Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge breached the MPs’ Code of Conduct
PUBLISHED: 11:53 07 December 2017 | UPDATED: 19:49 10 December 2017
Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge breached the MPs’ Code of Conduct by using parliamentary facilities to carry out a review of the proposed Garden Bridge for the Mayor of London.
The Labour politician has been ordered to apologise to the House of Commons following an investigation by the Commons Committee on Standards.
Dame Margaret’s review into the controversial proposal for a new bridge over the Thames, published in April 2017, found that the cost of the project was likely to balloon from £60 million to £200 million and it was difficult to justify spending further taxpayers’ money on it.
The report prompted Mr Khan to pull the plug on the scheme, which had been supported by his predecessor as Mayor Boris Johnson.
The committee noted that the sums of money involved were “very small”, “she was not motivated by financial gain” and that the MP, who became prominent as a scourge of wrong-doers in her former role as chairwoman of the Commons Public Accounts Committee, said she was not aware she was committing a breach.
But it said the offence was aggravated by the fact that she allowed her parliamentary office to be used as many as 20 times for the review and “did nothing to prevent the impression being given that her work on the review was conducted on behalf of, or in some way connected with, the House of Commons”.
Although the work on the review was initially expected to be unpaid, Dame Margaret later accepted around £9,500 for it without seeking the advice of Commons authorities, the report found.
The committee, which includes MPs and lay members, said: “We conclude that the appropriate sanction for Dame Margaret’s breach of the Code of Conduct is that she should make an apology for this breach on a point of order on the floor of the House.”
Dame Margaret said in response to the report: “I am extremely sorry that I inadvertently breached parliamentary rules. I carried out this inquiry in good faith and in the public interest.
“I think all MPs would benefit from greater clarity in the rules governing the use of offices.”
She will pay back £2.97 which is the cost of the House of Commons-headed stationary she usedwhile carrying out the review.
The investigation into Dame Margaret was launched in response to a complaint from Conservative London Assembly member and Barking resident Andrew Boff, who said she had received “undue financial benefit” as a result of using her parliamentary office and facilities to conduct the review.
He told the Post: “Today’s verdict leaves a sour taste. Sadiq Khan has paid his friend Dame Margaret Hodge £9,500 of taxpayers’ money to conduct a review in which she committed a serious breach of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct.
“As an MP of over 20 years’ experience and a former chair of the Public Accounts Committee it seems hard to believe she was unaware of the rules.
“An honourable politician would consider compensating the taxpayer for the costs she avoided by using parliamentary resources for free. Instead she has offered a dismissive £3.”