Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner
from Mr Nigel Griffiths MP
Thank you for sending me a copy of your report in
draft. I am grateful for your appreciation that I am responding
briefly because of the unusual tight timescale.
I wish to make clear that my key aim has always been
to provide my constituents with a first rate service, delivered
from the main street in my constituency and to this end, as the
Fees Office have confirmed, I have contributed £31,000 from
my own funds to top-up the OCA. The bulk of the rent paid under
the OCA went on this, together with other non-claimed items involved
in the refurbishment of the office. I made no claim for the £68,000
which I paid for the office.
You question whether the £31,000 sum was sufficient
to cover the cost of use for political reasons. This seems to
be a reversal of your previous ruling in 2001 on this when you
considered this in detail and were satisfied with this explanation
and recommended no action.
In respect of the provision I make for my sister,
your understanding of the arrangement set out in para 110 is the
correct one and accurately reflects the arrangements I made following
my father's disappearance and death. It reflects the position
set out in para 42. The journalist's apparent interest and concern
about my mentally handicapped sister was obviously false. As soon
as he knew of the legacy, he was determined to make the most of
the connection between the office rent and any help I give her.
He even rang me before going to print to say he and his editor
were particularly sympathetic to her interests.
You make clear in para 97 that the Green Book did
not make special reference to the charging of rent by Members
in respect of a property owned by the member him/herself, nor
was the advice you received from the Fees Office in a previous
case set out and circulated to members in the Green Book until
last month. In respect of my constituency office the Fees Office
acknowledges that £12,000 is a fair rent, and the charge
they met was £2,000 less, representing a saving to the taxpayer
of £8,000 in the past four years.
The contribution from the Member of the Scottish
Parliament specifically included the construction of separate
secure storage areas and window display areas. Such costs meant
the rent should not have been re-imbursed to the Fees Office.
In any case, the 'fair rent' is £12,000 so any costs related
to the MSP were accounted for from part of the £2,000 pa
over the £10,000 paid from the OCA.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make these
10 February 2002