So, Henry, what did you do to earn £36,000 of taxpayers' cash?

Derek Conway forced to return Commons money used to pay members of his family

Derek Conway, the Tory MP who used his office allowance to pay generous salaries to his two sons during their student days, has been told he must hand back nearly £4,000 and make a written apology.

It is the second humiliating public rebuke for the man who was once one of the Tory party's most feared backstage operators. He was told that he was guilty of a "serious lapse" by overpaying his older son, Henry, for the occasional work that he did helping to run his father's parliamentary office.

But he was cleared of the more serious accusation that he had handed over the money without requiring his son to do any work at all, after other employees said that they remembered seeing Henry Conway in the office.

Mr Conway, MP for Old Bexley and Sidcup, said yesterday that he would comply with the ruling, but accused the Commons Standards and Privileges Committee of making a "subjective opinion, made with hindsight".

He has already had to apologise to the Commons, and repay more than £13,000 for employing his younger son, Freddie, now 23. He also had the Conservative whip removed, which means that his 30-year political career will come to an end at the next election.

Mr Conway hired Henry in 2001, and kept him on his parliamentary staff for three years, paying him a total of £35,744 for working 18-hour weeks during that time. After a complaint from the public, John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, opened an investigation.

That included an interview with Henry Conway, who said he did routine duties such as opening the post, reading emails and conducting internet research for his father.

Mr Conway's secretary said that Henry, now 26, sometimes came into the office several times a week, and sometimes a week went by without his being there at all. She did not know he was being paid until she read it in the newspapers. "I was surprised he was earning a salary for what he was doing," she told Mr Lyon. "But maybe he did do 18 hours a week."

The Standards and Privileges Committee said in its report on the affair, published yesterday, that Henry Conway's salary was "unnecessarily high", and ordered his father to repay £3,757.83. The report said: "No documentary or hard evidence of the work carried out by Henry Conway has survived. Mr Conway sent the commissioner a photograph of Henry Conway with a foreign ambassador taken on the parliamentary estate. We do not regard this as hard evidence of work carried out."

During the investigation, Derek Conway wrote the commissioner a letter complaining his family had suffered more than they deserved from the affair. "The vitriol Henry had been subjected to in the media focused on his sexuality and what the homophobic Daily Mail frequently described as his exotic lifestyle," he said. "What Henry does now and how he styles himself should be of no concern to anyone."

He added: "The premature end to my parliamentary career, and the irretrievable damage to my reputation, after 30 years in elected office, is a disproportionate punishment."

Tough questions: Son in the spotlight

Excerpts from the meeting between John Lyon (JL), Parliamentary Commisisoner for Standards, and Henry Conway (HC) on 21 May 2008.

JL Did you feel this was a big step up, from school activities to working to support your father?

HC No.

JL Can you give me an example of the sort of report you produced? Was any background research required?

HC I can't remember specific cases; it is seven years ago. I might flick through things. I would use internet tools.

JL Were there any policy points you would make at the end of your note or was it just a factual summary?

HC It was a summary only. I would draw attention to issues with Post-It notes or verbally.

JL When did you speak to your father about these?

HC There was no set time for briefings.

JL How did you produce a foreign briefing?

HC I would do it on an A4 sheet. I had an outline: economic issues, social issues, political – which I was familiar with from my geography A-level. At the end was protocol. I remember Anglo-Moroccan issues—Morocco is one of my interests – and the Arab nations: an interest of my father's.

JL How did you cover economic, social and political issues on one sheet?

HC It wasn't always one sheet. There was no great detail; just this is an issue, that is an issue, eg trade with Britain. Then social issues.

JL Is it the facts, or 'There is a problem with child poverty'?

HC It all depends if I came across a figure.

JL Where did you get the information?

HC All major British and international newspapers have websites. I would Google them: the FT, The Independent, embassy sites, tourism sites, sometimes official and sometimes not. I did not use the House of Commons library, which is thorough but does not deliver an instantaneous response.

JL What feedback did your father give you about this work?

HC It was verbal... sometimes 'Well done'. Sometimes he would ask questions. I wasn't making detailed briefs; it was an overview only.

JL Can you remember your first pay increase in March 2003, backdated one year? Your salary increased from £8,000 pa to £10,000 pa. Did your father tell you what that was for?

HC No.

Suggested Topics
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
video
Life and Style
tech
Sport
Jodie Stimpson crosses the finishing line to win gold in the women's triathlon
Commonwealth games
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
film
News
John Barrowman kisses his male “bride” at a mock Gretna Green during the Commonwealth Games opening ceremony
peopleBarrowman's opening ceremony message to Commonwealth countries where he would be sent to prison for being gay
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan stars as Christian Grey in the Fifty Shades of Grey movie
filmFirst look at Jamie Dornan in Fifty Shades of Grey trailor
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Arts and Entertainment
The Tour de France peloton rides over a bridge on the Grinton Moor, Yorkshire, earlier this month
film
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
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Junior Research Analyst - Recruitment Resourcer

£18000 - £20000 per annum + OTE £25K: SThree: SThree Group has been well estab...

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

Day In a Page

Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game