Derek Conway defrauded the taxpayer of £13,000. Why aren’t the police involved?
A Tory MP is facing a possible suspension from the House of Commons after he was rebuked for using his staffing allowance to pay his son – a student at Newcastle University – for research work.
Derek Conway, a former Conservative whip, paid his son an “excessive” salary and it was not clear what work was carried out, according to the Commons’ standards and privileges committee.
“There appears to be no evidence, independent or otherwise, of any aspect of Frederick Conway’s work for his father”, the committee said in a report.
The committee said the MP should be ordered to repay up to £13,000, make a personal apology to the house and be suspended from the Commons for 10 days. The issue is likely to be voted on by MPs within the next fortnight.
Mr Conway, who has represented Old Bexley & Sidcup since 2001, said he fully accepted the criticisms and apologised for his “administrative shortcomings”.
But he said the parliamentary commissioner for standards had ”accepted there was a need for the tasks I had set my son, that he was qualified to undertake them and he did indeed do so”.
The report comes at a potentially sensitive time, with MPs having backed a 1.9 per cent pay increase while winning an increase in their staff expenses to cover 3.5 employees a year instead of three.
Reprimands by the committee are rare and taken seriously within parliament. The last time it issued a similar rebuke was when it recommended the suspension of George Galloway, the Respect MP, last summer.
Frederick Conway was 19 when he first started work as a part-time research assistant for his father in September 2004. His contract employed him for 17 hours a week on £10,000 a year, subsequently increased to £11,773. He also received four one-off sums on his father’s recommendation.
The report said that the salary was probably higher than justified by his qualifications and experience – and by the nature of the work he was required to do.
The the youngster had been “all but invisible during the period of his employment. “He had little or no contact with his father’s office, either in the House or in the constituency. No record exists of the work he is supposed to have carried out, or the hours kept.”
The only evidence of such work was provided by the Conway family, it said.
The report concluded that the case was a “serious breach of the rules”. It recommended that Mr Conway should repay £6,000 in salary and £3,963 in respect of the bonuses, rising to £7,161 if it was impossible to reclaim the tax and National Insurance on this.