I beg to move,
That this House–
(1) approves the Fourth Report of the Committee on Standards (HC 212);
(2) endorses the recommendations in paragraphs 36 and 37; and
(3) accordingly suspends Conor Burns from the service of the House for a period of seven days, beginning on Tuesday
Today’s motion follows the publication of the Committee on Standards’ fourth report of this Session on the conduct of my right hon. Friend Conor Burns. The report was agreed by the Standards Committee following a comprehensive process of investigation and consideration, and was published on Monday
The matter before us today has been investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and now reported on by the Committee on Standards. I thank the commissioner, Kathryn Stone, for her work, and the members of the Committee for producing this report. In particular, I pay tribute to Kate Green for her service as Chairman of the Committee on Standards over nearly two years, which she has done with distinction. I also congratulate Chris Bryant on his appointment as the new Chairman. He is a great understander of Parliament and author of books on Parliament, and will, I think, do the job with considerable skill.
It is always regrettable when a motion such as this is before the House, and it is not a duty that I, as Leader of the House, take any pleasure in. However, the Committee has found against my right hon. Friend the Member for Bournemouth West. This motion approves the Committee’s report and proposes that my right hon. Friend be suspended from the service of the House for seven days and that he should apologise in writing to the House and to the complainant, as I understand he has already done.
I would like to record my thanks to my right hon. Friend for his service to Her Majesty’s Government and for the steps he has taken throughout his career to drive and maintain the UK’s interests overseas. I have no doubt that he will continue to add value to this Government and to his constituents in Bournemouth West from the Back Benches.
I conclude by reiterating my thanks to the Parliament Commissioner for Standards and to the Committee on Standards for their work. I commend this motion to the House.
I now call the shadow Leader of the House, Valerie Vaz, who is asked to speak for no more than five minutes.
I thank the Leader of the House for moving the motion. I, too, welcome the new Chair of the Standards Committee, my hon. Friend Chris Bryant.
I agree with the Leader of the House’s statement on Conor Burns. A Back Bencher at the time of the incident, the right hon. Member has accepted that he made a rash and inappropriate action, for which he has paid a price, in the middle of trade negotiations. He has been asked to apologise in writing to the House for his breaches of the code of conduct by way of a letter to you, Mr Speaker, and to the complainant. He has agreed to that, and I understand from the Leader of the House that he has already done so. In those circumstances, I agree with the statement made by the Leader of the House.
I also thank the previous Chair of the Standards Committee for the way in which she has conducted that role over the past two years, and welcome the new Chair, Mr Chris Bryant, who is asked to speak for no more than five minutes.
Thank you very much, Mr Speaker. I, too, pay tribute to my hon. Friend Kate Green, who has been a magnificent Chair of the Standards Committee for several years. Whether I am able to fill her shoes, others will be able to determine, not I.
I am enormously grateful to the Leader of the House for being able to bring forward this motion as soon as possible. I should point out, though, that I was not involved in preparing this report nor in hearing any of the evidence; it was the previous Committee that came to its set of conclusions. Consequently, I am, in the main, merely going to reiterate the points that have already been made, but in the words of the report itself. The Committee concluded:
“Like the Commissioner, we are persuaded by the evidence that”
“used his parliamentary position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public into doing as” the right hon. Member
“wished in a dispute relating to purely private family interests which had no connection with” the right hon. Member’s
Consequently, the Committee recommended that the right hon. Member for Bournemouth West
“should be suspended from the service of the House for seven days. This penalty reflects our view that the abuse of privilege for personal or family gain cannot be viewed as anything but a serious failure to uphold the values and principles of the House of Commons Code of Conduct”.
As the Leader of the House said, the Committee also recommended that the right hon. Member
“should apologise in writing to the House for his breaches of the Code of Conduct by way of a letter to” you,
“Mr Speaker, and that he should apologise in writing to the complainant as the injured party.”
I have seen copies of both of those letters, as indeed I think you have, Mr Speaker, and I am sure the Committee will be satisfied with the way the right hon. Member for Bournemouth West has fulfilled those obligations.
As the Leader of the House said, it is of course entirely regrettable when such moments occur, but it is important that the House can uphold its code of conduct and take action when it thinks it necessary. I am entirely convinced that the report produced by the Committee and the Commissioner is fully in line with the highest standards that the House would expect of the Committee.
I can confirm that I have received the letter. I call the Leader of the House to reply to the debate for no more than five minutes.
It falls only for me to thank Valerie Vaz and Chris Bryant for their contributions and their endorsement of what I said when I moved the motion, and to record my regret that today’s events have proved necessary.
Question put and agreed to.