Commons inquiry to cover all MPs' fees

THE House of Commons will today call into question the paid consultancies enjoyed by many MPs when it approves a rare formal inquiry into allegations that Tory backbenchers were prepared to ask parliamentary questions for cash.

Betty Boothroyd, the Speaker, yesterday set in train the inquiry - which is expected to go significantly wider than the specific 'questions for cash' claims - by granting a full emergency debate for this afternoon.

The Committee on Privileges inquiry, which, at the very least, is expected to produce new rules governing the submission of parliamentary questions, will examine reports that two ministerial aides, David Tredinnick and Graham Riddick, were willing to table questions in return for payments of pounds 1,000.

The committee has wide powers to call witnesses and make recommendations, including suspension of MPs from the House - though a reprimand and tough new regulations are widely thought at Westminster to be a more likely outcome if the allegations are upheld.

Mr Riddick and Mr Tredinnick have been suspended as parliamentary private secretaries because of the allegations, made after a Sunday Times reporter, posing as a businessman, approached them.

The Speaker also indicated yesterday that she wanted the inquiry to cover the methods used by the Sunday Times in establishing the willingness of the two men to ask parliamentary questions in return for payment.

The inquiry is also expected to cover MPs with consultancies - which they enter in the members' interests register - and who table questions on behalf of their clients. The Speaker pointedly recalled to a sombre Commons yesterday that the Select Committee on Members' Interests had three years ago stressed there was a 'danger that some Members may make the mistake of believing that correct registration and declaration adequately discharged their public responsibilities in respect of their private interests'.

The committee had gone on to say that a Member must be vigilant that his or her actions do not bring the house into dispute, adding: 'A financial inducement to take a particular course of action in Parliament may constitute a bribe and thus be an offence against the law of Parliament.' According to transcripts of tape-recorded conversations between the two PPSs and a Sunday Times journalist posing as a businessman, both men accepted the offer of a payment of pounds 1,000 in return for asking the questions.

Both have strenuously denied any wrongdoing and support an inquiry. Mr Tredinnick said he 'refused to accept a cheque' and Mr Riddick that he decided at 'an early stage' not to accept payment.

A formal motion being drawn up last night by Nick Brown, acting shadow Leader of the House, will 'call attention to a report in the Sunday Times newspaper on 10 July that members of the House had been offered, and had accepted, payment for tabling of parliamentary questions; and to move that the matter of the complaint together with the issues referred to in the statement by the Speaker on 12 July, be referred to the Committee of Privileges.' Labour will press for a radical tightening of rules covering the widespread and lucrative consultancies enjoyed by MPs.

Joe Ashton, the long-serving Labour MP for Bassetlaw, called in a point of order for the committee to break with precedent and sit in public and for its proceedings to be printed in full.

Privileges committees are normally made up of senior MPs, including Privy Councillors. But Dale Campbell-Savours, the Labour MP for Workington, said that Privy Councillors - the Commons' 'great and good' - who themselves had directorships and consultancies should be excluded from sitting in judgement.

Major's anger, page 2

Parliament, page 6

MPs' Charter, page 14

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones