3 The Commissioner's findings |
Cooperation with the Commissioner's
33. The Code of Conduct provides that members
"shall cooperate at all stages with any such investigation
by or under the authority of the House." The Commissioner
I appreciate the pressures on Mr MacShane, but that
cannot, in my judgment, justify refusing what I consider to be
reasonable requests to attend an interview at a time convenient
to him and to answer a specific question. If Members were to
feel an interview when sought by the Commissioner was optional
it would considerably hamper the Commissioner's inquiries. So
too would a view that Members could decline to clear up ambiguities
in their evidence. With regret, therefore, I find that Mr MacShane
was in breach of the Code of Conduct in deciding to withdraw his
cooperation in this final stage of my inquiry.
Claims for computer equipment
34. The Commissioner concludes that:
Mr MacShane was clearly within the rules of the House
in claiming for computers additional to those loaned by the Parliamentary
Information and Communications Technology service. But, as the
Department of Resources has implied, Mr MacShane's claims would
appear to have been excessive. In the course of just under three
years, he obtained 14 computers: 6 provided by the House and 8
bought from his allowances. Even allowing for the two which he
said had broken down and for essential upgrades, that could not
in my judgment be justified. While I believe that Members should
expect to have a considerable degree of latitude in deciding,
within the limits of any allowance, what provision they need in
their offices to support them in their parliamentary duties, Mr
MacShane's computer purchases appear to go well beyond that reasonable
expectation. They reflect a cavalier approach to the use of public
resources and, in some cases, at least, it appears that Mr MacShane
allowed an outgoing intern to take away with them a parliamentary-funded
laptop, and then bought a new one for his or her successor. In
my judgment, the result was that, for part of the lifetime of
the equipment, these computers were not being used solely in support
of Mr MacShane's parliamentary duties and there were, in any case,
just more than any reasonable person would think necessary. [...]
On both counts, therefore, I find that the expenditure was not
wholly, exclusively and necessarily incurred on parliamentary
duties. As a result, Mr MacShane was, in my judgment, in breach
of paragraph 5.1.1 of the Green Book.
146. Mr MacShane was also in breach of the rules
in submitting the same invoice twice for a computer he bought
in December 2007 for £498.95. I fully accept that this was
a mistake on his part and agree with Mr MacShane that it is unfortunate
that this was not picked up by the Fees Office at the time.
Claims relating to invoices from
the European Policy Institute
35. The Commissioner notes that the incidental
expenses provision allowed for Members to claim for work commissioned
and bought-in services, including interpreting and translation
services and research and recruitment services. Members could
also claim for subscriptions to newspapers and periodicals. The
Commissioner considers that:
139. Some of Mr MacShane's expenditure in support
of his European activities was, in my judgment, an allowable claim
under the incidental expenses provision. That included those
research and position papers which Mr MacShane commissioned and
which were clearly in support of his parliamentary duties, in
particular his contributions to debates. It properly covered
the translation of those documents which again he felt he needed
for his parliamentary duties. And it included the purchase of
magazines and periodicals for these purposes.
140. But Mr MacShane's claims went far beyond these
provisions, and, in my judgment, far beyond what was allowable
under the rules. In particular, over four financial years he
claimed for the costs of his own extensive travel across Europe.
This included his own air fares, his hotel accommodation where
required and his meals. Mr MacShane suggested that this was necessary
so he could conduct his own "face to face" research.
Given what Mr MacShane has said about the visits, which covered
a wide range of activities, that may be stretching the definition
of research. But in any event, since expenditure on research
was specifically associated in the rules with "work commissioned
and bought in services" it was clearly outside that provision.
The definition of commissioned and bought in services cannot
be extended to a Member who commissions himself and who buys in
his own services.
The Commissioner notes:
It might have been possible for a few of the costs
of Mr MacShane's European visits to have been met by claims against
the European travel entitlement, but, as Mr MacShane knew, the
number of trips per year, and their destination, was limited.
They also required prior authorisation by the Department of
Finance and Administration. Mr MacShane never sought such authorisation
for his extensive European travel. Indeed, the House authorities
never knew until my investigation that that was what a significant
part of his claims for research and translation services was being
That being the case, the Commissioner considers the
following costs were not allowable:
1. All Mr MacShane's personal travel, hotel and food
bills for his visits to Europe. [...] They [...] breached paragraph
5.3.1 of the Green Book.
2. Payments for travel to Paris for meetings related
to the European Book of the Year award, which, as well as including
travel and subsistence costs which fell outside the rules, was
in my view clearly not a parliamentary duty. This was a breach
of paragraph 5.1.1 of the Green Book.
3. Payments for travel to Paris to interview candidates
for Mr MacShane's Personal Assistantswhich, as well as
being prohibited travel, was not, in my view, justifiably proportionate
expenditure solely, exclusively and necessarily incurred on account
of Mr MacShane's parliamentary duties. A trip to Paris cannot,
I believe, reasonably be justified by a wish to interview PAs.
It was a breach of paragraph 5.1.1 of the Green Book.
4. The costs of a report in Mr MacShane's name on
the position of Labour's sister parties in the EU. This went
beyond what Mr MacShane fairly accepted might have been "some
overlap between parliamentary and political involvement in European
affairs". It was in my judgment a report in support of
party political activities and so contrary to paragraph 5.1.1
of the Green Book.
5. Mr MacShane's claims for some of the hospitality
he provided to his academic and political contacts which appeared
to go beyond remuneration in kind for a commissioned service.
Mr MacShane appears to have been using parliamentary funds to
entertain his European contacts. This is not allowable expenditure
under paragraph 5.13.4 of the Green Book.
6. Mr MacShane's extensive purchase of books in the
course of his travels which went, in my judgment, well beyond
the scope of a provision allowing claims for subscriptions to
newspapers or periodicals. [...] while it would be disproportionate
to have prevented claims for some books being made against the
incidental expenses provision, Mr MacShane's claims went way beyond
what was reasonable and, in my judgment, seemed to border on him
using parliamentary resources to build his personal European library.
They breached paragraph 5.13.4 of the Green Book.
THE WAY IN WHICH THE CLAIMS WERE
36. The Commissioner concludes there were very
substantial failures in the way in which Mr MacShane submitted
37. First, the invoices did not properly describe
what the money claimed was spent on; and this was not an isolated
occurrence: 19 misleading invoices were presented over the course
of just over three years.
"By purporting to use the EPI as the provider or commissioner
of the relevant service, Mr MacShane avoided any requirement for
specific invoices to be provided."
Mr MacShane considered that many of his claims would not have
needed invoices, since individual items were below the £250
threshold required or could have been taken out of the could have
been taken out of the £250 monthly petty cash provision.
The Commissioner does not accept these arguments:
It is hard to see how much of his European expenditure
could reasonably have been funded from a petty cash provision
and even claims without invoices had to be itemised, described
and costed. Had Mr MacShane claimed for reimbursement of the
costs in this way, the unacceptable nature of his expenditure
should very quickly have been exposed.
38. Second, the invoiced claims were in fact
no more than broad estimates of what Mr MacShane has in fact spent
in support of his European work, and were prepared "according
to what I judged to have expended". While the Commissioner
notes there is no evidence that at any time Mr MacShane made a
personal profit from his claims he concludes:
that is not an acceptable basis on which to submit
claims against parliamentary resources. The Green Book provides
that the incidental expenses provision "is available to meet
costs incurred on Members' parliamentary duties." But those
costs have to be the costs which have actually been incurred.
Mr MacShane's claims were not prepared in this way. It is difficult
to avoid the conclusion that he spent as he felt necessary and
put in rounded claims to the Department when the account he used
for his European work was running low.
39. The Commissioner's final conclusion on this
matter relates to the nature of the invoices themselves:
153. Thirdly, Mr MacShane made claims purporting
to be based solely on invoices submitted to him by the European
Policy Institute, authenticated by the EPI's letterhead and signed
by the General Manager of the Institute. But by the time he started
making these claims, the Institute in this form did not exist;
the notepaper on which the invoices were produced was obsolete,
and there was no General Managerthe General Manager's signature
was provided by Mr MacShane himself or someone else under his
authority. The sum claimed was not a sum determined by the General
Manager of the EPI to meet the cost of services commissioned on
Mr MacShane's behalf. It was the sum of money entered on his computer
by Mr MacShane himself. In effect, he was sending the invoice
to himself and writing his own cheque. The claims were paid out
unchallenged by the House authorities and the money put into a
separate bank account which Mr MacShane controlled. He used the
money as he thought fit, in support of his European activities.
154. Mr MacShane has sought to argue that the name
of the General Manger was in effect a "nom de plume".
Mr MacShane told me that his staff regularly sign his letters
in his name and seemed to imply that this arrangement was no different.
But of course it was. The name used was that once used by Mr MacShane's
brother: if it was anyone's "nom de plume" it was hisand
Mr MacShane's evidence is that his brother was not involved in
any way with his claims during this period. Nor was this a "nom
de plume" used by the Member for an activity disassociated
from Parliament. It was used to receive monies from Parliament.
And the vehicle was the invoices produced by Mr MacShane and signed
in someone else's name. Those paying out the money were never
told that the "nom de plume" was in fact being used
by the Member himself. The effect was that, unbeknown to the Department,
Mr MacShane was submitting invoices to himself and asking the
parliamentary authorities to pay.
155. The result was that the invoices misled the
House authorities; they provided no check, balance or restraint
on Mr MacShane's claims; they ensured there was no means of checking
their accuracy or admissibility, and, when they came to light,
they put unwelcome pressure on a member of Mr MacShane's own family.
40. The Commissioner's overall judgement is:
158. Taken together, I consider these breaches to
be a particularly serious violation of the Code of Conduct. Wrongly
claiming from the incidental expenses provision for his European
activities was itself serious, more so than for his computer claims.
But the seriousness was very substantially compounded by Mr MacShane's
wrongdoing in his presentation of the highly misleading and inaccurate
invoices which helped to fund his European activities.
159. I recognise that Mr MacShane was under personal
pressure throughout much of the period covered by his claims.
I recognise too that the police investigation, followed by the
resumption of my inquiry, had the effect of continuing that pressure.
Mr MacShane is an acknowledged parliamentary expert on European
affairs and, having lost his post as Minister for Europe, it was
understandable that he would have wished to have continued with
the work to which he has been committed for many years. He has
also repaid the cost of his European claims of his own volition
and has offered to repay whatever else is required. He has apologised.
I have no evidence that Mr MacShane received any personal profit
from his claims. All this needs to be weighed in the balance.
But in my judgment, it cannot absolve Mr MacShane from his responsibility
for the extremely serious way in which he breached the House of
Commons Code of Conduct and its expenses rules over a period of
some four financial years. On reflection, I hope he might recognise
that overall his conduct fell far below the standards of integrity
and probity expected of every Member of the House.
33 Appendix 1, paragraph 136 Back
Appendix 1, paragraphs 145 and 146 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 141 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 143 Back
Four financial years were involved. Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 150 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 151 Back
Appendix 1, paragraph 152 Back