The conduct of Lord Hanningfield - Privileges Committee Contents


The conduct of Lord Hanningfield


Background

1.  The Committee for Privileges and Conduct has considered a report by the House of Lords Commissioner for Standards on the conduct of Lord Hanningfield (at Annex 2). The Committee has also considered a report by the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct (at Annex 1).

2.  The procedure in cases such as this is set out in the Guide to the Code of Conduct. Under this procedure, the Commissioner investigates allegations against Members. He reports his findings to the Sub-Committee, which, if the Commissioner has found the Member to have breached the Code, recommends any action that the Member concerned should take and any sanction that the House should apply. The Sub-Committee does not reopen the Commissioner's findings, which are reported without amendment to the Committee for Privileges and Conduct. The Member may then appeal to that Committee against the Commissioner's findings or the Sub-Committee's recommended sanction, or both.

Summary of the case

3.  This case arose after the Daily Mirror published, in December 2013, articles about Lord Hanningfield spending short periods of time on the parliamentary estate in July 2013 whilst claiming the daily allowance of £300. Following the articles a complaint was made to the Commissioner for Standards alleging that Lord Hanningfield had breached the House's rules on financial support for Members and therefore also breached the Code of Conduct.

The Commissioner's findings

4.  The Commissioner for Standards undertook an investigation which focused on 11 sitting days in July 2013 when Lord Hanningfield was on the parliamentary estate for fewer than 40 minutes and claimed £300 for each day. The Commissioner found that Lord Hanningfield did not undertake parliamentary work on the days in question and so breached paragraph 10(c) of the Code of Conduct. The Commissioner found that Lord Hanningfield wrongly claimed £3,300 in daily allowance. In making incorrect claims the Commissioner found Lord Hanningfield failed to act on his personal honour.

5.  The facts are set out briefly in the report from the Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct and in detail in the report from the Commissioner for Standards.

6.  The Sub-Committee on Lords' Conduct has considered the case and recommended that Lord Hanningfield be required to repay the £3,300 he wrongly claimed and that he be suspended from the service of the House until the end of the current Parliament (which is the maximum sanction available).

Lord Hanningfield's appeal

7.  Lord Hanningfield appealed to the Committee against the findings of the Commissioner for Standards and against the sanctions recommended by the Sub-Committee.

The Committee's role

8.  The role of the Committee for Privileges and Conduct when there is an appeal is set out in paragraph 133 of the Guide to the Code:

    "On appeal, the Committee will not reopen the Commissioner's investigation. Rather members of the Committee will use their judgment to decide whether, on the balance of probabilities, they endorse the conclusions of the Commissioner; they will also consider whether or not the recommended sanction is appropriate."

9.  Accordingly, the Committee has considered the reports of the Commissioner and the Sub-Committee. The Committee has also considered Lord Hanningfield's written appeal and heard oral evidence from him. Lord Hanningfield's written appeal and the full transcript of the meeting with him are printed with this report (at Annex 3).

Lord Hanningfield's submissions

10.  In his written appeal Lord Hanningfield stated that his psychological and physical health prevented him from spending more time on the parliamentary estate on the 11 days covered by the Commissioner's investigation. He argued that it was never his intention to attend purely so that he could claim allowances and explained that it had taken time to rebuild his confidence as a member of the House.

11.  Lord Hanningfield was unable to point to any specific work that he had undertaken on the 11 days covered by the Commissioner's investigation. In his written appeal he argued that he had prepared for a debate on railways and that the Commissioner was wrong to assert that the debate "did not then exist" on the dates under investigation.[1] However, when questioned during his appeal hearing he stated that he found out about the debate on railways "right at the end of the month, around recess time".[2] In saying this Lord Hanningfield confirmed the Commissioner's conclusion that there was no evidence he had undertaken preparation for the debate on any of the dates in question; it is a matter of fact that nobody knew about the debate for the first nine dates in question.

12.  During his appeal hearing Lord Hanningfield said that he did not view the daily allowance as a sum of money claimable in relation to a specific day's work but instead he viewed it as recompense for the ongoing work of being a Member of the House.[3] He stated that he was now of the view that it was inappropriate of him to have claimed the £300 full allowance for the days in question and that he should have claimed the reduced rate of £150 a day. He asked for the amount he should be required to pay back to be reduced accordingly.

13.  In our view it is clear that the daily allowance should be claimed only on days when parliamentary work has been undertaken. The claim form that Members of the House are required to sign when claiming the daily allowance includes the following text "I certify that any travel claimed was for the purpose of attending the House or a Committee of the House and that I have undertaken Parliamentary work on the dates specified and claim the allowances/expenses for the month stated." The House Committee report, which established the system of financial support for Members, required Members in making claims for all forms of daily allowance to certify "that they are receiving the allowance in respect of parliamentary work" and nowhere does any of the guidance suggest that this requirement does not apply to claims of £150. In his interviews with the Commissioner Lord Hanningfield said that he did not consider claiming the £150 because "it would not be worth me coming here".[4]

The Committee's decision

  1. The Committee does not uphold Lord Hanningfield's appeal. We recommend that Lord Hanningfield be required to repay to the House the £3,300 he wrongly claimed and that he be suspended from the service of the House until the end of the current Parliament.



1   Page 44. Back

2   Q 5. Back

3   Q 8. Back

4   Appendix F, page 34. Back


 
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