The Conduct of Lord Clarke
1. The Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests has
investigated the conduct of Lord Clarke of Hampstead. The Sub-Committee's
report is printed as Appendix 1 to this Report.
2. The investigation relates to allegations that
appeared in May 2009 in the Sunday Times, regarding Lord
Clarke's use of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme ("the Scheme").
Following the appearance of these allegations, Lord Clarke referred
himself to the Clerk of the Parliaments for investigation; a complaint
was subsequently made against Lord Clarke by a member of the public
in November 2009.
3. The Sunday Times allegations were the
subject of a police investigation, during which time no internal
consideration of the complaint was possible. This police investigation
continued until February 2010, when the Director of Public Prosecutions
announced that no charges would be brought against Lord Clarke.
Following that announcement, the Clerk of the Parliaments, who,
as Accounting Officer, is responsible under the procedure set
out in our 4th Report of 2007-08 for matters relating to the Scheme,
sought the assistance of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests.
This was in accordance with paragraph 11 of the procedure, as
described in the 4th report, which states that "In exceptional
circumstances [the Clerk of the Parliaments] may request the Sub-Committee
to assist him in investigating a complex or serious complaint."
4. The Chairman of the Sub-Committee, Baroness
Manningham-Buller, sent the Sub-Committee's report on the case
to the Clerk of the Parliaments on 22 March. He then circulated
the report to members of the House Committee, which oversees the
Scheme. That Committee agreed that, as the possibility of disciplinary
sanctions arose in this case, the Committee for Privileges should
report the matter to the House, with recommendations as appropriate.
THE POWERS OF THE HOUSE IN RESPECT OF THE MEMBERS'
5. We emphasise that the current Code of Conduct
does not extend to Members' use of the Scheme. This is clear from
the 4th report of 2007-08, already cited, which established that
such matters do not, save in exceptional circumstances, fall within
the remit of the Sub-Committee on Lords' Interests, and that they
are the responsibility of the Clerk of the Parliaments, as Accounting
Officer. This will change when the House's new Code of Conduct
comes into force at the start of the new Parliament. Paragraph
10 of the new Code states that Members should "act in accordance
with any rules agreed by the House in respect of financial support
6. Even though alleged misuse of the Scheme does
not fall within the present Code of Conduct, there can be no doubt
that the rules governing the Scheme, having been agreed by resolution
of the House, are binding upon Members. In the present case, the
Sub-Committee has found that Lord Clarke breached the rule set
out in the resolution of the House which entitles Members only
to claim in respect of "expenses incurred in staying overnight
away from their only or main residence".
7. The House resolved on 20 May 2009 that it
"possesses ... an inherent power to discipline its Members;
the means by which it chooses to exercise this power falls within
the regulation by the House of its own procedures." The House
further resolved that "The duty imposed upon Members, by
virtue of the writs of summons, to attend Parliament, is subject
to various implied conditions, which are reflected in the many
rules governing the conduct of Members which have been adopted
over time by the House."
8. Thus the House's resolution of 20 May 2009
was not limited to breaches of the Code of Conduct. The House
affirmed its inherent power to discipline any Member guilty of
clear and flagrant breaches of the rules adopted over time by
the House. The rules governing the Scheme have been adopted by
resolution of the House, and are binding upon all Members of the
House who make use of the Scheme. We therefore conclude that
the House possesses the same disciplinary powers in respect of
breaches of the Members' Reimbursement Scheme as in respect of
breaches of the Code of Conduct or of other rules of conduct adopted
by the House.
THE SUB-COMMITTEE'S FINDINGS
9. Lord Clarke, in his letter dated 21 February
2010, acknowledged that "on some occasions I claimed night
subsistence on days when I returned to my main residence ... between
sittings" (see Appendix 2). There is no disagreement on this
point. It is also clear from the terms of the Scheme that, in
the Sub-Committee's words, "a member may only claim under
the scheme i) if they have stayed overnight away from their main
residence; and ii) they have attended the House. There is no ambiguity
about these conditions". The Sub-Committee has therefore
upheld the allegation that Lord Clarke "was at fault to have
claimed night subsistence for nights that he did not spend in
10. In respect of a second allegation, that he
claimed the maximum available amount of night subsistence when
he had not incurred that much expense, the Sub-Committee has found
that there are significant mitigating factors, and that therefore
he was not "personally culpable" in this regard.
11. In respect of the first allegation, which
has been upheld, the Sub-Committee draws attention to the fact
that Lord Clarke has voluntarily repaid a total of £9,190
in respect of his inappropriate claims for night subsistence for
nights that he did not spend in London. However, the Sub-Committee
notes that while Lord Clarke did initially admit his misconduct
and apologise to the House, in his correspondence he stepped back
from this position, asserting that he "made the claims, believing
[he] was entitled to do so". The Sub-Committee therefore
considers that he should "make a further personal statement
to the House to apologise without reservation for his misuse of
the members' reimbursement scheme".
12. Lord Clarke was given a copy of the Sub-Committee's
report on Friday 26 March. He indicated that he did not wish to
appeal against the Sub-Committee's findings and recommendations.
13. We uphold the Sub-Committee's conclusions,
and find that Lord Clarke of Hampstead breached the rules governing
the Members' Reimbursement Scheme, in claiming night subsistence
for nights that he did not spend in London. Accordingly, having
taken into account his repayment of £9,190 to the House,
and his full co-operation with the investigation, we recommend
that Lord Clarke make a personal statement of apology to the House,
before the end of the present session of Parliament, to apologise
without reservation for his misuse of the scheme.
1 Committee for Privileges, 4th Report, 2007-08 (HL
Paper 205). Back
Committee for Privileges, First Report, 2008-09 (HL Paper 87). Back