As Guido pointed out this morning, Labour were quick to report Geoffrey Cox to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner for his use of his parliamentary office for non-parliamentary work. A dangerous move given the parliamentary Labour Party has a culture of flouting this same rule.
Part V. Article 16 of the Members Code, as Angela Rayner tells us, insists that “expenses, allowances, facilities and services provided from the public purse is always in support of their parliamentary duties” and should not “confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves”. Yet, Labour MPs have been using parliamentary facilities for party political by-election campaigning. Pictured here are former Parliamentary Standards Committee Chair Kate Green, Labour MP Matt Western, Catherine West, and an unknown staffer using parliamentary offices for phone banking during the Batley & Spen by-election last June. A clear violation of the rules…
More difficult for the Labour Party legally is the question of the by-election expenses which have to be declared. If Labour MPs are using their parliamentary offices, office equipment and telecommunications facilities (internet/telephones), that will have to be reported on the official election spending expenses return. The Electoral Commission’s advice is that “notional spending will be incurred where such office space is provided free of charge or at a discount by a political party or a third party”. Under election law, the spending return has to reflect an apportionment of the notional costs, even when the resources are provided free.
Taxpayers should not in any circumstances be bearing the Labour Party’s costs in by-elections. In addition to the law, parliament’s rule as laid out in the Code of Conduct given to every new MP is very clear on this point:
The House provides various facilities and services to Members, the cost of which is either met in full or subsidised by public funds. These include, for example: accommodation, including offices and meeting rooms, research support, ICT equipment and services, catering facilities and stationery.
These facilities and services are provided in order to assist Members in their parliamentary work. They should be used appropriately, in such a way as to ensure that the reputation of the House is not put at risk. They should not be used for party political campaigning or private business activity. You must make yourself aware of the Code of Conduct which has been agreed by the House of Commons.
Parliament’s resources should not be subsidising private business conference calls for Geoffrey Cox, nor should taxpayers be funding Labour’s by-election campaign phone banking in Bexley & Sidcup or Batley & Spen. It is not one rule for Tory MPs and another for Labour MPs…