9 Nov 2011

Jack Dromey investigated by Commons watchdog

The office of John Lyon, the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner, has confirmed to Channel 4 News that he is investigating the shadow housing minister Jack Dromey, husband of the Labour deputy leader Harriet Harman, following a complaint by the Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen.

The complaint arose from a recent article in the Sunday Times.

Mr Dromey certainly does seem to have acted very strangely.

On 4 October this year he declared in the Commons Register of Members’ Financial Interests that after his election to parliament last year he had received £27,867 for working for the Unite union as one of its deputy general secretaries – a continuation of the job he did before he was an MP.

This is very peculiar, because from June 2010 until this October – for 16 months – Mr Dromey simply declared in the register that he was “leaving this position and have declined my salary in the meantime”.  Now, a year after leaving the job, Mr Dromey admitted that he had, in fact, taken his salary, and not declined it.

In the latest register Dromey says: “Between the General Election and 30 October 2010, I received £27,867 in salary which included pay in lieu of notice.”    The wording also seems a bit strange.  Surely it was Mr Dromey who had to give the union notice, not the other way round?

Mr Dromey also declared in the register on 7 July this year that he had received “ex-gratia payment of £30,000 on leaving my position as deputy general secretary of Unite”.  That’s clearly on top of the £27,867, ie. £57,867 in all.

The obvious question is why did it take Mr Dromey at least eight months to declare this payment too – possibly longer, depending on when it was made?  Certainly Mr Dromey seems to have been very negligent in keeping his register entry up to date.

Yet one would have thought Mr Dromey would be pretty hot on these things since his wife Harriet was Leader of the House of Commons for three years, from 2007 to  2010, and in charge of such matters at a time when MPs’ activities were under huge scrutiny.

What’s more, while Harriet Harman was Leader of the House she was to the fore among those who insisted that MPs should be transparent about their second jobs and outside income.

In June 2009, for example, Harman told MPs: “I believe that the public are entitled to know the source of work for payments to an individual MP, how much is being paid, and what the MP is undertaking for that payment.”

And she added:    “The public want to know who, other than they as taxpayers, is paying an MP.”