to the Commissioner from Mr Jonathan Sayeed
Complaint from Mrs A S Brown, Mrs V Green and
others and complaint by Tom Levitt MPyour letters dated
1 March 2005
I am in my constituency and will not be in the House
of Commons until Tuesday 8 March. I am therefore sending across
by hand a hard copy of my response to your letters of 1 March
2005, though it will have my electronic signature as I will not
[be] there in person to sign it. I hope this is acceptable.
Before dealing with the specific issues listed in
your letters on 1 March, it may be helpful if I set out the background
to the two mailings: the first was a copy of my statement on 3
February, and the second was my letter of 9 February and included
my speech of 8 February.
You will be aware that I complained to Sir George
Young Bt on 30 January 2005 that very specific leaks of the Parliamentary
Commissioner's report had occurred prior to its publication and
appeared in a variety of Sunday national newspapers including
The Sunday Times, The Mail on Sunday and The People, and similar
information appeared in the local Bedfordshire media. The comment
was highly selective and only included those of the Commissioner's
conclusions which were damaging to me but did not report any of
the conclusions that confirmed that on no occasion was there any
evidence that I or The English Manner has directly benefited in
any way from anything to do with Parliament. Under the rules of
the House, if I had immediately responded to those articles, I
would have been in contempt of the House.
However, the media interest sparked very considerable
concerns within my constituency and between 30 January and 17
February my office received directly or indirectly almost 2,000
messages from people who wanted to know what was going on, what
truth there was in the accusations that appeared in the media
and who were generally confused as to what was happening. The
first occasion I was permitted to respond was at 11 am on Thursday
3 February when the Committee's report was published.
I understand that the Chairman of the Standards and
Privileges Committee was concerned that I issued such a statement
but I would suggest that not only was it proper for me to do so,
but also it was necessary in order to redress the balance of the
highly selective and profoundly one-sided media comment.
I immediately sent out a copy of my statement to
those constituents who had requested it and to some members of
my Association who are also constituents. In all, about 220 copies
of the statement were sent out. As I was not permitted to use
my local Association database, called 'Bluechip', I used a photocopy
of my 'Christmas card' labels list for this and a subsequent mailing
when writing to constituents who are also members of my Association.
This Christmas card list is maintained in a hard copy format with
a copy in my office, one in my home in Bedfordshire and one held
by Mrs Messervy. There are some 650 members of the Conservative
Association in Mid-Bedfordshire but I was only able to send out
between 170 and 190 letters to them as I was precluded from using
the 'Bluechip' database and was forced to reply on my Christmas
card list and other addresses I have personally collected over
the 10 years since I was selected.
On 3 February, the Association Chairman, Mr Ashley
Green unilaterally and without consulting the officers of the
Association or the governing body, the Executive Council, sent
out a notice of an emergency Special General Meeting to consider
the following proposition:
"That the members of this Association have
no confidence in the current Member of Parliament for Mid-Bedfordshire
and wish to withdraw Mr Sayeed's adoption and to seek another
candidate to represent the Conservative Party in this constituency
at the next General Election."
The first I knew of this meeting was when someone
who heard it on the local news on 3 February immediately rang
my office and it was after this that copies of my statement were
sent out. I was not personally informed by the Association office
or the Chairman of the Association of the meeting on 17 February
until I received a fax that I had requested on 8 February, even
though members had been informed on 3 / 4 February.
Another letter and enclosures from the Chairman followed
the notice of the meeting, again using the Bluechip database and
Association funds. This was partisan, one-sided and clearly prejudicial
to me. Each of these caused a furore within the membership, and
considerable local speculation from constituents who are not members
of my party, as well as those who are. Many rang to ask if I had
resigned, was I resigning, what was happening and would I clear
up the considerable disquiet and confusion. It was in response
to that confusion that my letter of 9 February together with a
copy of my speech of 8 February was sent.
The responses I sent out were not unsolicited,
in that they were a response to the very large number of inquiries
my office had received. Though not all the Association members
who received my letter of 9 February had requested it there was
such disquiet and confusion in the constituency that it was very
clear that every constituent who had received the Chairman's letters
needed to know my position. Although many of the letters were
the same, that was occasioned by the need for a swift response
so that at least some people were aware of my position. In addition,
the inquiries my office had been receiving were all of a similar
nature and posed largely the same questions, thus prompting identical
I do not believe that my letter of 9 February can
be construed as "advocating the membership of a political
party of supporting the return of any person to public office".
I am informed that a similar letter to that of 9
February was sent to constituents who are not Association members
who but who had made inquiries and requested a response. However,
given that previous private meetings of the Association Executive
had been consistently 'leaked' to the press, I was confident that
the speech I was to give on 17 February and the questions that
I would be required to answer would similarly appear in the press,
even though the meeting was meant to be private and eligibility
of those attending checked. I was therefore sure that any answers
to questions that constituents, who were not Association members,
had would appear in the press and therefore they would be aware
of my answers. That is what transpired and three days afterwards
in a constituency-wide newspaper called 'Beds on Sunday' a verbatim
but partial report of this private meting was published.
That letter of 9 February set out to do the following
a) To give the recipient a copy of my speech
so that they were aware that I recognised I had made mistakes
and had apologised for them
b) To re-assure them that I was not resigning
despite the media and other speculation, particularly prompted
by the motion instituted by the Chairman of the Association
c) To state that I recognised that I had to answer
for what I had done or not done
d) To seek their comments whether they were for
or against me so that I could address their concerns or views
during my speech on 17 February. I was not requesting that
they support me.
Turning now to the complaints of Mrs A S Brown, Mrs
V Green and Tom Levitt MP.
Mrs V Green is the wife of the Chairman of the Association,
Mr Ashley Green and as the photocopy of the envelope shows, my
letter was sent to both of them. My office did query whether,
in view of the Chairman's consistent and actively negative stance,
I should send him a copy of my letter. My response was that as
the Chairman of the Association, he had a right to know what I
was saying. Mr Green, the Chairman of my Association had wrote
the letter, which purports to be from Mrs Green. A Mrs Brown was
none of those who contacted my office requesting a reply from
me but whether it was the Mrs Brown who has made a complaint I
You have asked me to respond to questions 2-8 and
my answers are below:
2. "Whether, regardless of your suspension,
it was in any event proper for you to write on 3 February and
again on 9 February using House of Commons stationery and post-paid
envelopes on what was an internal party matter".
This was not just an internal party matter. It was
a concern expressed by my constituents at large though the decision
as to whether I would be permitted to continue as the Conservative
candidate at the next election and hence, hopefully as the MP
was a decision that only party members could make. The concerns
of party members reflected the concerns of the constituency at
large. I therefore believe that it was proper for me to use House
of Commons stationery and post paid envelopes, bearing in mind
the solicited nature of my response as referred to in my preamble.
I was responding to the concerns of constituents regardless f
their party affiliation. I was not urging support for any party
political measure, nor canvassing support for me, rather I was
requesting that people told me what questions they would wish
me to answer.
Whilst Mrs Brown's letter and Mr and Mrs Green's
letter were labelled, not all letters sent out with my statement
were addressed in this mannersome were handwritten.
3. "whether the time of any of your staff
paid out of your parliamentary staffing allowance was used in
the preparation or distribution of either document".
I prepared the documents though my staff, paid out
of the parliamentary staffing allowance distributed them. This
was largely done out of hours and in their own time, late into
4. "whether other parliamentary facilities,
including any database maintained by you as a Member, were used
in connection with the preparation or addressing of either letter
sent by you".
Except where mentioned, no parliamentary facilities
or parliamentary database were used with the preparation or addressing
of my letter of 9 February or for external distribution
of my statement on 3 February. The only exception is that photocopying
of both these items was done using parliamentary facilities. In
addition, PDVN was used to e-mail my statement of 3 February to
a number of people.
5. "in her letter of 21 February, Mrs
Brown raises the question whether (as the half label on the envelope
she received containing the TEML letter appears to be the same
as that on the 2 envelopes containing the letter from you) parliamentary
facilities were used in any way in connection with the preparation
or distribution of the TEML letter."
No parliamentary facilities whatsoever were used
in connection with the preparation or distribution of the TEML
letter. Mrs Messervy has a copy of my 'Christmas card list' so
as to be able to add to it as necessary.
You have also asked me "how many of each of
the letters dated 3 and 9 February respectively you sent out."
Unlike the 1300-odd letters sent by the Chairman, I only had access
to a limited number of names. In total, for the letter dated 9
February, between 170 and 190 letters were sent out.
6. "Mr Levitt raises the questions whether
the TEML letter dated 3 February was written by you (or, as I
had assumed, Mrs Messervy)".
Mrs Messervy and her solicitor wrote the TEML letter
dated 3 February.
7. "He points out that the typeface and
style of the TEML letter and yours of 9 February are similar.
This not only raises questions of the authorship of the two letters
but of whether they were produced and printed using the same,
parliamentary facilities and/or the time of your parliamentary
The typeface and style of the TEML letter are a typeface
and style available to anyone who uses Microsoft products. You
will be able to see from earlier letters separately sent by Mrs
Messervy and myself that both of us use Times New Roman as a typeface.
No parliamentary facilities or the time of my parliamentary staff
were used in the preparation or distribution of the TEML letter.
8. "He notes that your letter of 9 February
invited people to contact you at your House of Commons fax number
and e-mail address, and asks whether these facilities are available
when a Member is suspended. My understanding is that these facilities
remain available to a Member during suspension but, of course,
as he is barred from the Parliamentary estate he cannot access
them directly from his office but only indirectly or remotely.
Moreover the facilities are not to be used at any time for non-parliamentary
The reason my House of Commons office fax number
was used was because
- It is the one that constituents
are used to using
- My home fax is the same number as my telephone
and it is impossible to use the two at the same time.
My PDVN e-mail address again is the one people are
used to using but I had requested PDVN to set up a 'rule' that
forwarded all my e-mails from that PDVN address to a private e-mail
address, even though that was not necessary.
I did not attend the House of Commons at any time
during the period I was disbarred and left immediately after I
gave my speech on 8 February. I attach a copy of a letter from
[The Clerk Assistant],
which sets out what I was permitted/not permitted to do, the terms
of which I strictly adhered to.
a) "Whether any use was made of these
means of contact by recipients of your letter"
b) "How you were made aware of any responses
to your letter received through these means."
My office informed me of messages they had received
either by way of a telephone call that either they or I initiated
or by fax to my home or by e-mail to my private e-mail address.
In addition, my PA met me at the weekend in her own time and was
then able to pass on letters, faxes and e-mails to me.
9. "Mr Levitt says that the telephone
number at the foot of your letter is both that of your constituency
office and that of Mid-Bedfordshire Conservative Association.
He suggests that this may imply that Commons expenses are subsidising
your Association's operations".
The footnote on my letters is a standard footnote
which appears on all my letters and as you say I "have signed
an agreement with your Association relating to the provision of
office and other facilities details of which are known to the
Department of Finance and Administration".
In his letter of 23 February, Mr Levitt queries the
period of my suspension. This is just one of the points of order
he raised with the Deputy Speaker, though without informing me
that he would raise it, as is customary. This point is dealt with
in my answer to 8. and the letter from Douglas Millar.
In his fourth paragraph, he asks if wrote a statement
from The English Manner. I have answered this in points 6 and
7 above. I understand from Mrs Messervy that she and her family
undertook the whole exercise in Bedfordshire during a weekend;
she paid for the postage and for the purchase of the envelopes
and the paper.
I hope this covers all the questions raised. If there
are points on which you want further information, please do let
2 March 2005