Parliamentary standards commissioner lets Cameron off the hook. What is the point of having her?

David Cameron has insisted he was not involved in a tax dodge [Image: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images].

David Cameron has insisted he was not involved in a tax dodge [Image: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images].

It’s time to apply one of Tony Benn’s five important questions to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, Kathryn Hudson: “How can we get rid of you?”

She isn’t doing her job. Every time a major incident involving a Member of Parliament is reported to her, she lets them off the hook. She wouldn’t even give her reasons for the decision this time.

Considering her role was only introduced after widescale abuses of the Parliamentary expenses system was uncovered by Torygraph journalists, her inaction ever since has been a huge disappointment, if not a disgrace.

David Cameron was referred to Ms Hudson because of his involvement with his late father’s offshore tax-avoiding business. He says he sold his shares before becoming prime minister, claiming that it was the best way to show he does not have other agendas or vested interests.

But John Mann’s complaint is that MPs are meant to declare interests that “might reasonably be thought by others to influence [their] actions, speeches or votes”. Cameron had those shares for many years while he was serving as an MP, and the mere act of selling them doesn’t prove that he now opposes offshore tax avoidance; it merely shows that he doesn’t want people to think he supports it.

There’s also the issue of his mother’s £200,000 gift, arriving suspiciously soon after his father left him £300,000. Separately, they don’t qualify for Inheritance Tax; as a single gift, they would have.

It isn’t a breach of the rules, but there is a prima facie case to show that it is premeditated tax avoidance. Does anybody really believe the excuse that the extra money was intended to balance up the amounts left to Mr Cameron Sr’s four children? Why didn’t he just divide the cash fairly in the first place?

These are matters that Ms Hudson has dismissed without explanation.

Other high-profile matters dismissed by Ms Hudson include the Malcolm Rifkind/Jack Straw ‘cash for questions’ case, in which she said there was no wrongdoing because neither man actually received any money. This was because the firms offering the cash were fictitious and were part of a TV journalism ‘sting’. Both MPs had offered to commit the offence.

Then there is the vexed question of George Osborne and the cool £1 million he made from the mortgage on his constituency dwelling and associated land, including a paddock, which he claimed he needed for Parliamentary business. Apparently Ms Hudson didn’t have enough evidence. Perhaps she was looking for a signed confession?

And last year the Torygraph claimed she was dismissing nine out of every 10 complaints made to her, on grounds of insufficient evidence or for being beyond her remit.

What is the point of having her?

Even when she has recommended action against an MP, the standards commissioner has been overruled. When Maria Miller was found to have committed expenses fraud, the Commons Committee on Standards cleared her of deliberately submitting fraudulent expenses claims and then asked for only £5,800 to be paid back – out of a total overclaim of £90,718. Ms Hudson would have demanded that ‘Killer’ Miller pay back the full amount.

Enough is enough. It’s time to consider Tony Benn’s five questions, in order to decide whether Ms Hudson is acting in a democratic way. Here they are:


Let’s answer those questions:

  1. She has the power to investigate wrongdoing by MPs.
  2. She got it from MPs.
  3. She exercises it in the interests of MPs.
  4. She is accountable to MPs.
  5. … Good question!

Clearly Ms Hudson’s job is purely to make it seem as though there is a watchdog on MPs’ behaviour.

It is time to dismiss her in disgrace, dissolve her office, and impose someone to oversee MPs who is accountable to the public.

David Cameron will not face an investigation by parliament’s standards watchdog after a Labour MP complained that the prime minister had not declared a shareholding in his late father’s offshore fund.

Kathryn Hudson, the parliamentary standards commissioner, has decided not to investigate the matter dating back to Cameron’s time as leader of the opposition. Her office refused to explain the reasons for the decision.

The complaint was submitted by John Mann, the campaigning Labour MP, after Cameron revealed he once owned £30,000 of shares in Blairmore, the Panama- and Bahamas-based law firm.

The prime minister said he made a £19,000 profit from selling his shares in the offshore fund in early 2010. He was forced into the admission in the days after Blairmore was named as a client of Mossack Fonseca, the law firm at the centre of the explosive Panama Papers leak reported by the Guardian and other global media organisations.

Cameron did not register the holding with the parliamentary standards commissioner because it was below the threshold for usual disclosure. However, MPs are also meant to declare interests that “might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes”. Submitting the complaint, Mann said action would have to be taken, arguing that Cameron had “broken the rules and principles of standards in public life”.

Cameron said he sold his shares in the offshore trust Blairmore Holdings in January 2010, five months before becoming PM, because he wanted to avoid any conflict of interest. “I did not want anyone to be able to suggest that as prime minister I had any other agendas or vested interests. Selling all my shares was the simplest and clearest way that I could do that,” Cameron told the Commons in a statement about the Panama Papers leak.

Cameron also faced questioning over a £200,000 gift from his mother, which followed the £300,000 inheritance he received after the 2010 death of his father, Ian. The payments by Mary Cameron to her son in May and July 2011 were given tax-free, and will become liable to inheritance tax of up to 40% only if the prime minister’s mother dies within seven years of handing over the money. There is no suggestion that they have broken any rules.

Source: Parliamentary watchdog will not investigate Cameron over tax affairs | Politics | The Guardian

10 thoughts on “Parliamentary standards commissioner lets Cameron off the hook. What is the point of having her?

  1. Mr.Angry.

    Disgraceful, one can be charged with intent, so why has this been dismissed one asks.

    Rifkind and Straw had intended to accept a fee which again is “intent” and a charge should be made against them whether or not they received any funds.

    Mike is so right what the hell is the point of her being paid to carry out a fictitious role in overseeing wrong doings by MP’s. Wasted taxpayers money.

    1. Joan Edington

      Not to mention the amount of taxpayers’ money wasted on the Alistair Carmichael investigation only to abandon it on a technicality. Surely she should have recognised that technicality at the beginning before the costs spiralled to squillions.

  2. NMac

    I thought there would either be buckets of whitewash, or a large carpet under which to sweep this latest scandal involving Cameron.

  3. JohnDee

    As I’ve said before: Malcom Rifkind and Jack Straw – Both MPs had offered to commit the offence so why isn’t that considered Conspiracy to Commit a Criminal Offence?

    Why hasn’t John Mann demanded they be charged with this?

    The Law don’t mind locking up conventional crims for exactly that – so what’s the difference? Oh yeah – they’re politicians… they make up the rules…

  4. Brian

    This seems an example of the Tory practice of control & rule. I can’t believe all these overseer’s are in the governments nepotist’s. Every person appointed to oversee the meanderings of parliament must be in fear of their position. When simple resolution in this government is capable of killing these guardian positions off, it is fear, not bravery that wins the Tory day.

  5. Roland Laycock

    When one as money one can get the justice one wants as a torie MP said and hoe true it is

  6. mrmarcpc

    She is another useless, tory bitch who should be out of a job, it didn’t surprise me when I read this, they always get away with it!

  7. Terry Davies

    this is clearly a parliamentary standards commissioner lacking standards and commitment to enforce those which are democatic. Wonder why ??
    vested interests perhaps !!!

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      I don’t think there’s anything fantastically suspicious there – he was simply taking a precaution against people finding out he had shares in a tax-avoiding firm, in the run-up to a general election. The dodginess is that he had the shares at all, and wanted to hide the fact that he was a willing participant in the tax avoidance that brought him larger dividends.

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