Letter to Mr Nigel Griffiths MP
from the Parliamentary Commissioner for
As I indicated to you in my letter of 18 December,
it is now necessary for me to ask you for some further information
before I complete my investigation and draw up my report. Please
forgive me if you think some of the answers are implicit in the
information you have already supplied; sometimes I need an answer
in writing from the Member to ensure that I report his response
accurately in every detail.
You say that you have reimbursed the Fees Office
for the use of your office for campaigning purposes.
Please would you let me know the following:
1. When, and why, the question of reimbursement
to the Fees Office in respect of this use arose in your mind and
how you calculated the appropriate figure?
2. How much time did you estimate the office
was used for campaigning purposes?
3. In which years you used your office for
campaigning purposes? In each year what sum did you reimburse
to the Fees Office for that use?
You say you bought the property in 31 Minto Street
for use as your constituency office in 1997.
Please would you let me know:
4. How much you paid for the property in
5. What were your office arrangements before
you bought the property at Minto Street, and what were the financial
arrangements in respect of them?
6. For each year since 1997 to date, what
sums have you claimed from the Office Costs Allowance in respect
of Minto Street and what have you repaid?
7. Why did you not register the property
in 1997 when you bought the office at Minto Street, and the rental
income you received from it since that date?
8. Whether you had read the Fees Office
guidance (in 'Parliamentary Allowances and Salaries') when you
first started claiming what you describe (in your letter to the
Registrar of 8 December) as a 'commercial rent' from the Office
Costs Allowance in respect of the property? At what date were
you first aware of this guidance?
9. Whether you consulted the Fees Office
about what it was appropriate to claim from the OCA where you
owned the property? If so, what advice did you receive and when
did you receive it?
10. The date you obtained the independent valuation
which gave the appropriate rent for the property? Did you request
the appropriate commercial rental value for the property? If not,
how was your request couched? What was the valuation figure for
the property at that date? Please provide a copy of the valuation
You have provided information about your arrangement
with your local Member of the Scottish Parliament.
Please would you let me know:
11. Whether you consulted the Fees Office about
your arrangement with your local MSP? If so, what advice did you
receive? If not, have you now done so, and are they content?
12. You say that your arrangement with your local
MSP began in 1999. Did you have any financial arrangements with
anyone else in respect of their use of the property before that
time (other than the occasional payments from trades union committees
you describe in your Register entry). If so, please list them
by name and set out the sums involved and the period or periods
13. How, and when, did you establish the appropriate
rental contribution from the MSP? Why was it decided that he would
pay you a lump sum to cover several years rather than making annual
payments? Please provide me with all the written material about
14. Did you take account of the payment from
the MSP when calculating the amount you repaid to the Fees Office?
You came to see me on 12 December 2001 to discuss
these complaints. Please would you clarify one point for me:
15. My note of our meeting on 12 December records
'Mr Griffiths made it clear that he wasn't sure that the Finance
Office would be able to say that it had all been dealt with satisfactorily'.
What led you to say this? What did you think might be a problem
at that time? Have the Fees Office now confirmed that they are
satisfied? Please provide a copy of their letter.
I am afraid that I need also to ask you some questions
about the arrangements you make to support your sister, in as
far as the complaints relate to them:
16. With their letter of complaints Mrs Lait
provided an article from the Sunday Herald and Mr Wishart those
from the Scottish Mail on Sunday and Scotland on Sunday dated
9 December 2001. Those articles refer to statements to those papers.
17. The quotations from the articles say that
you charge "a market rent to the fees office, payable
to him as owner of the office, for its legitimate use for an MP's
constituency work. He then takes that income and spends it through
the Hansel Village Trust which he jointly controls, on the care
needed for his autistic elder sister..." (Sunday Herald)
"He said: 'I sort of own the office but the
Hansel Village Trust has nominal control over it on behalf of
my sister. It generates income for her treats and so on.'
Griffiths confirmed that the money has been used
to send his sister on trips to Northern Ireland, the Scottish
Highlands, the Lake District and London, making use of 'the best
It has also paid for 'televisions and videos -
what creature comforts she needs'. He is now considering buying
his sister a house with the trust income which has also paid for
physiotherapy, a carer and night-classes."
(Scotland on Sunday)
"...he admitted using Parliamentary expenses
to benefit his family..." "Mr Griffiths admitted the
Hansel Village Trust was set up for the sole purpose of supporting
his handicapped sister. According to strict parliamentary rules,
he should have declared in the House of Commons Register of Members'
Interests that he owned the property..." "last night,
Mr Griffiths said the rental money he received from the Fees Office
would be used next year to buy a house for his sister, who is
mentally handicapped. He also admitted that the money had been
used to pay for her to go on holidays with a carer."
(Mail on Sunday)
Please would you confirm that these quotations are
accurate in every respect and, if so, let me know the period of
time that you have operated this arrangement and the sums involved?
If you have been misquoted please would you let me know the details.
Finally, please would you let me know if there is
anything else that, on reflection, you would like to tell me about
your office arrangements, your claims from the OCA, or indeed
any other aspect of your Register entry so that I may provide
the Standards and Privileges Committee with a complete and accurate
When I receive your reply I will draft my memorandum.
Before coming to my conclusions I will send my memorandum to you
in draft so that you can suggest corrections and make any further
comments you wish.
I look forward to receiving your reply and of course
am happy to discuss any of these matters should you wish.
28 January 2002