A MEMBER of Parliament must repay over £5,000 for parliamentary stationery used in a breach of conduct during the last general election.
Chris Davies MP was told to repay £5,037.90 after an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, Kathryn Hudson.
The commissioner received a complaint that Mr Davies had misused House-provided stationery (paper and prepaid envelopes) by using it to “confer an undue advantage on a political organisation”.
Mr Davies had sent a survey out to 7,500 people one week after the decision was made to dissolve Parliament.
The standards commissioner Kathryn Hudson said:.”It is my contention that the timing of Mr Davies's Residents' Survey constituted the exploitation of the free stationery and postage provided by the House in order to convey an advantage to the Conservative cause, and to him personally, in the Brecon and Radnorshire constituency in the June General Election.
”It was thus contrary to the Principles for the use of stationery.
“I found that he could reasonably have foreseen that responses to the survey would not arrive in time for him to make use of them for parliamentary purposes, before he ceased to be a Member on the Dissolution of Parliament.
“The content of the letter, was likely to be read as party political, given its timing, and that the two components of the mailshot served to increase awareness of his name as the incumbent MP ahead of the imminent General Election.”
The survey asked residents what issues mattered most to them, including public transport, crime and waste collection.
It also asked what people thought of the quality of current services.
Responding to the commissioner’s decision, Mr Davies said: “I fully accept the judgement and have agreed to repay the cost of the envelopes and stationery to the House of Commons for the survey in question.
“The survey and letter in question was written and printed prior to the announcement of the snap election at the end of April and before the start of the official 2017 General Election Campaign.
“I hope the standards commissioner looks deeper into the rules surrounding such spending.
“They are very unclear and even the commissioner herself had to ask for advice in order to finalise her decision.”
Mr Davies added: “Five of my parliamentary colleagues, covering four parties (Labour, Lib Dem, Conservative and DUP) are currently under investigation for a similar breach.”
Mr Davies has said that he produced a similar survey prior to the 2015 election and has sent out several publications since being an MP, all of which were accepted as within the rules.
“It just so happened that the survey I planned for the spring of 2017 was interrupted by the announcement, by Theresa May, of an early General Election, ” he added.
Following the report Mr Davies has attracted criticism from regional opposition group, the Brecon and Radnorshire Liberal Democrats.
A spokesperson for the group said: “This latest act, using public money for his own political advantage, is further evidence of his careless approach to spending his constituents’ money.
“He seems to have no problem taking public money, yet time and time again supports his Government slashing funding to vital services.”
The full report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards can be found at: http://www.parliament.uk/documents/pcfs/rectifications/ Mr%20Chris%20Davies%20MP %20rectification.pdf
See full story in the County Times