Memorandum submitted by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards
Complaint against Mr Frank Roy MP
1. Following articles in the press which
alleged that Members of Parliament had placed bets on the outcome
of the election of the Speaker on 23 October 2000 I received a
number of letters from Members of Parliament and the public, raising
concerns about possible breaches of the Code of Conduct or Rules
for Members (but without naming an individual Member) and asking
me to investigate the matter.
2. The issues raised include the following:
(i) Sir Teddy Taylor, Member for Rochford
& Southend East
"I was genuinely shocked and horrified
to read that certain MPs had placed bets at 20 to 1 on Mr Martin
to become Speaker and had proceeded to vote for him. Is this not
wholly and completely wrong and will it not further cheapen and
degrade the standing of MPs?" (Annex A)
(ii) Mr Paul Tyler, Member for Cornwall
"If these bets in any way coloured MPs'
judgement of the respective qualities of the different candidates
for the Chair, that is obviously a very serious matter indeed,
and if it affected the eventual outcome, that too must cause real
Surely, any member who has made a substantial
sum betting on the outcome of the election of the new Speaker
should declare that in the Register of Member's Interests?"
(iii) Mr Tony McWalter, Member for Hemel
"My disquiet arises because my votes
for the current Speaker were in some ways marginal decisions.
I thought he had been the most effective Deputy Speaker, but I
had to think very carefully before making that judgement. I also
thought he spoke well in the debate on 23 October, but there were
a large number of matters on which I would have liked to know
his views but which I was not able to ascertain from what one
might call the official record."
"I do not know whether any Member to whom
I spoke had placed a bet, but clearly if it turned out that one
of them had done so I would feel that this was a major breach
of trust. I suspect very strongly that none of them had placed
a bet, but that then raises a different issue. If a Member had
placed a bet, then he or she would be effectively excluding himself
or herself from communicating to other Members information which
perhaps should have been vouchsafed."
"I think all of this reflects badly on any
Member who placed a bet on an event which he or she could not
only influence through a vote, but whose outcome he or she was
in a position to influence, whether or not that Member chose to
exercise such influence. Such actions in my view do bring the
House into disrepute, and I say that even if sadly it turns out
that it is a colleague (or colleagues) who were involved in such
"My objection comes, not as an objection
to betting as such, but to the action of betting on a process
in which it is assumed that one is acting in an honest and disinterested
way. The disinterestedness arises because in the election for
Speaker, all Members are assumed to be voting entirely on what
is for the best for the House, and hence on what is best for the
country. Betting compromises that irrevocably, and in future (in
my view) it should be subject to the strictest sanctions."
(iv) Mr I. M. Davis of Wokingham, Berkshire
"Under the rules governing their respective
games neither footballers or cricketers are allowed to bet on
matches. Presumably this is to avoid match-fixing. An extension
of this argument would seem to lead to the conclusion that Members
of Parliament who will be involved in voting on a specific issue
should not be allowed to bet on the outcome of that vote.
The very worst case scenario is that a number
of them will collude in order to profit from their bets. The very
best that can be said is that, because they have risked money
on a certain result being produced, they will be totally deaf
to any debate or argument that might run counter to this. Either
way democracy is certainly not being served.
If it proved that such betting has taken place
then there may be a justification for reviewing the result of
the vote. In any case, the acceptability of such betting within
the context of Parliamentary standards does seem to require some
consideration." (Annex D)
(v) Mr D. R. Drew of Carmarthen, Wales
" I consider it a disgraceful position
if, as reported today, any Member has been betting on the outcome
of the election of the Speaker. We ordinary folks out here see
our Members as having a job to do for us; not in that role to
engage in activities for which their positions might provide scope
to make money on the side. It's but a small step to their placing
wagers on the progress of other Parliamentary business."
(vi) Mr M. J. Batchelor of Swansea, Wales
"You needn't have much imagination to
assess the dynamics of thisyou bet on your Party's guy
getting the job and then you persuade like-minded friends to vote
for him and then, bet on him. A vicious, sleazy cycle.
The entire matter has universally important constitutional
concerns, which I hope you will also cover in your investigation."
3. I wrote to those who had made such general
observations to explain that my terms of reference permit me only
to investigate complaints against an identified Member of Parliament.
The Complaint against Mr Roy
4. I did, however, also receive four letters
making specific complaints against Mr Roy, who had been named
in some of the press articles concerning alleged betting on the
election of the Speaker.
(i) On 26 October 2000 Mrs Margaret
McDonald of Wishaw, Scotland wrote to me as follows:
".... I was disappointed to discover
that the Member of Parliament for my own constituency benefited
from this action.
I am a Member of the Labour Party and voted for
Frank Roy and now feel very let down by his action, not least
because he seems to fail to see that it is not the amount of money
involved but the principle of not making a financial gain from
his position and devaluing the whole process of Parliamentary
procedure." (Annex G)
(ii) On 26 October Mr Robert Henderson
of London NW1 wrote to me as follows:
"Betting on the election of a speaker
I enclose copies of stories from the Daily Telegraph
and Daily Mail dated 26 October 2000. These contain details of
betting by Labour Members on the outcome of the election of the
Speaker. One named member, Frank Roy, has admitted doing so, but
there appears to be a much wider involvement by Labour MPs. It
is noteworthy that there is no suggestion of MPs from other parties
Such behaviour breaches the Code of Conduct comprehensively."
5. Mr Henderson set out the parts of the
Code which he believed had been breached as follows: section II
(public duty) and section III (personal conduct), including in
particular the principles entitled "objectivity", "
openness", "honesty" and "leadership".
Mr Henderson continued:
"I ask you to investigate all Members
who placed a winning bet on the outcome of the election for Speaker
(1) for these breaches of the Code of Conduct and (2) to ensure
that all winnings are recorded in the Member's Register of Interests."
(iii) On 1 November 2000 Mrs Jean Bird
of Shildon, County Durham wrote to me as follows:
"It is an absolute outrage that Frank
Roy (Labour) and others have made money betting on Michael Martin
for the Speaker.
To think that these men made profits of many thousands
of pounds when crucial voting was needed to appoint the best
Speaker for our Parliament and country, is beyond comprehension.
I think by this sort of conduct they (the gamblers)
have brought the House of Commons into disrepute and made a laughing
stock of the whole procedure." (Annex
(iv) On 2 November 2000 Mr D R Drew wrote
me to me again as follows:
"As I understood from his Radio 4 contribution,
Mr Roy not only admitted having placed a bet, he strongly defended
his actions as being of a very ordinary nature. Moreover, he actually
endeavoured to claim some astonishment that anyone should think
badly of the practice.
I suggest that such activity is so patently inappropriate,
unethical and beneath the perceived dignity of the House that
it is impossible to see how any Member can contend otherwise,
except by a strained pretence. Such actions unnecessarily reinforce
the unfortunate impression which we outside gain of Members' attitudes
of self-interest deriving from a favoured position.
I suggest that the issue is whether Members ought
to bet at all in Parliamentary matters; and not just whether any
winnings ought to be declared." (Annex
Mr Roy's response to the complaint
6. On 1 November 2000 I wrote
to Mr Roy (Annex K) and asked him to respond to Mrs McDonald's
allegation that he had placed a bet on the election for the Speaker
and that he had thus made a financial gain from his position as
a Member of Parliament.
7. I asked him for an account of the events
in question and, in particular, for answers to the following questions:
whether he had placed a bet on the outcome
for the election of the Speaker, indicating, if so, the date,
the stake, the amount of the winnings and whether it was an individual
or a syndicated bet
what conversations he was involved in,
and on what dates, with other Members of Parliament to ascertain
the likely level of support for Mr Martin
whether he encouraged any other Member
of Parliament to vote for Mr Martin or to bet on the outcome of
the election for the Speaker
whether he was aware of any other Member
of Parliament who had placed a bet on the election.
8. In addition, I copied to Mr Roy all the
letters I had received on this subject, whether making specific
complaints against Mr Roy or expressing general criticism of alleged
betting on the election for Speaker.
The Code of Conduct and the Rules
9. The Code of Conduct
is concerned with general principles which Members of Parliament
are required to observe. So far as the complaints against Mr Roy
are concerned, the relevant requirements of the Code are as follows:
(a) "Holders of public office should
take decisions solely in terms of the public interest. They should
not do so in order to gain financial or other material benefits
for themselves, their family, or their friends."
(b) "Members shall base their conduct
on a consideration of the public interest, avoid conflict between
personal interest and the public interest and resolve any conflict
between the two, at once, and in favour of the public interest."
(c) "Members must bear in mind that information
which they receive in confidence in the course of their Parliamentary
duties should be used only in connection with those duties, and
that such information must never be used for the purpose of financial
(d) "Holders of public office have a
duty to declare any private interests relating to their public
duties and to take steps to resolve any conflicts arising in a
way that protects the public interest."
(e) "Members shall at all times conduct
themselves in a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen
the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament
and never undertake any action which would bring the House of
Commons, or its Members generally, into disrepute."
10. Mr Roy came to see me on 8 November 2000
and gave me a full account of the events in question and he wrote
to me on 16 November 2000 setting out his response to the complaint
in detail. (Annex L)
Sequence of events
11. From the information provided to me by Mr
Roy, the sequence of events relating to the matters raised in
the complaints was as follows.
The then Speaker announced her resignation
on 12 July 2000.
On 13 July The Mirror published
the odds on the possible candidates for the Speaker (Annex M)
On 18 July (Mr Roy believes) he attended
an informal meeting in the House of Commons with other potential
supporters of Mr Martin, led by Mrs Ann Keen, Member for Brentford
and Isleworth. but he took no further part in the work of the
campaign team. When approached on this issue, he put a BBC television
producer in touch with Mrs Irene Adams, Member, for Paisley North,
who was involved in the campaign group supporting Mr Martin.
On 20 July a bet of £200 on Mr
Martin to win the election for Speaker was placed on Mr Roy's
behalf, and with his agreement, at odds of 20 to1.
Mr Roy was aware that the friend who
placed the bet for him also placed a syndicated bet on Mr Martin
immediately afterwards on behalf of a group of Mr Roy's constituents.
In that instance, however, the odds offered were only 14 to1.
During the week beginning 24 July it
was reported on television that Members of Parliament were betting
on the election of the Speaker.
During the weeks up to the Summer recess,
which commenced on 28 July, there was in Mr Roy's words
"a great deal of informal chat amongst
MPs about who was, or who wasn't, standing as a candidate for
Speaker. Like most other Members I made my intentions known as
to whom I would cast my vote for, and in my particular case it
was Mr Martin."
12. At no time did Mr Roy encourage any other
Member to vote for Mr Martin but, as he put it, "when
asked who I intended voting for by colleagues, I made it plain
that I would be voting for Mr Martin."
13. Mr Roy added that he "drew many people's
attention to the fact that William Hill had published betting
odds on candidates in various newspapers since a story appeared
in The Mirror on Thursday 13 July."
14. But Mr Roy stated that he "never
at any time encouraged either MPs or members of the public to
bet on the election."
15. Mr Martin was elected as Speaker on 23 October
2000. Based on the odds he had obtained (20 to 1) on his original
stake of £200, Mr Roy was entitled to receive winnings of
£4,000. However, on hearing that the syndicated bet placed
at the same time as his own had attracted odds of only 14 to 1,
Mr Roy decided to "split the difference" with his constituents
by taking winnings based on odds of 17 to 1that is to say
16. Asked directly whether he knew of any other
Member who had acted in the same way as him Mr Roy replied: "I
am not aware of any Member who placed a bet on the election [for
Speaker] other than myself".
17. For my part, I have received no complaint
other than that against Mr Roy, involving allegations of betting
on the election for Speaker (or any other Parliamentary proceeding).
Nor have I been provided with any relevant evidence relating to
this issue which could have enabled me to determine whether any
further investigation was justified in respect of any other Member.
18. I have considered these complaints in the
light of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, the purpose
of which is "to assist Members in the discharge of their
obligations to the House, their constituents and the public at
19. With reference to personal conduct the Code
requires Members to observe the general principles which were
set out by the Committee on Standards in Public Life and adopted
by the House of Commons on 19 July 1995.
20. Having considered these requirements I have
asked the following questions:
(a) Did Mr Roy take decisions in his capacity
as a Member "solely in terms of the public interest"not
in order to gain financial benefit for himself or his friends?
21. I have received no evidence that Mr Roy's
decision to vote for Mr Martin was determined by the prospect
of deriving financial benefit either for himself or his friends
as a result of the bets which had been placed on Mr Martin. Mr
Roy says he supported Mr Martin because he was the best candidate
and I have no reason to doubt this. On the other hand, as a Member
of Parliament, Mr Roy should have had regard to the likely public
perception of his motives in betting on the election for Speaker.
(b) Did Mr Roy base his conduct in this
instance "on a consideration of the public interest, avoid
conflict between personal interest and the public interest and
resolve any conflict between the two, at once, and in favour of
the public interest?"
22. The public interest in the election of the
Speaker is best served by Members of Parliament voting solely
on the basis of the merits of the candidates for the post. As
I have indicated, I accept Mr Roy's statement that this was his
sole motivation in voting for Mr Martin. Nor have I received any
evidence that Mr Roy actively tried to persuade other Members
to support Mr Martin. For his part, Mr Roy has strongly denied
doing so. Nevertheless, Mr Roy says he informed colleagues of
his voting intentions and of the odds on the election then being
offered by the book-makers. While I do not believe these two factorsthat
is to say his discussions with other Members about the election
and his own financial interest in the outcomewere connected
in his mind, Mr Roy did not, in my view, properly consider the
public interest in this matter and resolve the likely perception
of a conflict of interest on his part in favour of the public
(c) Did Mr Roy use information he received
in confidence as a Member of Parliament to achieve financial gain?
23. The information about Mr Martin's suitability
as a candidate for Speaker was not confidential as such. However,
as a Member of Parliament, Mr Roy had first-hand knowledge of
Mr Martin's qualities for the post (and thus his chances of winning)
which would not have been available to members of the public.
More importantly, Mr Roy had access to information on the voting
intentions of other Members of Parliament which derived directly
from his own position as a Member. Again, this knowledge was not
generally accessible and therefore placed Mr Roy, theoretically
at least, in a more advantageous position than a member of the
public who had placed a bet on the election for Speaker. In particular,
Mr Roy attended a private meeting of Mr Martin's supporters in
the House of Commons on 18 July and would therefore have been
aware, in some measure, of the likely level of support for Mr
Martin prior to the placing of his bet on 20 July.
(d) Did Mr Roy "declare any
private interest relating to his public duties"?
24. Mr Roy says he did not encourage other Members
of Parliament to vote for Mr Martin but made his own voting intentions
known to colleagues, when asked. Mr Roy says he was open throughout
with other Members that he had placed a bet on Mr Martin. Since
he had a potential financial interest in the outcome, he should,
in my view, have taken the initiative and mentioned his bet when
discussing the election with fellow Members.
(e) Did Mr Roy conduct himself "in
a manner which will tend to maintain and strengthen the public
trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament and never
undertake any action which would bring the House of Commons, or
its Members generally into disrepute?"
25. Even if, as I accept, Mr Roy did not seek
to influence other Members in order to produce an outcome financially
favourable to himself, his conduct did, in my view, breach the
requirements of the Code of Conduct, as set out above. Mr Roy's
fellow Members, as well as his constituents and the public more
widely, were entitled to assume that in deciding whom to support
for the post of Speaker Mr Roy's judgment was not coloured in
any way by the prospect of financial gain. By his action in betting
on one candidate Mr Roy created doubt as to his true motives.
However unfair that may be to Mr Roy in this case, given that
he did not actively canvass support for Mr Martin, there existed
the potential for him to use his position as a Member to increase
the likelihood of a result from which he stood to derive a pecuniary
advantage. In that sense, it is the perception of impropriety
on Mr Roy's part which is important.
26. For this reason, gamblingsince this
is what placing a bet amounts toon a Parliamentary proceeding,
particularly one of such importance and high public profile as
the election of the Speaker, can hardly fail to undermine "the
public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament"
and certainly risks "bringing Members of Parliament and
the House of Commons into disrepute."
27. Mr Roy, in his letter of 16 November (Annex
L), says "I would like to put on record the sincere regret
that I wasn't able to foresee the huge disappointment felt by
some people and outrage felt by some others. Hindsight is never
available when it's really needed, and although I genuinely felt
that I had done nothing wrong, nor had anything to hide, I do
regret the whole episode."
The issue of registration in relation to Mr
28. There has been speculation in the press about
whether Members of Parliament are required to register winnings
from betting and, indeed, Mr Paul Tyler expressly stated that
any such sums should be entered in the Register of Members' Interests.
29. In my view, this is misconceived and based
on a misunderstanding of the purpose of the Register. Winnings
from gambling are not a benefit in the sense implied in the rules
relating to registration and declaration of interests. A bet is
a form of agreement between two parties, albeit not a legally
enforceable one. Whether the better receives a payment (or forfeits
his stake) is dependent either on chance or on his own ability
correctly to predict the outcome of a specific eventnot
on the discretion or generosity of the person with whom the bet
is struck. No question of influence on the part of the book-maker
(or his equivalent) therefore arises. The real concern lies, as
I have already described, in the conflict which betting on the
outcome of a Parliamentary proceeding creates between the private
interest of a Member and the public interest.
30. The public interest in an election for Speaker
is served by ensuring that all votes are cast solely on the merits
of the candidates, with no other possible or perceived motive.
By placing a bet on the election for Speaker Mr Roy acquired a
private financial interest in its outcome. In these circumstances
Mr Roy should have been alert to the possibility of a conflict
of interest and, in observance of the Code of Conduct, should
have resolved that conflict in favour of the public interest.
31. There is no evidence that Mr Roy personally
canvassed support for Mr Martin, or encouraged other Members to
do so. Nevertheless, because Mr Roy had given himself a financial
interest in securing Mr Martin's election, there was the potential
for him to take advantage of his position as a Member of Parliament
by attempting to promote the outcome on which he had bet.
32. The public perception of Members of Parliament
betting on the election of the Speaker (or any other Parliamentary
proceeding) would not, in my view, "tend to maintain and
strengthen the public's trust and confidence in the integrity
of Parliament". Such action risked bringing the House
of Commons "into disrepute".
33. Mr Roy has said he regrets the whole episode.
34. For the reasons given earlier in this memorandum,
no issue of registration arises in relation to Mr Roy's winnings
from the bet he placed on Mr Martin as a candidate for Speaker.
30 November 2000
dated 25 October 2000. Back
dated 25 October 2000. Back
dated 4 November 2000. Back
dated 27 October 2000 Back
dated 26 October 2000. Back
dated 5 November 2000. Back
12 Mr Roy
has not spoken on this matter himself on Radio 4. Back
13 HC 688 Back
paragraphs 25 and 26. Back