Pensions minister broke parliamentary expenses rules – IPSA

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Pensions minister Paul Maynard has been ordered to repay £1,367.28 to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority over the “frequent” use of a constituency office printer for campaigning purposes, while two further allegations are also being referred. The complaint has led the compliance officer to recommend that IPSA should no longer allow dual use of constituency offices. 

As well as being told to make a repayment, the MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys has also been ordered to stop using the specialist printer for non-parliamentary purposes. The case prompted IPSA’s compliance officer to recommend to the chief executive that dual use of constituency offices – which is currently allowed – should not be possible in future.  

Maynard welcomed the compliance officer's report, stressing that it "makes no direct criticism of me or of my office, and [I] accept the findings".

He added: “I have implemented his recommendations and already reimbursed IPSA the sum recommended. I also agree with IPSA that despite our best intentions, navigating the dual use of a constituency office can, at times, be inherently complicated. I have now ceased this arrangement.”

What did IPSA say?

IPSA carried out an investigation after two newspaper reports in the Sunday Times in January, which were based on statements by a Conservative party volunteer who was also interviewed by IPSA. During the investigation, she made further allegations about the handling of personal data and claims for postage that were not previously reported on. The data handling issue will be referred to IPSA and the postage claims separately assessed by the compliance officer. 

Regarding the original allegations, IPSA found that Maynard had a formal subletting agreement with IPSA for using the constituency office since June 2022 and an ad-hoc agreement for occasional use from April 2018, with regular payments made to IPSA. On two occasions, use of the office was not properly recorded and a repayment of £110 ordered.  

Another £1,257.28 is due as IPSA assumed that a leased Riso printer was used 10% of the time for non-parliamentary purposes. Risos are large colour printers that can be used for leaflets and posters.   

Maynard defended his arrangement saying the local Conservative party had paid for the constituency office’s stationery and ink for years and thereby subsidised it. He believed the use of the Riso was mitigated by the Conservative party paying for ink and paper and by the 2018 agreement on using the office, which included occasional “office machine use”.   

Despite the agreement for occasional use of office machines, the compliance officer felt that “the frequent use of IPSA-funded office equipment such as the ‘Riso’ printer went beyond the bounds of this agreement even if some of the costs were covered by the the local Conservative Association. In addition, it is reasonable to assume the constituency office was used for storage and preparation of party-political material at various times which are not accurately reflected in the log of use maintained by the MP’s office.”  

IPSA did not question the presence of a specialist colour printer in a constituency office. The party volunteer who made the accusations had pointed out that most MPs use less expensive tabletop printers and photocopiers because they only print constituency letters, with business cards and other stationery normally ordered from commercial printers. She said there was also a commercial guillotine in the office for cutting printed material.  

The overall value of Maynard's expenses was not found to be in breach, however. One of the accusations in the Sunday Times had centred on the high level of expenses of £106,000, suggesting this was related to printing costs, but the MP stated that it covered a range of office and business-related costs, in addition to printing, over a 14-year period. IPSA said that “although higher than average”, the number of claims for printing between 2010 and 2024 did not in themselves constitute a breach of IPSA rules.   

Neither did using the constituency office for party-political purposes given the agreements and regular repayments, IPSA said, despite there not being a formal subletting agreement before 2022, though the under-reporting of office use as admitted by Maynard did constitute a breach.  

The case prompted the compliance officer to point out that only a small minority of MPs allow the use of their constituency office for non-parliamentary activity on a repayment basis, which is “inherently complicated and open to misunderstanding”.  

The officer added that this arrangement has proved to be difficult to manage for the MP and his staff, saying: “A clear separation of physical space, assets and resources for party-political activity is preferable and would significantly reduce the risk of these types of compliance issues occurring in the future.”  

The officer added: “The CEO of IPSA is invited to consider a policy amendment that prohibits the dual use of MPs’ constituency offices.”  

Labour calls for minister to be removed

Reacting to the report, Labour party chair Anneliese Dodds said there was “more scandal” in the Conservative party. 
"Rishi Sunak should remove Paul Maynard as a minister, but the country also urgently needs change. We need a general election," Dodds said.
Should Maynard stay on as pensions minister after breaching parliamentary expenses rules? 

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