Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Second Report

Annex 204

Letter to Mr Andrew Walker, Director of Finance and Administration, House of Commons, from the Registrar of Members` Interests

I understand that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards has already been in touch with you to discuss the possibility of enlisting your assistance in analysing some financial documentation in connection with a current investigation into a complaint against Dr John Reid and Mr John Maxton.

I gather also that the Commissioner indicated that I would write to you setting out the background, enclosing the relevant papers and indicating the areas in which we are in need of advice.

The substance of the complaint is that Dr Reid and Mr Maxton misused public funds by allowing researchers paid for out of the Office Costs Allowance to engage in campaigning for the Labour Party during hours when they were contracted to work for the two Members concerned. The names of the three researchers are Kevin Reid, Suzanne Hilliard and Chris Winslow.

In reaching a conclusion about the validity or otherwise of this complaint, the Commissioner needs to be able to establish exactly what amounts were being paid by the Fees Office to the three researchers during the period in question (May 1998 to June 1999) and how this correlates, if at all, with salary projections contained in Labour Party budget documents which have been supplied to the Commissioner. (One suggestion which has been made to the Commissioner is that the Labour Party projections assumed that the salaries of Mr Reid and Mr Maxton would be topped up from other sources—ie the Fees Office).

I attach two tables summarising this information. The first is an analysis of the Labour Party budget monthly salary projections for Mr Reid and Mr Winslow at three different points. The second is a compilation of the total monthly contracted earnings for Mr Reid and Mr Winslow from the Labour Party and the Fees Office combined. (Ms Hilliard does not appear in these tables since she was never formally employed by the Labour Party). You should know, by way of background, that Mr Reid was originally employed on a part-time basis by the Labour Party in June 1998 at an annual salary of £4,000, but that in mid-October 1998 he went on to a full time contract at a salary of £18,132. Mr Winslow`s initial salary in June 1998 was £6,000 and this was increased to £12,000 in November 1998.

The Commissioner would be grateful if you could let her have the following information:

    (i)    are the figures in the table for the salary payments from the Fees Office accurate?
    (ii)  what is the precise wording of the rule which prohibits the misuse of public funds in the way alleged in the complaint, when was it introduced and on what authority?
    (iii)  how is this rule brought to Members` attention?
    (iv)  is the practice of making payment of salary in lieu of notice approved by the Fees Office (even where this can result, for a short period, in a researcher drawing salaries in respect of more than one Member at the same time)?
    (v)  are you able to shed any light on the apparent discrepancies between the monthly salary figures contained in the Labour Party budget documents and the actual amounts the researchers were contracted to receive (for example, a figure of £1,100 appears against Chris Winslow, whereas 1/12 of £12,000 is £1,000; and a similar discrepancy exists between the figure of £366 per month attributed to Kevin Reid, when 1/12 of £4,000 is £333)?
    (vi)  do you see any evidence from the two tables (assuming the relevant Fees Office figures to be correct) that the Labour Party`s budget projections incorporate any assumption that the salaries of Mr Reid and Mr Winslow would be topped up in the way suggested?

Perhaps when you have had a chance to study the figures we could arrange to meet with the Commissioner to discuss your conclusions.

Many thanks in advance.

4 May 2000  

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2000
Prepared 22 December 2000