The Conduct of Lord Elder - Privileges Committee Contents


ANNEX 2: REPORT FROM THE COMMISSIONER FOR STANDARDS


Summary of the complaint

1. Dr Malory Nye in a letter dated 10 May 2012 (appendix A) complained that Lord Elder had breached the Code of Conduct in two respects. First, that he had incorrectly registered his interest in the Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies as a non-financial interest when it should have been registered as remunerated employment; and secondly that he improperly used an envelope bearing the emblem of the House of Lords when sending Dr Nye a letter of dismissal.

2. I advised Lord Elder in a letter dated 24 May 2012 (appendix B) of the complaint and invited him to supply me with a full and accurate account of the matters in question.

Key facts

3. Lord Elder responded in a letter dated 14 June 2012 (appendix C) attaching letters from Blackadders solicitors and the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education, providing additional information in relation to his position within the College and associated financial support arrangements.  

4. I replied to Lord Elder on 27 June 2012 (appendix D) advising him of my initial thinking and we subsequently met on 5 July 2012.

5. Lord Elder was keen to ensure that he supplied me with accurate information and that his actions were fully in compliance with the requirements of the Code of Conduct and the relevant guidance. On 27 July 2012 he again wrote to me, forwarding a letter from the Director of Operations, Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education (appendix E). That letter set out the background to payments from the College to Lord Elder and stated that they should never have been described as an honorarium but rather as payments in respect of expenses. Lord Elder also submitted a letter to the chairman of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct (appendix F), acknowledging and apologising for his incorrect entry in the Register of Lords' Interests and his inappropriate use of an envelope bearing the emblem of the House of Lords.

Findings

Lord Elder did register his interest in the Al-Maktoum College of Higher Education in compliance with paragraph 10(a) of the Code of Conduct. However, he registered his interest under category 10 ("non-financial interests"). This was in my judgment incorrect but, given the specific references to the governing bodies of universities, colleges or schools in paragraph 79 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct, Lord Elder's error is understandable.

Paragraph 49 of the Guide to the Code of Conduct, which offers guidance on registering category 2 ("remunerated employment") interests, states: "All employment outside the House and any sources of remuneration which do not fall clearly within any other category should be registered here." The payments made to Lord Elder were described in the Al-Maktoum College's accounts as an "honorarium". I believe that a reasonable member of the public would conclude from that that Lord Elder should have registered this interest as a category 2 ("remunerated employment") interest. Lord Elder accepted this view.

The House Committee's report Rules Governing the Use of Facilities (2nd report, session 2008-09, HL Paper 47) states that House of Lords envelopes should not be used for general correspondence (except that of an essentially parliamentary nature) or business letters. Lord Elder accepted without reservation that he should not have used a House of Lords envelope for the letter of dismissal that he sent.

In all the circumstances I decided that this matter was best dealt with by way of remedial action. Lord Elder was from the outset open and apologised for both his incorrect Register of Lords' Interests entry and inappropriate use of a House of Lords envelope. He has written to the chairman of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct apologising for his errors. I believe that no further action is required. Lord Elder breached the Code of Conduct but only in minor ways and his response to the complaint has been exemplary.

Paul Kernaghan CBE QPM

Commissioner for Standards


 
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