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Tiggers In Mass Breach Of Parliamentary Standards?

Members of the Independent Group of MPs could all be in breach of parliamentary standards, after failing to declare financial benefits from the company which backs them in the register of members' interests.

When the group was launched earlier this year, a company was formed, currently called The Independent Group Ltd, to support the members and collect donations on their behalf. Gavin Shuker MP is listed as sole director of the company.

Over the first few weeks following the split, TIG spokesman Chuka Umunna said they had received 'many thousands' of small donations. It was also reported that several much larger amounts had been donated, including a rumoured seven figure sum from Sir David Garrard, and 'a significant amount of money' from crossbench peer Lord Myners.

Under the Parliamentary code of conduct, MPs are required to declare any financial interest they have, or any benefit they receive, which others might reasonably consider to influence their actions or words as a Member of Parliament. This could be financial donations or 'in kind' benefits such as staff services, provision of office space or equipment, and assistance with events, with a value of more than £1,500.

It includes donations or support from UK registered companies - like The Independent Group Ltd, whose sole raison d'etre is stated thus:

'The purpose of the company is to provide support and assistance to independent MPs who have decided to sit as The Independent Group of MPs in the House of Commons. The company takes donations on behalf of Change UK - The Independent Group'

Since its launch TIG has held a number of events, carried out email marketing, established a website which would certainly have cost several thousand pounds, and recently advertised a vacancy for a social media officer at a salary of £45,000.

In addition, the partners of TIG MPs Anna Soubry and Chris Leslie were recently appointed as Treasurer and Nominating Officer for the newly-registered party - presumably someone also is funding their salaries.

The Independent Group Ltd's registered office address has also changed - originally listed as being above a Wetherspoons pub in Altrincham, Cheshire, they are now listed at the much more salubrious address of Grosvenor Gardens in Belgravia, London - and space in that building doesn't come cheap...

Since donations are funnelled solely through the limited company, which presumably passes them on to TIG, and in doing so would constitute a single donor, it seems plain that all the MPs involved in the group have received substantial benefits, both financially and in kind, from The Independent Group Ltd.

But at the time of writing, none have declared any benefits on the most recent register of interests, although the 28-day period during which they are required to do so has long passed.

Indeed the only mention of any connection with The Independent Group Ltd comes from TIG's chosen can-carrier, Gavin Shuker, who has at least declared his directorship, though does not include any of the benefits, in kind or otherwise, which he must surely have received as a group MP through the company's support activities.

The Prole Star will be contacting the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to ask their office investigates any potential breach and takes appropriate action.

It is worth noting that under the Recall of MPs Act 2015, in some circumstances a confirmed breach of standards can be grounds for an MP to be recalled and a byelection triggered, depending on the punishment decided for the breach...

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