Werritty or any other person working for The Atlantic Bridge was located in your offices in Portcullis House (for example, with a desk) and otherwise what use was made of your parliamentary facilities for the work of The Atlantic Bridge.

Any other information or comment you would like to provide or make to help me in the resolution of this inquiry would be most welcome.

I enclose a note which sets out the procedure I follow.[91] I am writing to the complainant to let him know that I have accepted his complaint.[92] In due course, the fact that I am undertaking this inquiry, and the broad areas of the rules it covers, will be placed on my parliamentary webpages.

I would be very grateful if you could let me have a response to this letter within the next two weeks. If there is any difficulty about this or you would like a word about any aspect of this inquiry, do please contact me at the House.

I would be most grateful for your help on this matter.

18 October 2011

87   WE 1, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8 Back

88   WE 2 Back

89   WE 10 Back

90   See WE 8 Back

91   Not included in the written evidence Back

92   Not included in the written evidence Back

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