Dame Margaret Hodge committed ‘serious breach’ on Garden Bridge review

07 Dec 2017 News

Dame Margaret Hodge broke parliamentary rules when conducting her review of the Garden Bridge, the Committee on Standards has concluded.

Hodge was appointed by Khan to conduct an independent review into the Garden Bridge project, which is run by charity the Garden Bridge Trust, and produced a report in April that concluded the project should be scrapped at a loss of over £46m to the taxpayer.

But she used parliamentary resources to carry out the review, which she should not have done.

Hodge said she would apologise for "completely inadvertently breaking the rules" and called for greater clarity on MPs' code of conduct.

The parliamentary commissioner for standards looked into claims that she used her parliamentary office to conduct interviews relating to the review.

The inquiry concluded that the review had not been carried out as part of Hodge’s parliamentary activities, because it had been commissioned by an outside body for its own purposes.

The committee found that Hodge used her office on the parliamentary estate for approximately 20 meetings, with 41 people, and used stationery provided by the House of Commons to conduct the report, as well as her parliamentary email account.

The committee said Hodge had initially offered to carry out the review on behalf of the Greater London Authority without payment, but after the extent of the work had become apparent she had accepted a payment of £9,500 from the GLA.

The committee said that it was satisfied that she was not “motivated by financial gain”, but “she has, nonetheless, as a result of these events accrued a financial benefit while using House resources, and House-provided resources were used to the benefit of the GLA”.

Pay back £3 for headed paper

In her comments submitted to the committee Hodge said: “At the end of the day, if the Committee find that I was in breach of the rules I will of course offer a fulsome apology and will pay back the £3 that could have been spent on headed paper. I never ever intended to breach parliamentary rules and am distressed by the allegation.”

She said that the committee should “consider issuing guidance to MPs so that no other MP finds themselves in the positon of completely inadvertently breaking the rules. Such guidance would, I am sure, help members in the future”.

Kathryn Hudson, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, said: “Taking into account the number of occurrences, particularly of meetings on the estate and the overall impression that the use of House resources may have given contributors to the review, I have concluded that the use of parliamentary resources to support Dame Margaret’s work on the review was a serious breach of the code.”

‘Leaves a sour taste’

London Assembly member Andrew Boff, who submitted the initial allegation about Hodge’s review, said: “Today’s verdict leaves a sour taste. Sadiq Khan has paid his friend Dame Margaret Hodge £9,500 of taxpayers’ money to conduct a review in which she committed a serious breach of the Parliamentary Code of Conduct.

“As an MP of over 20 years’ experience and a former chair of the Public Accounts Committee it seems hard to believe she was unaware of the rules.

“An honourable politician would consider compensating the taxpayer for the costs she avoided by using Parliamentary resources for free. Instead she has offered a dismissive £3.

“The London Assembly was forced to summons transcripts of Dame Hodge’s interviews when the Mayor refused to produce them. This latest lack of transparency casts an even greater shadow over the whole process.”

 

 

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