Select Committee on Standards and Privileges Seventh Report

Annex AA

Letter to Mr Nigel Griffiths MP

from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

As I indicated to you in my letter of 18 December, it is now necessary for me to ask you for some further information before I complete my investigation and draw up my report. Please forgive me if you think some of the answers are implicit in the information you have already supplied; sometimes I need an answer in writing from the Member to ensure that I report his response accurately in every detail.

You say that you have reimbursed the Fees Office for the use of your office for campaigning purposes.

Please would you let me know the following:

1.    When, and why, the question of reimbursement to the Fees Office in respect of this use arose in your mind and how you calculated the appropriate figure?

2.    How much time did you estimate the office was used for campaigning purposes?

3.    In which years you used your office for campaigning purposes? In each year what sum did you reimburse to the Fees Office for that use?

You say you bought the property in 31 Minto Street for use as your constituency office in 1997.

Please would you let me know:

4.    How much you paid for the property in 1997?

5.    What were your office arrangements before you bought the property at Minto Street, and what were the financial arrangements in respect of them?

6.    For each year since 1997 to date, what sums have you claimed from the Office Costs Allowance in respect of Minto Street and what have you repaid?

7.    Why did you not register the property in 1997 when you bought the office at Minto Street, and the rental income you received from it since that date?

8.    Whether you had read the Fees Office guidance (in 'Parliamentary Allowances and Salaries') when you first started claiming what you describe (in your letter to the Registrar of 8 December) as a 'commercial rent' from the Office Costs Allowance in respect of the property? At what date were you first aware of this guidance?

9.    Whether you consulted the Fees Office about what it was appropriate to claim from the OCA where you owned the property? If so, what advice did you receive and when did you receive it?

10.  The date you obtained the independent valuation which gave the appropriate rent for the property? Did you request the appropriate commercial rental value for the property? If not, how was your request couched? What was the valuation figure for the property at that date? Please provide a copy of the valuation advice.

You have provided information about your arrangement with your local Member of the Scottish Parliament.

Please would you let me know:

11.  Whether you consulted the Fees Office about your arrangement with your local MSP? If so, what advice did you receive? If not, have you now done so, and are they content?

12.  You say that your arrangement with your local MSP began in 1999. Did you have any financial arrangements with anyone else in respect of their use of the property before that time (other than the occasional payments from trades union committees you describe in your Register entry). If so, please list them by name and set out the sums involved and the period or periods they covered.

13.  How, and when, did you establish the appropriate rental contribution from the MSP? Why was it decided that he would pay you a lump sum to cover several years rather than making annual payments? Please provide me with all the written material about this arrangement.

14.  Did you take account of the payment from the MSP when calculating the amount you repaid to the Fees Office?

You came to see me on 12 December 2001 to discuss these complaints. Please would you clarify one point for me:

15.  My note of our meeting on 12 December records 'Mr Griffiths made it clear that he wasn't sure that the Finance Office would be able to say that it had all been dealt with satisfactorily'. What led you to say this? What did you think might be a problem at that time? Have the Fees Office now confirmed that they are satisfied? Please provide a copy of their letter.

I am afraid that I need also to ask you some questions about the arrangements you make to support your sister, in as far as the complaints relate to them:

16.  With their letter of complaints Mrs Lait provided an article from the Sunday Herald and Mr Wishart those from the Scottish Mail on Sunday and Scotland on Sunday dated 9 December 2001. Those articles refer to statements to those papers.

17.  The quotations from the articles say that you charge "a market rent to the fees office, payable to him as owner of the office, for its legitimate use for an MP's constituency work. He then takes that income and spends it through the Hansel Village Trust which he jointly controls, on the care needed for his autistic elder sister..." (Sunday Herald)


"He said: 'I sort of own the office but the Hansel Village Trust has nominal control over it on behalf of my sister. It generates income for her treats and so on.'

Griffiths confirmed that the money has been used to send his sister on trips to Northern Ireland, the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District and London, making use of 'the best hotels'.

It has also paid for 'televisions and videos - what creature comforts she needs'. He is now considering buying his sister a house with the trust income which has also paid for physiotherapy, a carer and night-classes." (Scotland on Sunday)


"...he admitted using Parliamentary expenses to benefit his family..." "Mr Griffiths admitted the Hansel Village Trust was set up for the sole purpose of supporting his handicapped sister. According to strict parliamentary rules, he should have declared in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests that he owned the property..." "last night, Mr Griffiths said the rental money he received from the Fees Office would be used next year to buy a house for his sister, who is mentally handicapped. He also admitted that the money had been used to pay for her to go on holidays with a carer." (Mail on Sunday)

Please would you confirm that these quotations are accurate in every respect and, if so, let me know the period of time that you have operated this arrangement and the sums involved? If you have been misquoted please would you let me know the details.

Finally, please would you let me know if there is anything else that, on reflection, you would like to tell me about your office arrangements, your claims from the OCA, or indeed any other aspect of your Register entry so that I may provide the Standards and Privileges Committee with a complete and accurate account.

When I receive your reply I will draft my memorandum. Before coming to my conclusions I will send my memorandum to you in draft so that you can suggest corrections and make any further comments you wish.

I look forward to receiving your reply and of course am happy to discuss any of these matters should you wish.

28 January 2002

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