Richard Benyon: did he break the rules on Parliamentary funds?

Following a tip-off from a constituent of Richard Benyon, Conservative MP for Newbury, I took a look at his website, which states:

This site is the responsibility of Richard Benyon MP and is paid for from his Communications Allowance. [Click here for screenshot]

The Communications Allowance is one of the pots of public money MPs are given to help them do their jobs and therefore it comes with various restrictions, including (to put it simply) not using it for party political campaigning.

So I took a look at the site’s blog to see whether it kept to the rules. Or rather, I tried to look at the blog that is built in to the site (www.richardbenyon.com/blog), but the blog has been removed from the site:

Not only are all the blog posts gone, but if you look on the right you will see a menu item entry about the blog (third down) that also no longer appears on other pages of the site.

All a bit rum, but courtesy of Google’s cached copy of the blog we can see what used to be there on the blog, which appeared to only have started on 15 September this year. We find political knock-about such as the following:

Last year’s conference season was electrifying for those interested in who is to run this country. Brown looked in fine fettle at the beginning of September. However, he underwhelmed in his conference speech which left it to David Cameron to see if the “clunking fist” could be bettered. The Conservatives pulled some headline grabbing policies out of the hat and Cameron made the speech of his life. Really quite exceptional both in his delivery (without any real notes) and in its content. The tables turned and have stayed that way with Tory wins in London, the local elections and some amazing by-elections. [Click here for screenshot]

All fairly standard policital commentary you might think, but why should the taxpayer be funding a website to carry such content? It looks like a very straight-forward case of the rules over this funding having been broken. Given the blog has now been removed, it certainly looks as if Richard Benyon (or his staff) have now had the same thought.

UPDATE: This story has now been confirmed by the local newspaper, which reports that Richard Benyon was warned by the Parliamentary authorities.

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4 Comments

  • He may have broken the rules but someone obviously realised quickly and corrected the error.

  • A pretty fundamental error though, wouldn’t you say? The line about ‘paid for by the Communications Allowance’ is on every page of his website. But he clearly didn’t give that a moment’s thought.

    How did ‘someone realise very quickly’? Someone added a blog comment informing him of the rules of which he was clearly ignorant. Specifically, me.

    It may well have been an honest mistake. But frankly it does call into question the whole nature of the communications allowance. What is there for an MP to say that isn’t apolitical?

    For the record: I see all trace of the blog has now been removed. No mention in the navigation, and no news announcement on the homepage. It just didn’t happen, right? The evidence is still visible at http://www.richardbenyon.com/blog/ though.

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