Lib Dem chief whip broke Parliamentary rules

by Stephen Tall on July 12, 2008

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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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.

by Cheltenham Robin on July 12, 2008 at 7:23 pm. Reply #

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

by scampi on July 12, 2008 at 7:54 pm. Reply #

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

by Grammar PCSO on July 12, 2008 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

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.

by Hywel Morgan on July 12, 2008 at 8:11 pm. Reply #

It was as he said an accident that he stopped when he found out that it was being done. Also it was a cost of £1,500 to the taxpayer, which he has offered to pay back. This is virtually a minor error, especially compared with the scandals from the labour and tory benches. Mr. Bustrow has responded correctly.

by Alasdair on July 12, 2008 at 8:46 pm. Reply #

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.

by Anonymous on July 12, 2008 at 8:49 pm. Reply #

Paul Burstow’s statement is here:

by Anonymous on July 12, 2008 at 9:58 pm. Reply #


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

by Paul on July 12, 2008 at 11:04 pm. Reply #

“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)?

by Anonymous on July 13, 2008 at 12:25 am. Reply #

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!!

by scampi on July 13, 2008 at 9:18 pm. Reply #

Scampi – yesterday you were arguing that no LD misdemeanors ever appear on this site.

Now you’re moaning that this one is “late” and that there should be more comments. Why should there be more comments? Some threads only get one or two comments. Furthermore, it’s Sunday bloody evening.

If I were you I’d drop this bizarre obsession and note the correct spelling of “hypocrisy”.

by Julian H on July 13, 2008 at 9:55 pm. Reply #

Interesting to note how much the LD opposition want to complain about such a mistake over £1500, when neither the Tories or Lab are keen to do the right thing and get rid of the ridiculous vested interests in allowing multi-million pound donations from the likes of Sainsbury and Ashworth (who, “just coincidentally”, were also made peers).

by Neale Upstone on July 14, 2008 at 10:26 am. Reply #

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.

by Annoymous on July 14, 2008 at 7:24 pm. Reply #

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.”

by Hywel Morgan on July 14, 2008 at 8:04 pm. Reply #

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.

by Terry Gilbert on July 17, 2008 at 10:35 am. Reply #

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