Lib Dem deputy investigated over lobbying

Simon Hughes is accused of failing to declare donations to local party

The Liberal Democrat deputy leader, Simon Hughes, is under investigation for allegedly lobbying on behalf of a company that donated thousands of pounds to his local constituency party, The Independent on Sunday can reveal.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon, has launched an investigation into claims that Mr Hughes broke House of Commons rules by lobbying "public office holders" – and that he failed to register donations made by three companies to the Bermondsey and Old Southwark Liberal Democrats.

The investigation was sparked by a Labour complaint that Mr Hughes's team did not declare £10,000 given to his local party in May by Southwark Metals when they tried to arrange meetings about a related company's proposal to develop premises for a free school and 160 flats in the area.

Peter John, the Labour leader of Southwark Council, told the watchdog that Mr Hughes had attempted to arrange meetings with fellow MPs and councillors to discuss the "Rotherhithe New Road regeneration project", put forward by SCCD Developments – which owns Southwark Metals. Mr John complained that the MP should have declared the organisation's financial connection to his party.

Labour also claimed that Mr Hughes had mentioned Southwark Metals and City Cruises during debates in Parliament without declaring that both had donated thousands to his local party.

The IoS understands that Mr Lyon has launched an inquiry into whether the MP is guilty of "lobbying for reward or consideration in a meeting with public office holders". He will also investigate the allegation that in the last five years Mr Hughes failed to register donations to his constituency party from three companies, "despite the links he had with the donors", and that he failed to declare two of these interests in Parliament. Electoral Commission records show that City Cruises has given the local Lib Dems £3,300 since December 2007 and Southwark Metals donated £10,000 on 15 May this year.

Labour also pointed out that in September this year, during a debate on attempts to reduce metal thefts, Mr Hughes referred to the views of "a gentleman called Tom Pratt, who runs Southwark Metals, which is a very reputable organisation based just outside my constituency". He did not acknowledge the financial contribution in his remarks. However, their complaint, that mentioning Southwark Metals during the speech amounted to lobbying, was rejected. There is no suggestion that the companies involved have broken any rules, or that Mr Hughes benefited personally from the donations – or any alleged lobbying.

But the investigation poses serious dangers for the Lib Dem deputy leader, who could be publicly reprimanded or even suspended from the Commons if he is found guilty of breaking any rules. The suggestion that he may have been canvassing support for a free school could also harm his reputation as voice of the grass roots within the Lib Dem hierarchy, as many party activists remain opposed to the new institutions.

Last October, when the Government announced that it had allowed two free school applications in Southwark to move towards the next stage of the application process, Mr Hughes said: "It is no secret that I think that free schools are not the best way to meet the urgent need for extra school places in the north of our borough.

"If the Labour council had not taken so long to accept the need for more school places in the north of the borough, plans for a new secondary school could have been sorted by now. I hope that nonetheless we can now get an agreement about the best sort of new secondary school locally."

The Lib Dems said last night that the complaints against Mr Hughes had arisen during a fiercely contested local election campaign last month – and that Mr Lyon had rejected some of Mr John's claims. A party spokesman said: "The donations have been declared on the Electoral Commission website, and are permissible donations. Simon will fully co-operate with any investigation and feels that it's inappropriate to comment further."

Gavin Edwards, a Southwark Labour councillor, said: "Simon Hughes and the Lib Dems have got serious questions to answer over why their donations were not fully declared.

"MPs have a duty to be open and transparent about these donations and we are confident the Commissioner will get to the bottom of this matter."

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit