Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report


Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards from Mr Frank Roy MP

Thank you for your recent letter and enclosures relating to allegations of election on the outcome of the Speaker on October 23rd 2000. I would like to address the 7 points you raise as follows: —

Q1  Whether you laid a bet on the outcome of the election of the Speaker?

A    A bet was placed on my behalf at the William Hills Betting Office in Main Street, Wishaw.

Q2  If so the date of the bet, the amount of the bet, the amount of the winnings and whether it was an individual bet or a syndicate.

A    A £200 bet was placed on my behalf on the 20th July 2000. I won a total of £3,400. I was not part of any syndicate. However I am aware that other individuals from my constituency also shared in a 'pooled' win of £3,400.

Q3  What conversations were you involved in, on what dates, to ascertain from colleagues the likely level of support for Mr Martin as a candidate for Speaker?

A    I was not a member of any campaign team for any candidate to become Speaker. I attended a short informal meeting (which I think took place on Tuesday 18th July) with other potential supporters of Mr Martin in the days following the announcement by Speaker Boothroyd on 12th July 2000. The group, which was lead by Mrs Ann Keen MP (Brentford and Isleworth) had a geographic spread of MPs, amongst whom was Mrs Irene Adams MP (Paisley North), who I understood had volunteered to gauge what support there was amongst Scottish MPs for Mr Martin. I did not become further involved in the work of any campaign team. Mr Martin was not present at that meeting.

I never discussed the election with Mrs Adams from the start of the summer recess on 27th July until I was approached by Mr John Boothman, a BBC TV Producer of the 'Holyrood' programme on the morning of Wednesday 17th October to appear as a member of Mr Martins campaign team on the programme scheduled for Sunday 22 October. I told Mr Boothman that I had no involvement in any of the campaign teams, but that I would contact Mrs Adams and pass his request onto her, which I did on the afternoon of the 17th October. However, throughout the few weeks before the summer recess there was of course 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.

Q4  Whether you encouraged any Member of Parliament to vote for Mr Martin and if so the names of those you encouraged and the dates in question.

A    At no time did I ever encourage any member to vote for Mr Martin. However when asked who I intended voting for by colleagues, I made it plain that I would be voting for Mr Martin.

Q5  Whether you encouraged any Member to bet on the outcome of this election and if so the names of those concerned?

A    I never at any time denied that I had a bet placed on my behalf for Mr Martin to become Speaker. To my knowledge at the time, I had not broken any parliamentary betting rules. Indeed, I had heard of many stories from colleagues that a former Member, Ian Mikardo, actually 'ran books' on the outcome of various elections associated with the House, and that for many years betting was actually a part of the unique informal culture in the House. Indeed, I drew many peoples attention to the fact that William Hills had published betting odds on candidates in various newspapers since a story appeared in The Mirror on Thursday July 13th. At no time was I ever advised that I would be breaking any parliamentary rules by any MP that I had spoken to, or by any MP who had heard that I had a bet placed on my behalf. Indeed, Mr Nicholas Winterton MP (Macclesfield) made it known when he announced he would be standing as Speaker on the BBC Dispatch Box programme during the week beginning the 24th July that Labour MPs had bet Mr Martin to win the election, and still no-one either reported the matter or asked for it to be investigated.

I have previously stated that I never at anytime thought that I was breaking any rules by betting on the Speakership election and therefore had no reason not to mention my bet to anyone in particular. I know for a fact that members of the public in my constituency had bet Mr Martin. However, I never at anytime encouraged either MP or member of the public to bet on the election. I take a very strong view that what people do with their own money is their business and that I wouldn't want to be responsible should they lose any of their money because I suggested to them that they should place a bet on any candidate. The fact that William Hills were giving odds on the election was very widely known as I have previously indicated and it certainly wasn't any of my business as to whether or not people chose to place a bet.

Q6  Whether you are aware of any other Member who has laid a bet on the outcome of the election and if so please give their names.

A    I am not aware of any member who placed a bet on the election other than myself. I was however approached by a number of journalists asking to confirm if I knew which Members had bet, and how much they had won. I replied to every one of them that it was none of my business who laid bets on any candidate, and that I wouldn't comment on claims I had no way of substantiating. I would also be most grateful to have a clear ruling as to whether or not it was acceptable in future for Members to place bets on any general political matter, or on any elections carried out in the House.

Q7  Any other information which you have that would allow me to gain a complete picture.

A    I hope that the information will enable you to draw your own conclusions as to whether or not I knowingly broke any parliamentary rules by the above episode. 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. I regret especially the media attention thrown on my family, friends and parliamentary colleagues and to Mr Martin in particular.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should you feel I need to expand on any points I have raised.

16 November 2000

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Prepared 14 December 2000