The LibDem MP for Cheadle has been found guilty of misusing his Communications Allowance after a complaint by Tory PPC Ben Jeffreys.
Mark Hunter MP, who is also PPS to Nick Clegg, was ordered to repay £500 after having allowed a constituency-wide survey on the NHS, paid for by the Communications Allowance, to be contaminated by party political messaging.
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards concluded:
"I conclude, therefore, that the way Mr Hunter deployed this survey in his Liberal Democrat newsletter was a breach of the rules since he was using the product of material paid for from the Communications Allowance for party political or campaigning purposes."
"I do not believe it was a calculated breach. But this was more than a series of isolated misjudgements or individual mistakes. The evidence suggests that at its heart lay a confusion in Mr Hunter’s approach between communications with constituents as their constituency Member of Parliament and communications with them as a member of his political party. The former is properly a matter for support from Parliamentary allowances; the latter, not. While minor misdemeanours in themselves, the party reference in the survey’s end note and its description as a Liberal Democrat survey in the party newsletter are in my view symptomatic of a failure to make a sufficiently clear distinction between the Parliamentary and the party political. The line between the two can be difficult to draw but in my view the successful drawing of that line is central to the public acceptability of these allowances. In this case, Mr Hunter did not distinguish clearly enough between his Parliamentary and party political roles and as a result I conclude that he breached the rules by using the Communications Allowance, albeit largely indirectly, to support his party political or campaigning activities."
"I welcome the Commissioner's report, and the Standards Committee's response, which uphold our original complaint. There are still some unanswered questions for Mr Hunter and I shall be seeking to address these over the coming months. However my initial reaction is one of deep concern. An MP is responsible for administering nearly £100,000 of taxpayer money and I am very disappointed that the Cheadle MP has been, at best and by his own description, sloppy at handling this responsibility. I think this also raises enormous questions about the role of the Communications Allowance in funding Parliamentary activity."
The Conservatives have found Labour MPs who have been abusing this Allowance and are pledged to abolish it as part of a wider reform of MPs' expenses.