Watchdog to assess claims against pensions minister Paul Maynardon January 7, 2024 at 5:32 am

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Paul Maynard is accused of using taxpayer money to fund Conservative Party work and campaigning.

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak (L) speaks in conversation with MP Paul Maynard during the Conservative Party Spring Conference, at Blackpool Winter Gardens in Blackpool, north-west England on March 18, 2022.Image source, AFP

Claims that Pensions Minister Paul Maynard broke parliamentary rules by using taxpayer money to fund Conservative Party work and campaigning are to be assessed by a watchdog.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), which oversees MPs’ expenses, told the BBC it would refer the claims to its compliance officer.

Mr Maynard said he believed he had the proper agreements in place.

But he told the Sunday Times he would abide by any Ipsa findings.

MPs are given public funding to enable them to run a constituency office to serve people in their area. They are not allowed to use the same facilities or staff for party political work or campaigns. That must be funded from separate political donations.

The Sunday Times reported the allegations that Mr Maynard had used his constituency office, for which he received parliamentary funding from Ipsa, as the premises of his local Conservative Association as well.

Mr Maynard was elected MP for Blackpool North and the Cleveleys in 2010. He was appointed parliamentary under-secretary of state for pensions by Rishi Sunak in November.

The paper said a member of Mr Maynard’s staff had contacted it as she was concerned parliamentary rules were being broken and had tried, but failed, to get the Conservative Party to stop what was happening.

The paper said the member of staff claimed Mr Maynard had also used facilities in his office to print overtly campaigning material.

Ipsa told the BBC that in the light of the claims in the Sunday Times the matter would be referred to its compliance officer who would assess the facts and determine whether to take the matter further.

Ipsa said it had already become aware, in 2022, of the use of the one location for both parliamentary and some party work after Mr Maynard contacted the watchdog. Under guidance from Ipsa Mr Maynard subsequently drew up a formal agreement governing the use of the premises.

However Ipsa said that, as the Sunday Times report contained allegations Mr Maynard might have used the location for party work before 2022, it was now referring the matter.

The BBC contacted Mr Maynard for comment but has not received any reply.

He told the Sunday Times: “I have financial agreements in place with Ipsa over the ad hoc use of my constituency office by the local Conservative association. I believe that these arrangements are appropriate, but will be seeking clarification from Ipsa to ensure this is the case. I will, of course, abide by any findings they make and ensure that any payments deemed necessary can be made promptly.”

Downing Street referred enquiries to the Conservative whips’ office. The whips’ office gave no statement but instead pointed to Mr Maynard’s words given to the newspaper.

Anneliese Dodds, the Labour Party chairwoman, said the allegations against the pensions minister were “extremely serious” and “must be thoroughly investigated”.

“Rishi Sunak’s promise of professionalism, integrity and accountability was in tatters long before these revelations,” she said. “We urgently need a general election and change with Labour.”

The Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader, Daisy Cooper MP, called on Rishi Sunak to suspend Mr Maynard as a minister and suspend the party whip while “these extremely serious allegations” were investigated.

“These latest allegations are yet another sore reminder of the number of times that senior Conservatives have shown utter contempt for the rules,” she said. “The Conservative Party has proven itself completely unfit to be in office. We need a general election now.”

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