UPDATE September 2008: the story below accurately reported that Stephen O’Brien’s website stated it was paid for by Parliamentary funds. It’s since been pointed out that at the time the website was in fact no longer being paid for by Parliamentary funds and the statement to the contrary has been removed from his site.
Trouble brewing for Conservative MP Stephen O’Brien, who has been promoting Edward Timpson – Conservative candidate in the Crewe and Nantwich by-election – on his website. The problem? The website is paid for by the Parliamentary funds. And that’d be funds for which the rules expressly forbid such campaigning. Tsk tsk.
A formal complaint has now been lodged with the Director of Finance and Administration of the House of Commons by Gwyn Griffiths, one of the local Liberal Democrat councillors. The key part of his complaint says:
On his website Conservative MP Stephen O’Brien promotes Edward Timpson, the Conservative candidate for Crewe and Nantwich, Stephen Mosley, Conservative candidate for Chester and Graham Evans, Conservative candidate for Weaver Vale.
He also uses the site to promote the policies and advance the cause of the Conservative Party in breach of the explicit rules laid down by the House.
Paragraph Seven of the ‘Rules and guidance on Members’ Websites funded from the Communications Allowance’ clearly states that it must not be used to fund party political activity or campaigning.
7. You must not use your website:
to campaign on behalf of or against any person seeking election
to advance perspectives or arguments with the intention of promoting the interests of any person, political party or organisation you support, or damaging the interests of any other such person, party or organisation.
On his website, Mr O’Brien states that it is paid for out of his parliamentary allowances.
Please launch an investigation into Mr O’Brien’s use of his Incidental Expenses Provision and Communications Allowance to promote the Conservative Party and their candidates.