A LABOUR MP made an “unreserved apology” today for breaking House of Commons rules by sending out invitations to a £45-a-head party fundraiser from parliamentary e-mail accounts.
East Hull MP Karl Turner lined up speakers including Labour Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott for the Hull and Humber Economic Summit, in East Hull next month.
Questions were asked after invitations were sent from the MP’s parliamentary e-mail address, and those wanting tickets - £45 for individuals and £400 for parties of 10 - were advised to book via the parliamentary e-mail of Jack Davies, Mr Turner’s publicly-funded parliamentary aide.
The summit wasn’t officially advertised as a Labour Party event, sparking inquiries by East Riding councillor Mike Whitehead, who also wanted to know why people were told to make out cheques to “Karl Turner MP.”
Today he referred the matter to Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Hudson.
Graham Stuart, MP for Beverley and Holderness, said ticketholders, including Siemens and Associated British Ports, had been sold tickets under false pretences and were owed an apology and the offer of a refund.
Mr Turner apologised for sending out the e-mail and said the bank account was an office, not personal, account.
He said: “I have received a complaint from an East Riding Conservative Councillor alleging that I may have breached Parliamentary rules by sending invites on my Parliamentary e-mail and that I have not made it clear that this is a party fundraising event.
“I make an unreserved apology for any oversight in allowing my Parliamentary e-mail to be used for a fundraising event.
“It was not my intention to breach rules and I will be speaking to the relevant House of Commons authorities and taking their advice on the most appropriate course of action as a matter of urgency.”
He added: “If anyone wants to look at a bank statement for the office account they are very welcome to it.”
The Code of Conduct for MPs states that “Members shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties. It should not confer any undue personal or financial benefit on themselves or anyone else, or confer undue advantage on a political organisation.”
Coun Whitehead said: “You shouldn’t use an e-mail and a parliamentary assistant who is paid for by the taxpayer to raise money for their party.
“It has been thinly veiled as a Labour party event, but not officially advertised as such. It is clearly suspect but it is not up to me to be the judge of that, it is up to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner.”
Mr Stuart said Mr Balls and Mr Prescott, as well as Yorkshire MEP Linda McAvan and Yorkshire LEP Chairman Lord Haskins should reconsider their involvement in the event. Mr Stuart said the MP has made “a serious and ongoing error of judgment”, adding: “I cannot believe that companies such as Siemens and ABP would have bought tickets to a Labour Party fundraising event had they known the full story.
He added: “Parliamentary rules state clearly that taxpayer-funded staff must not conduct Party political work, and as a barrister Karl would have known this perfectly well. Organising this event was not just about his staff sending a few e-mails. It must have involved hours of their time - all at the taxpayer’s expense.”