Garry Allighan: expulsion from the House of Commons

The news that Eric Illsley MP has been convicted of expenses fraud but may yet remain an MP has brought back to light the case of Garry Allighan.

Illsley will be barred from being an MP if he receives a jail sentence of at least a year, but if he does not there is no automatic disqualification from being an MP. The Commons could vote to expel him using very rarely exercised powers. In fact, the last time an MP was expelled in this way was way back in 1948. Ironically, that case too involved financial misdeeds and a Labour MP, Garry Allighan.

The Allighan case was not straight-forward, but the story appears to have been that he took money for passing confidential Parliamentary information on to the media and then tried to cover his tracks by writing a newspaper piece in which he accused other MPs of being drunk and taking money for passing on confidential information.

His claims were mostly untrue, although Evelyn Walkden MP it turned out had passed on information for money. Walkden, however, had paid tax on this money, admitted being a newspaper source when confronted and claimed the payments were, at least in part, for other work.

Both Walkden and Allighan were found guilty of breach of Parliamentary privilege, with Walkden being allowed to remain an MP and Allighan – who was found to have given false information to the investigation – expelled.

The Parliamentary debate on his expulsion is here. Few will disagree with the penalty in Allighan case, though Parliament far from covers itself in glory, coming over as rather too concerned with its own self-image as if it were an over-blown gentleman’s club.

2 responses to “Garry Allighan: expulsion from the House of Commons”

  1. What you really need to read to learn about Garry Allighan is the Report from the Committee of Privileges (HCP 138). Allighan, who had been a leading journalist before being elected to Parliament started his difficulties by writing an article in the ‘Worlds Press News’. This was basically a trade paper for the newspaper industry. Allighan’s article on its surface argued for complete openness for the PLP meetings, but beneath that it indulged in a lot of gossip about the way leaks from the PLP happened. Quintin Hogg, later Lord Hailsham, referred it to the Committee of Privileges.

    What did Allighan in was that he said that he did not know of any MP who was being paid regularly by the press for information about otherwise secret party meetings (Q275). However, the editor of the Evening Standard Herbert Gunn said that he regularly paid the Trans-Atlantic Press Agency £30 a week for reports from PLP meetings (Qs 921, 954), and that he knew that a Member of Parliament was the source. The committee forced him to say that it was Allighan himself (Q928). Allighan was recalled and then admitted that in fact he owned the Trans-Atlantic Press Agency (Q1727).

    Significantly the report of the committee did not specify the level of punishment it thought Allighan should suffer, resulting in the debate linked above.

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