Mr Speaker, with your permission, I would like to make a personal statement. In response to the report published by the Privileges Committee today and the report published by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, I wanted to take this opportunity to make a full and unreserved apology to you and to the House.
In 2013, I breached the rules of conduct by sharing a draft report by the Committee of Public Accounts regarding the regulation of consumer credit. An investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards was initiated in 2015, following a complaint made by Wonga. I completely accept the findings of the report published today by the Privileges Committee and the report submitted by the Commissioner for Standards. I accept that my actions in sharing the report constitute an interference in the work of the Committee of Public Accounts, and for this I am truly sorry. This was never my intention.
These actions came as a result of my own naiveté, driven by a desire to strengthen regulations on payday lenders and protect vulnerable consumers. The Commissioner for Standards confirmed this as my motivation, based on evidence that I have worked on cross-party campaigns to protect consumers and that I had long argued for tighter regulation of the payday lending industry. I welcome the report’s conclusion that my actions were not motivated by financial gain, and the report states that I did not act in the way I did for financial gain, nor with the intention of reflecting the views of the company concerned. I also appreciate the acknowledgment that the national newspaper story following the start of the investigation was unsubstantiated.
I have accepted full responsibility since the very beginning of this process and, as acknowledged in the report, I have provided an unreserved acceptance of the findings of the commissioner and have co-operated fully throughout three different inquiries. I would like to add my thanks to the Privileges Committee, the Clerk of that Committee and the Commissioner for Standards for their diligent work throughout this process.
I reiterate my apology today, Mr Speaker, and I am very grateful that the House has allowed me to make this apology at the earliest opportunity.