The Committee on Standards and Privileges has
agreed to the following Report:
COMPLAINT AGAINST MR ROY BEGGS
1. We have considered a memorandum by the Parliamentary
Commissioner for Standards relating to the complaint from Mr R
L Mason of Larne, Co. Antrim, against Mr Roy Beggs, Member
for East Antrim. The Commissioner's memorandum is appended to
2. The Commissioner concluded that Mr Beggs should
have registered the property at Station Road, Larne, which he
and his wife owned jointly between 1988 and 1998. Mr Beggs said
that he had not done so because he did not think it was of "substantial
value". The property would have fallen within the definition
of "substantial value" proposed by the Committee in
the last Parliament, namely, a total property portfolio of a value
equivalent to, or greater than, the annual parliamentary salary,
but regrettably the House has not yet considered that recommendation.
We hope it will do so soon. Mr Beggs's share of the property was
valued at £14,000 when he relinquished it. In the absence
of a decision by the House his interpretation of the rule was
tenable. Accordingly we do not uphold this part of the complaint.
Mr Beggs might usefully have sought the Commissioner's advice
on the point. Where there is ambiguity, a Member should not interpret
the rules to his or her own advantage without first taking advice.
3. The Commissioner concluded that Mr Beggs made
improper use of the Office Costs Allowance. Mr Beggs should have
sought advice from the Fees Office before claiming reimbursement
of rent against accommodation which he or his family owned. Mr
Beggs has reimbursed the Fees Office and the matter has been resolved
to the satisfaction of the Director of Finance and Administration.
We invite the Director of Finance and Administration to put the
question of financial transactions between Members and others
which are not "at arm's length" to the Speaker's Advisory
4. The Commissioner found that Mr Beggs had misled
her and the former Committee during the previous inquiry by failing
to disclose his interest in the Station Road property. Mr Beggs
explained that he did not appreciate that the Commissioner's question
about other interests was intended to cover past as well as current
interests. Members must ensure that the information they give
the Commissioner and the Committee is correct and complete. Mr
Beggs ought to have told the Commissioner about the Station Road
property even though he believed it was not registrable.
5. The House accepted Mr Beggs's apology on 29 March
this year. We consider
the matter closed.
2 Fifth Report, Session 2000-01, Proposed Amendments
to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, HC 267 (2000-01),
para. 23. Back
Deb, 29 March 2001, col 1120. Back