Yorkshire MP sorry for not mentioning solicitor wife on legal aid question

Karl Turner.
Karl Turner.
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A Labour MP has apologised after he was criticised by the Commons’ Standards Committee for not declaring a relevant interest when asking parliamentary questions about criminal law policy.

Hull East MP Karl Turner - who was shadow attorney general until he joined the wave of recent shadow cabinet resignations - tabled a series of written questions in October 2015 about legal representation for defendants in criminal proceedings and the legal aid duty solicitor procurement process.

The Standards Committee has upheld a complaint that Mr Turner failed to declare that his wife was employed as a solicitor in a firm tendering for the Humberside area contract.

The committee also noted that Mr Turner, who was practising barrister before his election to the Hull seat in succession to Lord Prescott, spoke in five debates on criminal law and legal reform between 2010 and 2013.

In its report, the committee said: “We agree with the commissioner (the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards) that Mr Turner should have declared an indirect interest in respect of his wife’s employment in speaking in these debates and in tabling the parliamentary questions.

“The purpose of declaration is transparency. It is not intended to prevent members participating in proceedings but to ensure that other members of the house and the public are fully informed at the relevant time about possible influences on members.”

It added: “We also agree with the commissioner that this is a serious case made so by the number of occasions involved and by Mr Turner’s insistence on his own interpretation of the rules.

“We consider that if he had acknowledged the error at an earlier stage of the investigation, the matter could have been resolved by means of a rectification and without referral to this committee.”

The committee ruled that Mr Turner should apologise to the Commons by writing to the committee.

Mr Turner said: “I fully accept the findings from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Committee on Standards.

“I would like to apologise for not declaring a relevant interest when tabling the five written questions and during the five concerned debates on Legal Aid and the Criminal Bar. I will be writing to the Committee of Standards in due course to do so formally.

“Since the initial investigation, I have put in place processes for staff to follow when tabling questions and have re-familiarised myself with the rules of the House of Commons to make sure that this does not happen again.”