Sir Bob Russell - Standards and Privileges Committee Contents


Appendix 2: Letter from Sir Bob Russell to the Committee


Dear colleagues,

I am grateful to you for taking the time to read the Commissioner's Report. From this you will have noted that I have not personally made a financial gain from the arrangements for my constituency office; rather that I have made a significant personal financial contribution to provide an office which is fit-for-purpose at no additional cost to the public purse.

I thank the Commissioner for his Report. I recognise that this shows there has been a Breach of the Rules, for which I obviously apologise. That said, I hope that the Committee will accept that I did not deliberately or knowingly do so having taken considerable effort—more than 10 years ago!—to discuss with officials at that time precisely what was permitted.

It is clearly not helpful that official records have largely been destroyed by the House authorities, but what evidence exists I believe demonstrates that I acted in good faith. Nothing was hidden. Everything was open and transparent.

I sought advice. I was given advice. I followed that advice.

I would ask you to refer to Paragraph 32 on Page 14, namely my letter dated 31st January 2002 to an official of the Fees Office, which I feel is critical to my position. In this I mention a meeting with her and the then Head of the Fees Office when I quite clearly state my appreciation to them "for confirming that the arrangements for my MP's constituency offices comply with what is set out in the letter from (the Head of the Fees Office) dated 22nd January."

This is the nearest we have for documentary proof that I was given approval to proceed with the arrangements. There is no documentary evidence to the contrary!

It is Parliament's intention that no MP should gain a financial benefit from the receipt of public funds for his or her constituency office. I have not done so. A narrow interpretation of the word "interest" is, I submit, unfair in this context when it is clearly Parliament's intention that "interest" means "financial" or "beneficial" interest.

I believe that to draw a critical conclusion ten years after discussions at that time is unfair and contrary to natural justice.

I would therefore respectfully invite the Committee to consider making a resolution to the effect that the MP for Colchester acted in good faith throughout; he sought advice from House officials at the time, from late 2001 through to the Spring of 2002; and that all funds he received were used for the purpose for which was intended, namely for the operating costs of his constituency office, without any personal financial benefit to him.

Yours sincerely,

Sir Bob Russell,

MP for Colchester

3 September 2012


 
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Prepared 10 September 2012