Letter to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards

See our full Press Release here.

19 October 2009

Mr John Lyon
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
House of Commons
Westminster
London
SW1A 0AA

Dear Mr Lyon

We are writing to you to ask you to consider investigating whether Nick Herbert MP, the Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, has breached the Code of Conduct for Members of the House of Commons.

Section IV, Paragraph 7, of the Code states: “Holders of public office should not place themselves under any financial or other obligation to outside individuals or organisations that might influence them in the performance of their official duties.”

Our concern is that Mr Herbert may have placed himself under a financial obligation to a group of individuals who have influenced him in the performance of his official duties. We believe the integrity of his office is therefore clearly in question.

You will recall that the House of Commons Committee on Standards and Privileges previously investigated the way in which Conservative Shadow Ministers’ offices were funded (Tenth Report of Session 2007-08, Conduct of  Mr George Osborne) and concluded “that it is     immaterial for the purpose of registration whether the donation is for the use of an individual Member by name, or is used by him or her by virtue of a Shadow office they are holding.”

Since then Shadow Ministers have had to declare and register how their offices are funded, as if they were donations directly to that Member.

On 8th September, The Guardian newspaper reported on a series of donations that Mr Hebert had received from the hunting lobby:

“On 22 July, at Peterborough foxhound show, Herbert announced that it would be a Tory manifesto commitment to hold a free vote on whether to overturn the hunting ban. His pledge was reported a week later on 30 July in Horse and Hound magazine. On the same day as the policy was  reported in the magazine, Herbert received the £24,500 from seven separate donors. They included three donations from advocates of hunting and shooting. Herbert received:

  • £1,500 from gun seller and hunting outfitter William and Sons
  • £2,000 from Michael Cannon, grouse-shooting magnate and owner of Wemmergill in County Durham
  • £2,000 from Altnaharra estate, a 47,000-acre hunting, fishing and shooting estate in Sutherland.”

In an article for The Sunday Telegraph yesterday, Mr Herbert announced that a Conservative government would “throw its full weight” behind a bill to repeal the ban on hunting. He also said this would be a manifesto commitment.

It may be the case that the group of individuals who gave money to Mr Herbert have no influence over him but by accepting their money and changing his policy as they would have wished, he has allowed that conclusion to be drawn. As such, his integrity on this issue is now in question.

In the interests of maintaining the integrity of Members of the House of Commons, we would ask you to consider whether it is appropriate for Mr Herbert to have allowed his office to become financially dependent upon this group of individuals and whether he has breached the Code of Conduct.

Yours sincerely

Douglas Batchelor
Chief Executive

Sent via email to standardscommissioner@parliament.uk, at 12.06pm, Monday 19th October 2009.

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