Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Mr Jack Straw - Committee on Standards Contents


Rt Hon Jack Straw MP


The Referral

1) On 20 February 2015, Mr Straw, the then Member for Blackburn, wrote to me to refer himself and request that I investigate allegations arising out of a television programme, which he had been given notice would be broadcast on Channel 4 on 23 February. [49] He asked that I consider "all the claims made about me by Channel 4, and the Daily Telegraph, and any others which may arise from the Dispatches programme or press reporting." In deciding whether or not to accept a complaint or self-referral for investigation, I consider whether there is sufficient evidence to justify the initiation of an inquiry. Having seen the television programme on 23 February and the associated media coverage, I decided on 24 February to begin an investigation. [50] The matters I investigated, set out in my letter to Mr Straw on that date, were that, contrary to the rules of the House he had:

·  used parliamentary resources for purposes other than in support of his parliamentary duties;

·  failed on occasion to be open and frank in drawing attention to relevant interests in communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders;

·  engaged in lobbying for reward or consideration.[51]

2) I also told Mr Straw that I would consider whether his conduct had been such as to cause serious damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole or of its Members generally.

Relevant Rules of the House

3) The Code of Conduct provides the following rules:

    "13. Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders."

    "15. Members are personally responsible and accountable for ensuring that their use of any expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is in accordance with the rules laid down on these matters. Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties. It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves or anyone else, or confer undue advantage on a political organisation."

    "16. Members shall never undertake any action which would cause significant damage to the reputation and integrity of the House of Commons as a whole, or of its Members generally." [52]

4) The rules in relation to the registration and declaration of Members' interests are set out in Parts 1 and 2 of the Guide to the Rules. The rules on lobbying for reward or consideration are set out in part 3 of the Guide to the Rules. Paragraph 89 of the rules says:

    "On 6 November 1995[53] the House agreed to the following Resolution relating to lobbying for reward or consideration:

    "it is inconsistent with the dignity of the House, with the duty of a Member to his constituents, and with the maintenance of the privilege of freedom of speech, for any Member of this House to enter into any contractual agreement with an outside body, controlling or limiting the Member's complete independence and freedom of action in Parliament or stipulating that he shall act in any way as the representative of such outside body in regard to any matters to be transacted in Parliament; the duty of the Member being to his constituents and to the country as a whole, rather than to any particular section thereof; and that in particular no Members of the House shall, in consideration of any remuneration, fee, payment, or reward or benefit in kind, direct or indirect, which the Member or any member of his or her family has received, is receiving or expects to receive-

    Advocate or initiate any cause or matter on behalf of any outside body or individual, or

    urge any other Member of either House of Parliament, including Ministers, to do so,

    by means of … any approach, whether oral or in writing, to Ministers or servants of the Crown"

    Paragraph 90 of the Guide to the Rules continues: "This Resolution prohibits paid advocacy. It is wholly incompatible with the rule that any Member should take payment for speaking in the House. Nor may a Member, for payment, vote, ask a Parliamentary Question, table a Motion, introduce a Bill or table or move an Amendment to a Motion or Bill or urge colleagues or Ministers to do so."

Summary of Events

5) An independent television company, Vera Productions Ltd, decided to investigate whether the behaviour of Members of Parliament was in keeping with the House of Commons Code of Conduct and in particular wished to make comparisons with the programme "Politicians for Hire" which had been broadcast in March 2010. Approaches were made to 12 Members to ask whether they would be interested in joining the advisory board of a fictitious Chinese company named PMR. Of the 12 Members approached, two responded positively to a request for a meeting. Mr Straw was one of these. Reporters met with him on 7 and 13 January 2015 and covertly filmed the second meeting, which subsequently featured in a Dispatches programme broadcast on 23 February 2015. The programme and supporting articles in the Daily Telegraph made allegations that Mr Straw had breached the Rules of the House by using his position and contacts for personal gain and using his office in the House for business purposes.

6) On 23 February Mr Straw voluntarily withdrew from the Parliamentary Labour party pending consideration of his referral to me. Mr Straw has asserted throughout that he did not believe he had breached the Rules of House but also expressed his great regret for his actions and misjudgement. He said; "I am mortified that I fell into this trap, despite my best efforts to avoid this, and my previous public criticism of colleagues of all parties who have done so in the past. Of course I am kicking myself. However, I am clear that there was nothing that I said in the meetings which was improper."[54]

7) Mr Straw had contacted my office informally on 16 February, first to ask for advice on the rules relating to the use of a Member's office. On that date he met informally with the Registrar during my absence on leave. He explained that he had been the subject of a "sting" and that he wanted to refer himself to me. He left some preliminary papers with the Registrar and wrote formally to me on 19 February to seek advice and again on 20 February to refer himself in respect of all the allegations which might be made in the Dispatches programme due to be shown on 23 February. [55],[56] I met Mr Straw informally on that day.

8) Following the broadcast of the Dispatches programme and consideration of the articles published in the Daily Telegraph I wrote to Mr Straw on 24 February accepting his self- referral. [57]

Evidence

Evidence from Channel 4

9) On 26 February, I wrote to the executive producer of the production company[58] and to the editor of the Daily Telegraph asking for their assistance with my inquiry and in particular for:

    "…the full and unedited footage which formed the basis of the articles in the Daily Telegraph, including any un-broadcast and unpublished footage, together with any transcripts of the conversations. It would also be helpful to have any correspondence you or your reporters have had with Mr Straw or his representatives in the course of and after the preparation of the articles." [59]

10) After exchanges by email and telephone, on 17 April Vera Productions Ltd provided a recording of the second interview, a transcript of that interview and a copy of the letter sent to Mr Straw on 10 February. [60] & [61] The material was released subject to my assurances about the use to which it would be put and in particular that I would preserve the anonymity of the two undercover reporters. Having checked the transcript for accuracy and having made some very minor corrections, I provided a copy to Mr Straw on 23 April and invited him to send me his comments and any notes which he had made of the first meeting.[62] A copy of the transcript is included in the evidence.[63]

11) Since it had become apparent that only the second of the two interviews had been recorded, I asked whether any notes had been kept of the first meeting. Notes of the first interview[64] were provided to me on 26 May together with a copy of the transcript of the Dispatches programme itself.[65] I shared these with Mr Straw on 1 June.[66]

12) On 19 November 2014 a reporter from Vera Productions Ltd posing as Lin Zhang, Managing Director of a Chinese firm called PMR Communications had emailed Mr Straw saying;

    "I'm writing to ask if you'd be interested in a new position on an advisory board supporting our clients based in the Far East. We are a Hong Kong based consultancy, advising several companies [… and] looking to set up a London office and appoint an advisory board made up of senior figures from the world of politics and business.

    "We feel your experience in both the political and commercial spheres makes you an ideal candidate for the board." [67]

13) Mr Straw responded to the request for a meeting on 3 December[68] and a meeting was arranged for 7 January 2015. That meeting (with only one of the reporters) was arranged to take place in the House of Commons. There was no audio or video recording made but the reporter's note summarising the meeting has been provided by Channel 4.[69] Mr Straw has also given me a copy of the brief note which he made in his day book.[70] The reporter's notes summarise her recollection of the issues they had discussed, which were among those discussed in more detail in the second interview. I gave Mr Straw the opportunity to comment on the reporter's notes. In his letter of 16 June he says that does not accept the typed notes as an accurate reflection of the meeting, particularly with regard to the use of certain expressions and some inferences which the reporter made.[71] For this reason I have placed greater reliance on the recording of the second interview-where there is no dispute about what was said—rather than on these notes. For completeness, however, a copy of the reporter's notes is included in the evidence appended to my report.

14) The reporter then arranged a second interview with Mr Straw through his parliamentary researcher and invited him to attend a meeting in Mayfair. She was told that Mr Straw could not do this and she agreed to come to his office again.[72] On this occasion she and her colleague made a video recording of the meeting and a transcript has been provided.[73]

15) Vera Productions Ltd wrote to Mr Straw on 10 February 2015 inviting him to respond to the following allegations, which were based on the recorded interview. They said:

    "The filming, interviews and research for this programme have revealed evidence of the following matters:

·  That you corresponded with, and met, representatives of PMR without first carrying out due diligence on the company, ....

·  That you demonstrated yourself willing to act as a "politician for hire", using your position and contacts gained in that position for personal gain; in particular

a)  you claimed that you were well aware that what you could bring to PMR was "my name"

b)  you claimed you had helped ED&F Man (a company for whom you are a paid advisor) in Ukraine by arranging a meeting for the company with the British Ambassador in Kiev and the Ukrainian Prime Minister Azarov as result of which the law was changed to benefit ED&F Man

c)  you claimed to have negotiated a change in the EU sugar regulations with regard to tolling to the benefit of ED&F Man by seeing the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels, and that your parliamentary researcher carried out a lot of work.

d)  you stated that although it was public knowledge that the regulations had been changed "the best way of dealing with these things is under the radar".

e)  you indicated that you would expect a fee of £5,000 a day for your services.

f)  you said that while you wouldn't speak on sugar in the House of Commons, due to the strict rules on paid advocacy, the rules in the House of Lords where you said you might be going, were different and you might be able to help PMR more if you were there.

g)  That you conduct[ed] a tour of the Commons at the end of your meeting with PMR." [74]

16) The allegations are not framed in relation to the relevant rules of the House and as far as possible I have set out both the evidence and my analysis so that it relates to the three areas identified in the first paragraph of this report i.e. lobbying for reward, failing to be open and frank in declaring interests, and the misuse of parliamentary resources. Some of the issues, if proved, would not constitute breaches of specific Rules of the House but might contribute to a possible allegation of causing significant damage to the reputation of the House of Commons as a whole, or of Members generally, and others are not relevant to the rules at all.

17) Those matters which are not relevant to the Rules of the House are;

·  That [Mr Straw] corresponded with, and met, representatives of PMR without first carrying out due diligence on the company, …

·  [Mr Straw] claimed that [he was] well aware that what [he] could bring to PMR was "my name"

·  [Mr Straw] indicated that [he] would expect a fee of £5,000 a day for [his] services

18) With regard to the first point of these points, Vera Productions Ltd allege that Mr Straw corresponded with and met representatives of PMR without first carrying out due diligence on the company. They base this allegation on their statement that "…the company only exists on a website. It's not registered anywhere in the world…" and that "anyone checking it thoroughly would find flaws". [75] Mr Straw has provided evidence that he did undertake some due diligence checks, discovered that the website for PMR was in Chinese and consulted a contact in Hong Kong.[76] While his contact told Mr Straw that they did not know PMR and could give no specific background on them, they went on to say "Their [PMR's] office building is decent and in a respectable part of town! I should think they are bona fide". The contact suggested that PMR could be invited to a Foreign Office reception in Hong Kong. This invitation is mentioned in the evidence. I do not consider it necessary or relevant to consider this matter any further since there is no breach of the Rules.

19) Secondly, regarding the value of Mr Straw's name, this refers to an exchange during the interview:

    "C: Mmm. In terms of the advisory board, is this the kind of thing that you would be able to -

    JS: I'm interested in it. Claire, I need to, I mean I need to know more about it. Um, ah, I need to have, you know, an understanding of—basically, what would I be able to bring to it.

    C: Yeah

    JS: I'm well aware of the fact that I bring my name, alright. Okay, so I get that [laughs]. But it's what it is you want from me, what I can offer you, could do for you, what's the time commitment, those things.

    C: Well just to answer some of those questions, I think we'd be looking at a meeting every other month -

    JS: Right -

    C: Six meetings a year. Mainly, I think, in London. Maybe one a year in Hong Kong. In terms of a time commitment for that, I'd imagine that the day would be the actual meeting day, but there might be a day of preparation."

20) It is true that Mr Straw is a well-known figure in public and political life and has a reputation as a result of his work. He makes passing reference to his knowledge of this particular fact, and this is not a breach of the Code of Conduct or the Rules of the House. Again, I do not consider it necessary or relevant to consider this matter further although it is mentioned in the analysis.

21) The evidence in relation to the third point is as follows. Mr Straw discussed the possible payment for his work in the following terms;

    "JS: And you know obviously if we get down the track there's issue of what fee you have in mind -

    C: Oh of course. Actually it would be good, I don't know if you have a kind of daily rate in mind?

    JS: I haven't. Um, well look, should you wish to do this, you would find that what I have been paid for outside earnings, uh, in the last four and a half years is public. Because if you remember, we have to declare down to the last penny—which is slightly boring—but anyway. So normally, if I'm doing a speech or something, it's £5,000 a day, that's what I charge, so yeah

    C: Yeah. Well that's the kind of ballpark I think we were roughly thinking-

    L: And with ED&F Man?

    JS: ED&F Man, they pay me 60,000 a year... I will... and they have done for five years, uh, four years. Um, I do a lot of work for them. And when the, when I finish as an MP I'll have a discussion with them about that.

    C: Are you likely to continue do you think -

    JS: Oh no absolutely will continue, yeah yeah sure. When I finish as an MP, I'll talk to them about increasing that.

    C: Ah, I see

    JS: Okay. Um because Claire, I mean, A, I've got a day job, that's my first responsibility. And B, uh, I don't, you know, I've managed to keep out of any kind of scandal all my political career—[he goes to knock on wood]

    C: Sounds good.

    JS: What? You see what I mean

    C: Yeah yeah

    JS: Although I, um, I have no... I don't want to attract attention by earning a lot more, although I, cos, so, as a result of the... I turned down quite a lot, just because I, you know, I've got to be able to justify to myself and as well to my constituents that working for Man is something I can do in my spare time."

22) Mr Straw was asked in his meeting with the reporters about his expectations of payment if he became a member of the advisory board. He told them that he received £5,000 for preparing and delivering a speech, and that he was paid £60,000 pa for his work for ED&F Man. Both of these figures are reflected in his entries in the Register of Members' Financial Interests.[77] Again the rules of the House permit Members, subject to certain conditions, to take on external employment. Having outside interests was not a breach of the rules and the rate of payment was a matter for him and the company concerned. I have not considered this matter further.

23) The final allegation contained in the letter of 10 February relates to the complaint that Mr Straw has used parliamentary resources other than in support of his parliamentary duties.

    That [Mr Straw] conduct[ed] a tour of the Commons at the end of your meeting with PMR."

24) At the end of the interview Mr Straw took the reporters from his office in the Palace of Westminster as far as Westminster Hall. The camera and microphone were still on but the recording is less clear. While it is not possible to pinpoint from the audio recording precisely how long it took for Mr Straw to walk the reporters to Westminster Hall where he left them, it is clear that it was a matter of only a few minutes. The description of the building Mr Straw gave shows that he took them by a fairly direct route and paused to point out places of interest on the way.

25) The letter of 10 February makes wider allegations that Mr Straw used his parliamentary office in breach of the rules by conducting two meetings with the reporters there and that he used his parliamentary researcher to investigate an issue to "further your external private interests".

26) The most serious allegation is that Mr Straw was prepared to engage in lobbying and the production company cited the following as evidence of this:

    (a) "That [Mr Straw] demonstrated [himself] willing to act as a "politician for hire", using [his] position and contacts gained in that position for personal gain; in particular

    (b) [he] claimed [he] had helped ED&F Man (a company for whom [he is] a paid advisor) in Ukraine by arranging a meeting for the company with the British Ambassador in Kiev and the Ukrainian Prime Minister Azarov as result of which the law was changed to benefit ED&F Man

    (c) [he] claimed to have negotiated a change in the EU sugar regulations with regard to tolling to the benefit of ED&F Man by seeing the relevant director general and his officials in Brussels, and that [his] parliamentary researcher carried out a lot of work.

    (d) [he] stated that although it was public knowledge that the regulations had been changed "the best way of dealing with these things is under the radar".

    (f) [he] said that while [he] wouldn't speak on sugar in the House of Commons, due to the strict rules on paid advocacy, the rules in the House of Lords where [he] said [he] might be going, were different and [he] might be able to help PMR more if [he] were there."

27) All four of these points relate to a detailed example which Mr Straw gave of work that he had done with ED&F Man to persuade the Ukraine to change the regulations relating to the import and export of sugar. During the course of the interview, he made a number of comments about this;

    "JS: Ok, alright. Do you want me to tell you my interest in sugar? Do you want me to explain it?"

    "JS: Yeah Ok, I am an advisor to a firm you probably won't have heard of but is one of Britain's biggest soft commodity traders, and they're called ED&F Man, okay, and [… -]"

    "JS: ….And so the main commodities that they're in are sugar, molasses and coffee. The coffee operation is based in Switzerland [ -]"

    "JS: Coffee is basically traded, coffee is traded from one town, I can't remember its name now, in Switzerland. And Man actually had to move their coffee operation to this town…"

    "JS: But anyway. It got, as well as buying and selling sugar on the open market, it also has direct interests in refineries and indeed in Ukraine, [….] Anyway, to cut a very long story short [redacted], I got into, took Man with the British ambassador in Kiev to see the Ukrainian Prime Minister […]"

    "JS: […] it's a combination of sort of charm and menace, and that this was maybe not a good idea. And um, I mean he understood, because he's not, he wasn't corrupt …-

    JS: Yeah. My experience of dealing with corrupt countries is that often, there is no country which is, where everybody is corrupt. There are lots of people who are trying to be un-corrupt … But it's a question of spotting these people …

    JS: Anyway, so I had a meeting with him in Kiev in September 2011 and then there was a subsequent meeting when he was over here, and to cut a very long story short, we got it sorted out.

    JS: They got the law, it all changed…

    C: So they must have been really happy

    JS: They were pleased about it, yeah, um, yeah, because, this was when the Ukraine wanted an association agreement with the EU and indeed they still do. So I've been, I said to them, this was going to cause them lots of trouble within Brussels if they were screwing other EU countries—So anyway, that, um took an awful lot of work."

28) Towards the end of the meeting, the following exchange took place;

    "L: I didn't explain very clearly last... with my uncle the last time that you might be leaving and what are the implications-

    JS: Well, the implications are that I can do a lot more for you.

    C: Ah ha, in what way?

    JS: Well, it's not subject to regulation. Obviously I'm not, if I'm not um, I'm still the same person—I mean, if you are a Member of Parliament and you have commercial interests, you have to be so careful, alright, not to—if I was ever to stand up in the House of Commons and talk about sugar, I could end up being disqualified okay. Because there are very strict rules against advocating advocacy on behalf of companies who are paying you -

    C: Right

    JS: Okay. Well obviously if I'm not in the House of Commons, I'm not in that position. Um, I could end up in the House of Lords, so you're aware-you may have seen that -

    C: That'd be good -

    L: You mentioned.

    JS: Yeah. I mean there's speculation in the paper at the moment—no one has said anything to me officially. But the rules there are different and plenty of people have commercial interests there -

    C: Ah great so you'll be able to help us a lot more potentially -

    JS: I'll be able to help you more Claire—I'll be able to help you more. Um, well

    I wouldn't take this on as long as I was a Member of Parliament-

    C: Yeah

    JS: Alright. Um because -

    C: It doesn't sound like you quite have time -

    JS: I don't have time and also I think that, with ED&F Man, it's-within the British establishment- it's a company that's quite well known. Um, the person who had this position before for 10 years was a man called Lord MacNally who was- he was leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords. Um, so it's kind of okay—do you see what I mean?"

29) In addition to the above, the production company's letter also suggests that Mr Straw has failed to be open and honest in declaring his interests in ED&F Man during negotiations on their behalf, using the reference to work being done "under the radar" to support this contention.

Evidence from Mr Straw

30) Mr Straw has provided detailed written evidence, some of it dating back a number of years, in respect of the allegations made against him. He has provided email trails which confirm information he gave while talking to the reporters and examples of other firms which he had assisted over a period of time as a constituency MP. Some of the information is commercially sensitive.

31) I have considered all of the papers Mr Straw provided very carefully, but where I am satisfied that they corroborate or give further examples of information provided in other ways, I have not included them in the evidence supporting this report.

Misuse of Parliamentary Resources

32) In his memorandum[78] in response to my initial questions Mr Straw says; "At the outset I would like to say that throughout my thirty-six years I have always sought to observe the highest standards of conduct and integrity [….] I have sought to act with honesty, openness and frankness at all times. I have never misused Parliamentary resources." Mr Straw provides evidence to support these statements, saying that "I have done everything I practicably can to ensure that no costs arising from my outside interests fall on Parliamentary resources. Since 2007 I have paid an outside IT company [name redacted] … for a separate [address redacted] IT platform. My staff […] monitor my parliamentary account. I rarely use it myself. I charge IPSA only the basic monthly rental for my Blackberry […] I use my home London address for all invoices, and letters in respect of outside interests." It was suggested by Vera Productions Ltd that Mr Straw had used his researcher, funded through the parliamentary expenses system, for his private work for ED&F Man.[79] Mr Straw has since told me "Since 2011 I have paid my Commons Researcher from my own outside income in respect of his work on my outside interests. Two-thirds of his income from working for me is paid by IPSA,[80] one third by me." In interview I asked Mr Straw how the researcher's time was arranged and he told me:[81]

    "According to the demands of the time. Most of his time was spent on parliamentary business, and I think I gave you an overall calculation that only about a sixth of his time was spent on non-parliamentary business. Indeed, at that particular time, he was doing virtually none on non-parliamentary business at all …."

    "…The main non-parliamentary things he did were helping to research and draft speeches for which I was paid, and work for ED&F Man. The main work he did there was on the Ukraine and on the EU, as you are familiar with. The Ukraine was 2011 and the EU sugar regs were 2012-13. He didn't—there were some other ED&F Man things that I actually was handling, because it was just easier and they didn't involve a great deal of research. I could go through his diary and mine, but in this period—the autumn—he was overwhelmingly doing parliamentary business, by which I always include the Chilcot stuff."

    "… and my paying him a third of the salary he received from me from my non-parliamentary resources was, in a sense, an over-compensation. [….] I wanted to ensure that he was available full time, principally for parliamentary stuff, but also as an ancillary for non-parliamentary stuff."

33) Mr Straw's management of the division between his use of parliamentary resources and the resources needed for his private interests is important in respect of the allegation that he misused parliamentary resources in his contact with the reporters. With regard to the arrangements for meetings he comments in his memorandum to me that, "the email string with "PMR" shows that […] I was so pressed by Parliamentary business that if the venue had not been the Commons the meetings would not have taken place at all. This was a prospect about which I was wholly relaxed. It was "PMR" who were insistent […] as to why the meetings could not be deferred."[82]

34) Mr Straw wrote to me in confidence on 12 March 2013 setting out some of the background to his obligations at the relevant time. I was satisfied by the evidence he provided that he had had to restrict himself even more than usual to his office in the House of Commons in December 2014 and the early part of 2015. He has also argued that the 2006-07 report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges into the conduct of Mr David Cameron upheld the view of the then Commissioner that "the House is …sensible not to seek to spell out detailed rules relating to the use made by Members of accommodation made available to them on the Parliamentary Estate. Within the overarching understanding that this is provided for Parliamentary purposes this must be left to the good sense and judgement of individual Members in the light of their personal circumstances." He also suggested that a distinction can be made between "business purposes and discussions of the type that took place in this interview". I consider these issues in my analysis.

35) Vera Productions Ltd suggest in their letter that it was improper for Mr Straw to have conducted a tour of the House of Commons. The reporter's notes indicate that Mr Straw gave her a short tour on her first visit and the transcript of the second meeting also contains evidence of a short tour having taken place. With regard to the second meeting, Mr Straw told me, "I wanted to get them out through the public area, so I popped up there [to the principal floor], showed them the back of the Chair, just out of courtesy. One side is the back of the Chair in the Commons Chamber, and the other side is the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Prime Minister's rooms and the rooms I occupied in various jobs. I think I must have gone down the corridor. Either I dropped straight down the staircase, across a courtyard and into Westminster Hall by the cloakroom, or I would have gone down the corridor that the Deputy Speakers are on, down the staircase there and into Westminster Hall, then very quickly showed them Westminster Hall and off. So it wasn't a tour; this was not a Line of Route tour. [….] It was absolutely not a Line of Route tour. [83] I didn't have time. This took an extra two minutes. I wanted to be courteous with them, but also gently shoo them out."[84]

36) Mr Straw also offered to invite the reporter and her "uncle" to lunch at a future date. I asked Mr Straw whether he considered this invitation to be within the rules and told me; "Yes, I do. It never occurred to me that it wouldn't be within the rules to see somebody for lunch. I didn't see him, as it happens. [….] If I had thought it was outside the rules, Mrs Hudson, I wouldn't have suggested it."

37) In the interests of completeness, while examining the evidence provided by Mr Straw I found reference to a charity auction to which he had donated a lunch and tour of the House together with a bottle of whisky. [85] When I met with Mr Straw. I drew his attention to the advice of the Speaker over a number of years that Members should not offer tours as prizes in raffles or auctions.[86] I do not consider that this matter requires any further action.

Drawing attention to relevant interests

38) In the course of his interviews with the reporters Mr Straw gave detailed examples of work that he has done for two companies, in one case in his role as a constituency MP and in the other as a paid adviser. The inference was drawn that he has not always fully declared his interests and that his dealings are not open and above board.

39) Mr Straw has provided me with detailed evidence and supporting documents in relation to both of the companies.[87] The evidence he provided was consistent with what he told the reporters about the work he had done. I found nothing that suggested he had exaggerated or misrepresented that work.

40) With regard to ED&F Man Holdings Ltd Mr Straw became a paid adviser to them on 1 April 2011. His interest is recorded in the Register of Members' Financial Interests[88] and he has the approval of the Advisory Committee On Business Appointments (ACOBA) to undertake this role.[89] This committee considers applications from former ministers to take up appointments within two years of their last ministerial position. He states clearly "Whenever I have been in contact with a UK official abroad, or with a foreign government official, I have always drawn specific attention to my role as a consultant to [ED&F] Man and in writing. "[90]

41) It is in relation to his work for ED&F Man that Mr Straw refers to his approach as "under the radar". He told me that "There was absolutely nothing sinister about this remark, as some have implied. It was a colloquial reference, and one I often use, to describe how I thought it best to negotiate with EU officials-not under the glare of publicity, where they would easily be boxed into a corner, but politely and quietly. There was nothing furtive or secretive about this work."[91]

42) Mr Straw had sought additional advice from ACOBA on this matter and was told; "Lord Lang's advice is that he would see no objection to you having dealings with the UK Embassy in Kiev on behalf of ED&F MAN provided it was clear that your involvement was in the context of assisting the Embassy in its pursuance of an existing policy objective in the national interest. He considers that, in order to remain on the right side of the line, you would need to be satisfied that you were operating alongside the Embassy, but not seeking to persuade them in a new direction or to launch a new initiative. Judging by the information you have provided, that would appear to be the situation here."[92]

43) Senator International is the second firm which Mr Straw mentions in interview, and one which he assisted as a local business important to the livelihood of his constituents. I understood that the firm does not have any plants in his constituency but in an adjacent one. (When invited to comment on the factual accuracy of a draft of this report, Mr Straw told me that he has since learned that Senator do (and did) have a factory in his constituency employing around 100 people. He had been unaware of this until very recently, as the business had been acquired by Senator in 2007 and it had continued to operate under its original name until about two years ago.) Mr Straw has told me about the work he has done for Senator and provided copies of the correspondence relating to their offer of employment.[93] When Senator first approached Mr Straw for help, Mr Straw became involved with the support of his fellow MP, Mr Graham Jones, who has written to me to confirm this. He said:

    "I had entered the House of Commons in May 2010. As my constituency neighbour, sharing all sorts of problems common to our area, and as an extremely experienced Member with a high reputation for his constituency work, Mr Straw has (and remains) something of a mentor to me-though it is fair to add that over the years we have also become good friends.

    I recall that at this meeting [the first meeting with Senator] in December 2011 Mr Straw made very copious notes. At the end of the meeting he told me that he'd be happy to take the matter up on behalf of us both. He would of course keep me posted about what he did.

    I have to say that I was delighted by this offer from Mr Straw. The issues raised by Mr Mustoe were complex and quite technical. I could have dealt with them myself, but I was in no doubt that Senator would be in good hands with Mr Straw. As a relatively new MP I was extremely busy, having to cope with endless demands which pile onto recently elected Members, and was very happy for Mr Straw to take this burden from me." [94]

44) Mr Straw has assisted Senator by making representations about the processes of the Government Procurement Service, by arranging for a senior representative of the British Government to attend the opening of Senator's showroom in New York, and in discussions about compensation in respect of a showroom in an area which would need to be acquired because of the planned HS2 expansion of Euston Station. His memorandum to me and his oral evidence set all of this out in some detail and is confirmed by further documentary evidence he provided to me (which is not attached).

45) Mr Straw paid a visit to Senator's factory in May 2014, when he was asked whether he would be interested in working for the company after he retired.[95] He has told me that this was the first time the matter had been raised and that he told Senator that "I was not at that stage making any firm plans about my future post-election". An exchange of letters follows and on 22 May 2014 he wrote "However, as I explained, I don't want to enter into any binding undertakings about my future, post May 2015 until I am clearer about the totality of demands on my time. Meanwhile I shall of course continue to do everything I can, as a local MP, to assist..."[96] He said nothing had been agreed and that this remained the position until a meeting on 10 January 2015. In the intervening period Mr Straw continued to support Senator in resolving the issue of HS2 compensation. The details are contained in his evidence and led to him writing a letter to the Secretary of State on 8 January 2015. On 10 January Senator again raised with Mr Straw the offer of an advisory post. Terms were discussed which Senator subsequently confirmed in writing on 12 January 2015.[97] Mr Straw accepted this offer in a letter dated 28 January[98] and agreed to take up the role on 1 June 2015.

46) It was during the period between the offer and the acceptance, on 13 January, that Mr Straw met with the reporter and told her, "I am considering an offer which I will almost certainly take to be an adviser to a medium­sized manufacturing firm just outside my constituency."[99] Mr Straw has told me that "If it had for a second occurred to me between 2 May 2014 and 10 January 2015 that the mere fact of [Senator's] offer of 2 May [2014] required me to declare this as an interest, I would have done so. […] The help I have provided Senator, and the representations which I have made on their behalf, has never at any time been in the expectation of any employment or financial advantage...." Further details of Mr Straw's involvement with Senator are included in his evidence. Mr Straw has also told me "After that date [13 January 2015] I would of course have declared this expectation of employment in any correspondence with Ministers, or public officials, and sought advice as to whether it was declarable on the public record. In the event however, I have made no such representations since that date; and the possibility of taking up such a position has been put on ice, at my request, at least until this investigation by the Commissioner has been concluded."[100]

47) I asked Mr Straw whether the level of assistance he had provided to Senator as a constituency MP was unusual.[101] He said it was not and provided me with examples of three other companies to which he had given considerable help in various ways over the years. Some of the information he gave is commercially sensitive and is not directly relevant to this complaint and therefore not attached, but at interview Mr Straw told me,

    "I mean, there are plenty of other cases, both company cases and local authority cases and individual cases where I have spent much more time. [….] although I said in my submission to you that most of the constituency cases were dealt with by my staff, I mean I should have qualified that by saying that there were some complicated ones which I dealt with. And so, for example—[one constituent], who came to see me in 2000 about a problem she had of 60,000 tons of waste being dumped just above her land. And that has taken a huge—I mean a phenomenal amount of time: my time and my office time—office's time—and it's still going on. [ ….]

    …I mean, bear in mind the cases originally arose because people had come to see me, and I—people didn't need appointments to see me […], because I thought, particularly the more senior I became, that it was really, really important that my constituents should have direct access to me without any gatekeepers in between. So I would always have a handle on cases at the start and then would follow them through.

    […], and if it's a business case then I always took it up myself personally. And there were loads of businesses for whom I did much more work than Senator." [102]

48) Again, the accuracy of all the information which Mr Straw gave in his interview with the reporter is supported by the documentary evidence he has provided.

Indicating a fee of £5,000

49) Mr Straw was asked in his meeting with the reporters about his expectations of payment if he became a member of the advisory board. He told them that he received £5,000 for preparing and delivering a speech and that he was paid £60,000 pa for his work for ED&F Man. Both of these figures are reflected in his entries in the Register of Members' Financial Interests.[103]

References to doing more in the Lords.

50) Towards the end of his meeting with the reporters Mr Straw talks about the impact of standing down at the election saying "…so I'll become a free agent. […] the implications are that I can do a lot more for you." He goes on to explain that MPs have to be careful "Because there are very strict rules against advocating, advocacy on behalf of companies who are paying you.[…] Well obviously, if I'm not in the House of Commons I'm not in that position. Um, I could end up in the House of Lords, so you're aware…"

Evidence from the Registrar and IPSA

51) Mr Straw had told me that he has kept his register entries up to date and that he had exchanged emails with the office about more helpful ways of registering earnings. I wrote to the Registrar on 11 June 2015 to seek any relevant information from her records and her advice on the date on which Mr Straw first had a reasonable expectation of a registrable benefit in relation to Senator.[104] She responded on 23 June [105] and stated that "From your letter I can see no evidence that [a] "reasonable expectation" existed on 8 January 2015. The email you quote from May 2014 shows that Mr Straw had declined to enter into a "binding undertaking" with Senator at that stage."

52) The Registrar also informed me that "Mr Straw is right to say that he was assiduous in complying with the rules on declaring his interests….He has also deposited with us (as required by the rules) agreements (with ED&F Man Holdings and with the Eurasian Council on Foreign Affairs) to make plain that he would not undertake paid advocacy. As Mr Straw says, when the Guide to the Rules was under review he proposed a change which would allow advance registration of outside earnings on occasion. This proposal was incorporated…."

53) In the light of the suggestion that Mr Straw had used his parliamentary researcher to further his private business interests and Mr Straw's explanation that he had arranged to pay part of the salary for that post himself, I wrote to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA) on 18 June to seek evidence on this.[106] IPSA responded to me on 29 June[107] saying; "In clarification, [the researcher] has been employed on a part-time basis only, commencing on 4 November 2010. Initially he worked 27.5 hours per week, increasing to 36 hours per week with effect from 1 April 2012."[108] An attached record shows that a full­time post would be 42 hours per week.

Statement of facts

54) I consider the following to be established facts. It is on these that I base my conclusions.

·  In 2014 Mr Straw indicated his intention to leave the House on dissolution on 30 March 2015.

·  Mr Straw has reported in the Register of Members' Financial Interests payments received in respect of his employment by ED&F Man. He has also, as required by the rules of the House, deposited with the Registrar a copy of an agreement with ED&F Man which made plain that he would not undertake paid advocacy.

·  On 19 November 2014 a reporter using the name of Lin Zhang emailed Mr Straw to ask if he would be interested in a position on the Advisory Board of a fictitious company named PMR.

·  The reporter met Mr Straw on two occasions, on 7 and 13 January 2015, in his parliamentary office, and recorded the second interview only. A second reporter was present on 13 January.

·  On 10 February the Daily Telegraph emailed Mr Straw, making a number of allegations which they said were evidenced by the recording and which they proposed to use in a Dispatches Programme on Channel 4 and in associated articles in the Daily Telegraph.

·  Mr Straw contacted my office for advice and on 20 February wrote formally to me referring himself for investigation in respect of all the allegations made by the Daily Telegraph and Vera Productions Ltd.

·  The first article appeared in the Daily Telegraph on 23 February 2015 and the Dispatches Programme was broadcast on the evening of 23 February.

·  Mr Straw had sought permission from the Advisory Committee On Business Activities for his work with ED&F Man and for his work on their behalf in Ukraine.

·  Mr Straw had set up arrangements to separate his business interests from his parliamentary work. He claimed against his parliamentary expenses for part of the salary of the parliamentary researcher named in the allegations.

·  Mr Straw's efforts on behalf of Senator vis-à-vis the government procurement processes, the attendance of an official at the opening of their New York showroom and the impact of HS2 developments on their Euston premises were undertaken as part of his constituency casework, with the support of the MP in a neighbouring constituency .

·  In May 2014 Senator first raised with Mr Straw the possibility of employing him after he left the House in May 2015.

·  Mr Straw replied, saying that he did not want to commit himself to anything until he was clearer about the totality of the demands on his time post-election.

·  On 10 January 2015 Senator renewed their offer of employment-again to commence after the General Election-confirming the offer in writing on 12 January and setting out the broad terms the remuneration on offer and the hours expected in return.

·  On 15 January 2015 Mr Straw told the reporters that he was "considering an offer which I will almost certainly take to be an adviser to a medium sized manufacturing firm just outside [my] constituency".

·  Mr Straw formally accepted Senator's offer on 28 January 2015.

Analysis

55) The media coverage has touched on a wide range of issues and potential allegations but I return now to the matters which I accepted for investigation. These were that Mr Straw;

·  used parliamentary resources for purposes other than in support of his parliamentary duties;

·  failed on occasion to be open and frank in drawing attention to relevant interests in communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders;

·  engaged in lobbying for reward or consideration.

56) Mr Straw said on several occasions during his discussions with PMR that they "were predicated on the basis that we were talking about what I might do when I finished as an MP". The very detailed evidence Mr Straw provided supports both of these statements. I have found no evidence that suggests in any way that Mr Straw would have been willing to take up a post-if it had been offered-before 8 May 2015.

Use of Parliamentary Resources

57) The resources in question are Mr Straw's office, the Information Services and Technology provided by the House and the time of a parliamentary researcher. In this part of my report, I will also address his offer of a tour of the House and lunch.

58) Mr Straw met with the reporter on two occasions in his office in the Palace of Westminster. There can be no argument that the office and the IT facilities in it are publicly funded resources which the rules say should be used "always in support of their parliamentary duties" A discussion about whether or not the meetings were for "private business purposes" as described in the Members' "handbook"[109] or merely "private" is irrelevant since the meetings clearly were not for parliamentary business as expressed by the rules themselves. Both were about a possible business opportunity. However, as Mr Straw is aware, two of my predecessors have considered the application of this rule. A previous Commissioner accepted that it "needs to be operated with a sense of proportion." He said in 2010," "It may also be most convenient for a Member to make use of Parliamentary facilities in meeting others not strictly for the purpose of Parliamentary business. This is because it keeps the Member near at hand so that they can continue to conduct parliamentary business if necessary. But the use of House facilities simply as a way of boosting a Member's employment prospects would, in my judgement, be a misuse of those facilities…."[110]

59) In 2006-07 the Standards and Privileges Committee said "[The Member] fairly makes the point and the Commissioner accepts, that the intertwining of Members' various capacities-as parliamentarians, party members, and private individuals-means that it would be impracticable to require that only business which is exclusively parliamentary in nature can ever be conducted by Members from their offices on the parliamentary estate."[111]

60) The two meetings Mr Straw had with the reporters in January were relatively short and in my opinion the email exchanges arranging them make it clear that there was pressure from the reporter to arrange at least one of these meetings at short notice. Mr Straw was busy at this time and has provided evidence to me that he needed to be in the House even more than usual. I agree with my predecessors that the rules about the use of parliamentary offices should be applied with a sense of proportion.

61) While this was a minor breach of the rules, I accept that there were extenuating circumstances. Mr Straw has explained that he was pressed for time and that meeting in the House enabled him to continue with his parliamentary duties with minimal disruption. I also accept that Mr Straw did not choose to use his parliamentary office with the intention of boosting his employment prospects. I believe that he did so for straightforward pragmatic reasons. However, the meeting was, about the possibility of future employment and was not about parliamentary business.

62) While I do consider this to be a breach of the rules, it is important to acknowledge that this was an occasional use of the office for meetings which fell outside Mr Straw's parliamentary duties; it was not a regular and sustained use of the room for business purposes and, in all the circumstances, I consider Mr Straw's breach of the rules to be minor.

63) Mr Straw has told me that he had "put in place systems to ensure that no resources of the House were expended on my external interests." For example, he has a separate IT platform for private email and uses his home address for communications about his outside interests. The email accounts used for his exchanges with PMR in relation to appointments, are all private ones and not parliamentary email addresses, as are those used for the emails relating to Senator, a manufacturer of business furniture based in a neighbouring constituency. He explains his email address towards the end of the recorded interview with the reporter when he said, "…can I just give this- that's got my home address on it ….please send to my home address, don't send it here" and…. "The email stays the same because I have these outside interests." Mr Straw appears to have made efforts to ensure that he did not use parliamentary email accounts to further his private interests.

64) It was also alleged that Mr Straw was using the parliamentary resource of his researcher to support his private business interests, both in contacts with PMR and in his work with Senator. Mr Straw explained in his memorandum[112] that his parliamentary researcher was funded partly through his parliamentary expenses and partly by Mr Straw himself to enable him to do some work on Mr Straw's private interests as well as constituency work. While it would be for IPSA, which administers the system for parliamentary expenses, to make a formal determination on a specific allegation about misuse of the researcher's time, for completeness, I asked Mr Straw about this matter during my interview with him.[113] Mr Straw told me he organised the researcher's time "…according to the demands of the time. Most of his time was spent on parliamentary business, and I think I gave you an overall calculation that only about a sixth of his time was spent on non-parliamentary business. Indeed, at that particular time, he was doing virtually none on non-parliamentary business at all…." He went on to say "my paying him a third of the salary he received from me from my non-parliamentary resources was, in a sense, an over-compensation. It was also just in recognition of the fact that I was at the limit of my salary allocation, as I pointed out in Blackburn. I wanted to ensure that he was available full time, principally for parliamentary stuff, but also as an ancillary for non-parliamentary stuff."

65) I asked IPSA for information concerning the researcher's salary and they have provided evidence that parliamentary expenses funded the researcher's salary on a part-time basis only, commencing on 4 November 2010. Initially he was paid through parliamentary expenses for 27.5 hours per week, increasing to 36 hours per week with effect from 1 April 2012. (Full-time hours would have been 42 hours per week.) On this basis, and in the light of Mr Straw's assurance that the parliamentary researcher was engaged on parliamentary work almost exclusively by the relevant time, I am satisfied that Mr Straw had made proper provision for his researcher to undertake work outside his parliamentary responsibilities. I have seen no evidence that the outside work done by Mr Straw's researcher encroached on the time funded by the public purse and I see no basis to refer the matter to IPSA's compliance officer for a formal determination.

66) Finally, with regard to the possible misuse of parliamentary resources, Mr Straw did offer to invite the reporter and her "uncle" to lunch and a tour of the House. This is not against the Rules and in any event the lunch did not take place. I do not consider that the walk between Mr Straw's office and Westminster Hall following either meeting constituted a tour of the House and even if they had, they would also not have constituted a breach of the rules.

67) In considering all of the issues raised by the Dispatches programme I have followed the evidence as far as was reasonable in establishing the facts, particularly in relation to the detail of Mr Straw's use of resources. I have not embarked on any examination of his activities which were not raised as part of the initial concerns raised nor do I think that this would have been appropriate. In circumstance such as these, it would be all too easy to embark on a "fishing expedition". Mr Straw was unwise to use his office for meetings with the reporters but I have found no other evidence that that Mr Straw made use of parliamentary resources for purposes outside his parliamentary duties.

Failure to declare relevant interests

68) It is difficult to identify precisely the information on which the allegation that Mr Straw has failed to declare his interests appropriately is based. I have considered carefully the transcript of the recorded interview on 13 January, Mr Straw's entry in the Register of Members' Financial Interests and the comments of the Registrar, and the emails relevant to some of Mr Straw's interventions on behalf of Senator and ED&F Man. The allegations in the letters from Vera Productions Ltd appear to focus on the interpretation of the expression "under the radar", Mr Straw's contact with the Ukraine and Brussels on behalf of ED&F Man and his more recent work with Senator at around the time when they offered him a post on their board.

69) The transcript of the interview between the reporter and Mr Straw records that in relation to ED&F Man and an issue over sugar regulations, Mr Straw says; "…it's public that the regulations have been changed, but the best way of dealing with these things is 'under the radar'." Great emphasis has been placed on this comment, which is not developed further in the interview. However, Mr Straw says in his interview on the Today programme (and again later in his first submission to me), "Let me just deal with this issue about 'under the radar' because it is very important. I work, have worked for, a very fine old established firm of British commodities suppliers, called ED&F Man. Issues have arisen about some unbelievably obscure aspects of the sugar regulations inside the EU and I've sought to help them negotiate changes in these EU sugar regulations and when I was talking to, as it turned out, the undercover reporters about this. I said, in relation to EU negotiations that it was better to handle negotiations like this quote 'under the radar' than to go and shout in the street about them. In other words that you can get further with EU officials by being polite and quiet and forensic than shouting."

70) Given the evidence that Mr Straw sought advice from ACOBA on this visit to the Ukraine, the details of which were then recorded in the Register of Members' Financial Interests, his involvement in the visit and his connection to ED&F Man support his assertion that his interest was fully disclosed and the term 'under the radar' refers to his approach to a delicate matter. I have seen evidence that Mr Straw told EU officials about his remunerated employment with ED&F Man.[114] (I did not consider it proportionate to ask Mr Straw to provide evidence in respect of his contact with Ukrainian government, since the rules did not- in any case—require him to make such a declaration, and his assurances on the wider point have been substantiated. Although the 2012 Guide to the Rules stated that the requirement to declare an interest "covers almost every aspect of a Member's parliamentary duties extending to correspondence and meetings with Ministers and public officials" it nowhere listed a requirement to declare their interests to officials or other representatives of the EU or of overseas governments.)

71) It has been implied that Mr Straw did not, in dealings with UK Ministers and/or officials, declare an interest in Senator, a manufacturer of business furniture based in a neighbouring constituency. I have found no evidence that at the relevant times Mr Straw had an interest which required declaration. Mr Straw had given considerable assistance to Senator in his capacity as a local MP from November 2011 onwards. Many of his constituents were employed by the business and the MP of the constituency in which Senator is based had welcomed Mr Straw's involvement. In May 2014 in anticipation of Mr Straw's retirement from the House, which had already been announced, he was invited to work for the company as an adviser or non-executive director. After an exchange of letters Mr Straw wrote on 22 May to say, "I don't want to enter into binding undertakings about my future, post May 2015, until I am clearer about the totality of demands upon my time." No details had been discussed and no commitments given. The offer of a post was renewed on 10 January 2015 and specific details were discussed. Mr Straw wrote accepting the offer on 28 January.

72) Mr Straw had written on Senator's behalf to the Secretary of State for Transport on 8 January 2015 and I sought the Registrar's advice on whether Mr Straw should have declared an interest when he wrote. She told me:

    "This is relevant because the Guide to the Rules then in force said that a Member had to declare the expectation of future benefit only when his plans… "have passed beyond vague hopes and aspirations and reached the stage where there is a reasonable expectation that a financial benefit will accrue…" [115] If Mr Straw had a reasonable expectation of financial benefit when he wrote to the Secretary of State for Transport on 8 January 2015, he should have declared his interest when he wrote.

    Having read the exchange of letters between Mr Straw and Senator in early 2015 (Mr Mustoe's letters of 12 January and 12 February, and Mr Straw's letter of 28 February) it seems to me that Mr Straw's plans had by then reached a stage where there was a "reasonable expectation that financial benefit will accrue". But these letters were written after Mr Straw's approach of 8 January 2015.

    From your letter I can see no evidence that a "reasonable expectation" existed on 8 January 2015. The email you quote from May 2014 shows that Mr Straw had declined to enter into a "binding undertaking" with Senator at that stage."[116]

I agree with the Registrar's advice.

73) Mr Straw has told me that his agreement with Senator has been "put on ice" at least until this inquiry is concluded.

Engaged in lobbying for reward or consideration

74) Vera Productions Ltd allege that Mr Straw indicated that he would expect a fee of £5,000 a day for his services and that he said that while he would not speak on sugar in the House of Commons, due to the strict rules on paid advocacy, the rules in the House of Lords were different and he might be able to help PMR more if he were there. They focus on his comment that "I'm well aware of the fact that I bring my name" and the fact that he has many contacts. They use these comments, and the examples Mr Straw gives of work he has done, to suggest that he has been engaged in lobbying or would be willing to lobby.

75) As has already been shown above, I have found no evidence that the work Mr Straw has done on behalf of ED&F Man has been outside the Rules of the House. Mr Straw has regularly registered his remuneration and deposited with the Registrar the required agreement with ED&F Man. The material supplied by Channel 4 provides no evidence that Mr Straw has acted outside that agreement nor does it provide evidence of any activity that might amount to lobbying for reward or consideration.

76) Similarly, the reporters' interviews with Mr Straw do not provide any evidence that at the time he was helping Senator he received or expected any remuneration or benefit of any kind from the company. The question of lobbying for reward or consideration simply does not arise in that context.

77) It may be relevant that some of Mr Straw's remarks in interview with the reporters are capable of different interpretations depending on the context in which they were made. I have therefore had to consider whether the inferences drawn by the television production company are more likely to be correct than the interpretation offered later by Mr Straw himself. For example, it has been asserted by Vera Productions Ltd that Mr Straw is a "politician for hire" yet towards the end of the interview, when Mr Straw talks about earning money, he says "but money is not the thing that motivates me, alright? And reputation is much more important than making some extra money." He goes on to talk about the extra time available when he retires from the House of Commons and "I'll become a free agent". He also stresses that in the House of Commons "there are very strict rules against advocating, advocacy on behalf of companies who are paying you". Mr Straw then mentions that he may go into the House of Lords.

78) He goes on to say that this [his elevation to the Lords] is not certain "But the rules are different and plenty of people have commercial interests there…" The reporter seems to interpret this as meaning that he might be able to advocate there and says "Ah great, so you'll be able to help us a lot more potentially…" The comment is open to that interpretation but it can also be read in the wider context of his comments about his time. I am persuaded that Mr Straw's responses still refer to the amount of time available. He says, "I'll be able to help you more Claire, I'll be able to help you more. Um, well I wouldn't take this on as long as I was a Member of Parliament…..I don't have the time…."

79) Similarly, the remark about Mr Straw's name is lifted out of a longer comment and is not put in the context of the discussion in which Mr Straw has said "I need to, I mean I need to know more about it. Um, ah, I need to have, you know an understanding of basically what I would be able to bring to it. I am well aware of the fact that I bring my name-alright- so I get that (laughter). But it's what is it you want from me, what I can offer you, could do for you, what's the time commitment- those things". [My added emphasis.] A Member's reputation will be important to them and, inevitably, is part of the "package" on which they may rely when they later seek employment outside the House.

80) When pressed about his expectations for remuneration Mr Straw states his past earnings and makes it clear that that information is a matter of public record, which can be found in the Register of Members' Financial Interests. The evidence I have seen supports Mr Straw's assertion that he "neither exaggerated nor boasted" in what he said to the reporters.

81) In summary, I have found no evidence that Mr Straw has engaged in lobbying for reward or consideration or that he was offering to do so in the interviews with the reporters. Nor have I found anything other than a very minor breach of the rules on the use of parliamentary resources.

82) At the time when these matters came to light strong views were expressed in several quarters that Mr Straw's actions had brought the House into disrepute. It was for that reason that, in accepting Mr Straw's self-referral for investigation, I considered this further allegation. While I do think it is possible to bring the House into disrepute without being in breach of any of the other rules, I do not think that Mr Straw has done so. Mr Straw's own reputation has been damaged by the allegations and inferences made but I have seen nothing that suggests his conduct would have merited criticism if the approach made by PMR had been genuine. I go on to consider some of the broader issues arising from this inquiry and another in my conclusion.

Kathryn Hudson


49   WE3 Back

50   WE5 & 6 Back

51   WE8 Back

52   The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members 2012, HC 1885: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmcode/1885/188501.htm Back

53   The Resolution was subsequently amended on 14 May 2002 Back

54   WE4 Back

55   WE2 Back

56   WE3 Back

57   WE8 Back

58   WE9 Back

59   WE10 Back

60   WE11 Back

61   WE1 Back

62   WE22 Back

63   WE11 Back

64   WE28 Back

65   WE6 Back

66   WE27 Back

67   WE12 Back

68   WE13 Back

69   WE28 Back

70   WE26 Back

71   WE30 Back

72   WE14 (Emails 9-19) Back

73   WE11 Back

74   WE1 Back

75   WE6, points 25 & 26 Back

76   WE16 Back

77   WE20 Back

78   WE17 Back

79   WE1 Back

80   The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which administers the expenses system for MPs Back

81   WE31 Back

82   WE17 Back

83   The 'line of route' is the route taken by formal tours of the Palace of Westminster. Back

84   WE31 Back

85   WE 19B, letter 4 Back

86   WE37 Back

87   WE18 & WE19 Back

88   WE20 Back

89   WE18 Back

90   WE17 Back

91   WE17 Back

92   WE18 Back

93   WE19B Back

94   WE19A Back

95   WE19B letter 1 Back

96   WE19B, letter 2 Back

97   WE19B, letter 5 Back

98   WE19B, letter 6 Back

99   WE11 Back

100   WE 17 Back

101   WE31 Back

102   WE31 Back

103   WE20 Back

104   WE29 Back

105   WE33 Back

106   WE32 Back

107   WE34 Back

108   WE34 Back

109   WE38 Back

110   HC 654-I, Committee on Standards and Privileges, Ninth Report of Session 2010-11 Back

111   HC 429, Committee on Standards and Privileges, Second Report of Session 2006-07 Back

112   WE17 Back

113   WE31 Back

114   WE18 Back

115   The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members, approved on 9 February 2009, HC 1885: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201012/cmcode/1885/188501.htm  Back

116   WE33 Back


 
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Prepared 17 September 2015