CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

COMMUNICATIONS ALLOWANCE FOR MPs – 28 March 2007

Dr Julian Lewis: Can the Leader of the House clear up a point that is troubling me? If my memory serves me correctly, the original proposals for the motion we are debating were made in the aftermath of the 2005 general election, when it was found that certain Members of Parliament had possibly abused the paid-for postal system to make mass mailings. Can he relate that to what is being proposed today and reassure the House that the motion is not a retrospective justification for that misbehaviour?

[Jack Straw: It is certainly no retrospective justification for any misbehaviour. The hon. Gentleman may be aware that the Committee on Standards and Privileges, chaired by his right hon. Friend who is sitting behind him –

John Bercow: My right hon. Friend the Member for North-West Hampshire (Sir George Young).]

Dr Lewis: My hon. Friend is the fount of all wisdom.

[Mr Straw: As ever. The Committee investigated at least one complaint, possibly two, about a Member. I think that it found against the complaint and made some observations about the operation of the system in respect of paid-for envelopes. Another decision will be made in parallel with the proposal today, if the House agrees it – Mr. Speaker has already indicated that he will cap the provision of paid-for envelopes at £7,000. As I shall spell out, it will not be possible for Members to use the communications allowance – if it is approved – to purchase additional paid-for envelopes. Although this is a matter of some controversy across the parties, not least my own, I accept – and I have done from the moment that I got this job – that it is unacceptable for there to be no limit on the amount for paid-for envelopes.]