Lib Dem chief whip broke Parliamentary rules

Paul Burstow, Lib Dem MP for Sutton & Cheam, has been criticised by the Parliamentary standards commissioner John Lyon for sending newsletters to constituents at taxpayers’ expense. The BBC has the full story here:

Chief whip Paul Burstow used pre-paid Commons envelopes to send the material attacking a Tory rival to voters in his Sutton and Cheam constituency. But Standards Commissioner John Lyon said the pre-paid service was not meant for party political campaigning. Mr Burstow has apologised and offered to repay the £1,500 postage costs. …

Mr Burstow said he had stopped the practice “as soon as I discovered what was happening”. He added: “The inquiry concluded it was a perfectly legitimate thing for me to do, but I should have been paying for it with one allowance rather than another. Mr Lyon is not taking this to the Standards and Privileges Committee. I think people should draw a conclusion from that.”

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  • Cheltenham Robin 12th Jul '08 - 7:23pm

    You only have to look at the expenses for postage when they are published to see those MPs who are really abusing the freepost system.

    Some of the bills have been for tens of thousands of pounds and no way represent just replies to casework.

  • We wait for Clegg to sack him! We don’t hold our breath!

  • Grammar PCSO 12th Jul '08 - 8:11pm

    You mean like Cameron and Spelman? We live in hope.

  • Hywel Morgan 12th Jul '08 - 8:11pm

    What was actually being sent out? I don’t see why MPs should be able to send out overt campaigning material and get the taxpayers to pay for it.

  • What was being sent was a letter to new voters and an “annual report” leaflet.

    The BBC report says:
    “Mr Lyon ruled that the material, sent between January 2007 and June this year, should not have been sent in pre-paid Commons envelopes … But he said the Lib Dem MP could legitimately have charged the cost of sending the letters against his parliamentary allowances.”

    So as I understand it the letters could have been charged to his allowance (but shouldn’t have been sent in Commons envelopes) but the leaflet couldn’t.

  • Paul Burstow’s statement is here:

  • Alasdair

    This seems to have been at least his third “minor error” in the last frour years or so.

  • “This seems to have been at least his third “minor error” in the last frour years or so.”

    Just curious – what were the other two (or more)?

  • Given the wave of criticism of othe party’s MPs who ‘slip up’ it’s a wonder to see how late this one appeared on the site and the small numbr of condemnatory comments. The hypocracy of the LDs never ceases to astonish!!

  • Charles Clarke included an annual report leaflet with a letter in pre-paid house of commons envelopes. So this appears to be pretty common practice by some MPs in all parties.

  • Hywel Morgan 14th Jul '08 - 8:04pm

    We promote it as best practice for sitting MPs so it’s very common! That’s way I was curious to see what was sent out as the BBC referred to material attacking Paul’s tory opponent. AIUI the rules were that you could only produce stuff this way covering the MPs work “as an MP.”

  • Terry Gilbert 17th Jul '08 - 10:35am

    While this is pretty minor compared to say, employing your son to do no work at at all and paying him from public funds, it is still disappointing in a Liberal Democrat MP. The party ought to condemn it.

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