Sir George moves the 5th Report of the Standards and Privileges Committee
11 Sep 2003
This is the text of Sir George's speech in the House of Commons:

Sir George Young (North-West Hampshire): I commend the motion to approve the Committee's fifth report, which it agreed unanimously on 15 July, and the related recommendation to suspend the hon. Member for Sheffield, Attercliffe (Mr. Betts) from the service of the House for seven days. I shall speak briefly.

The report, which found that the hon. Gentleman's conduct had fallen well below the expected standard, was published on 17 July. The hon. Gentleman made a personal statement to the House on that day in which he acknowledged and accepted the Committee's conclusion that he had made two errors of judgment. He had already apologised unreservedly to the Committee in respect of those matters.

Hon. Members will recognise the readiness with which the hon. Gentleman came to the House to accept the report's conclusions and to apologise for his conduct, and the terms in which he did so. His prompt statement to the House was particularly welcome as the Committee's inquiry was completed on the eve of a recess, and there was consequently no opportunity for an early debate.

The background to this case is unusual. Following the appearance in the press of a series of allegations about the circumstances in which the hon. Gentleman had employed a personal friend, Mr. José Gasparo, a Brazilian national, to work for him temporarily at the House of Commons, and the circumstances of Mr. Gasparo's return to the UK after the two of them had travelled abroad together, the hon. Gentleman wrote to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards seeking an investigation of the propriety of his actions. This is the first occasion on which a Member has sought to initiate the investigative process, rather than wait to see whether a complaint materialised. That was no soft option. The Commissioner has investigated the matter in precisely the same way as he would have investigated a complaint from a third party.

I pay tribute to the Parliamentary Commissioner for the sensitive way in which he conducted this investigation. Both he and my Committee were solely concerned with whether any aspects of the hon. Gentleman's conduct in relation to the events in question were in breach of the code. We were not concerned with matters relating to his personal life.

The Commissioner's report highlighted three areas of concern. First, whether Mr. Gasparo had the skills and experience to do the job for which he was recruited, and whether his employment represented a proper use of public funds; secondly, whether the hon. Gentleman should have taken account of any factors besides Mr. Gasparo's skills and experience before employing him; and thirdly, the events surrounding Mr. Gasparo's re-entry into the UK following his holiday with the hon. Gentleman.

My Committee concluded that, on the evidence available, the hon. Gentleman had not contravened any rules of the House relating to the staffing allowance in employing Mr. Gasparo. We did, however, conclude that the hon. Gentleman had been unwise to employ him, given Mr. Gasparo's history of work as a male escort and that he did not have leave to remain in the UK for the full period envisaged for his employment. However, the most serious of the allegations was that the hon. Gentleman had been party, while on holiday abroad with Mr. Gasparo, to copying an altered letter of enrolment for Mr. Gasparo's proposed further course of study. That alteration had removed words which Mr. Gasparo considered might be prejudicial to his securing readmission to the UK, his previous leave to remain having expired during the course of the holiday.

While my Committee recognised the psychological pressure under which the hon. Gentleman acted, it concluded that he should not have agreed to be party to a course of action which might have led to the immigration officer being deceived as to the facts on which to decide on Mr. Gasparo's re-entry to the UK. We concluded that, in doing so, the hon. Gentleman's conduct fell well below the standard expected in terms of maintaining and strengthening the public's trust and confidence in the integrity of Parliament.

Having been furnished with a full copy of the report, the hon. Gentleman made a written submission to the Committee, to which we gave careful consideration. We welcomed his recognition of the fairness of the Commissioner's report, and his willingness to apologise, should the Committee agree that he had made the errors of judgment identified by the Commissioner in his report. We none the less took the view that Mr. Gasparo's intentions were clear in relation to why he wanted an altered copy of the letter of enrolment for his proposed new course, and that the hon. Gentleman should not have been party to them, given the risk of immigration offences being committed as a result.

This was, in many respects, a difficult case. The Committee none the less reached a unanimous conclusion. I commend our report to the House.

 
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Copyright Sir George Young Bt. 2015