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Personal Statement

Volume 527: debated on Thursday 12 May 2011

I thank you, Mr Speaker, for giving me this early opportunity to respond to the Standards and Privileges Committee report on my expenses. I am also grateful to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and his staff for their thorough and professional handling of this inquiry following my self-referral. The inquiry has found that I broke a number of important rules. I take complete and personal responsibility for the mistakes I made, and apologise without reservation to the House and my constituents.

The commissioner found that there was a conflict between my personal interest in privacy and the public interest in openness and accountability. He concluded that I should have immediately resolved that conflict in the public interest, and I agree with that judgment. I have made it clear since this matter first became public that my motivation was solely to protect my privacy, and not to benefit in any way from the expenses system, and I am pleased that the commissioner has clearly supported my view about my motivation and that he has stated that there is no evidence that I made my claims with the intention of benefiting myself or those close to me. The commissioner has also concluded that if I had kept to the rules, including by correctly designating my main home, my total expense claims would have been considerably higher than they were. This is not, as the commissioner made clear, an adequate justification for breaking the rules, but it demonstrates that there was no adverse consequence for the taxpayer.

This last year has been a difficult one for me, and I am grateful for all the support I have received, particularly from my constituents in Yeovil, who have been extremely generous in their understanding, tolerance and encouragement. Each of us should be our own sternest critic. Everyone in this place wants to see the reputation of the House restored after the past few disastrous years. If by my actions I have contributed to further undermining the House’s reputation, I can only apologise without reservation.