1pm Update: I understand that at its meeting this morning, the Standards Committee was unable to come to a conclusion as to what decision to take over Caroline Spelman’s case. As such, I gather that the committee chairman, Sir George Young, intends using the next week to take soundings from among the committee with the aim of forging a consensus by the time the committee meets again next Tuesday. The report on Gordon Brown, meanwhile, is expected to be published this Thursday.
The Press Association reports that the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyon, has finally passed on to the Commons Standards Committee the conclusions of his inquiry into Caroline Spelman’s use of parliamentary allowances to pay a nanny-cum-secretary for two years during the late 1990s when she was first elected to Parliament.
The then party chairman referred herself to the Commissioner last June in order to seek exoneration and has had the case hanging over her ever since.
But it is interesting that the Commissioner has reached his conclusions about Mrs Spelman at the same time as another lengthy investigation into another high-profile parliamentarian, namely the Prime Minister.
As the Mail reported at the weekend, Mr Lyon has also just passed on his file on the complaint made by Tory MP Greg Hands a year ago about Gordon Brown’s failure to declare his subletting of part of a constituency office to his local Labour Party.
At this moment in time, without any conclusions having been announced, both Caroline Spelman and Gordon Brown remain innocent of any wrongdoing until proven otherwise.
However, if the scenario were to play out in which both politicians are found to have broken rules, I suspect that we would see a "gentlemen’s agreement" between both Labour and Conservative parties not to make political capital out of either case – whereas if either Mrs Spelman or Mr Brown were found to have breached rules as an isolated news story, there would be calls for sackings, resignations etc.
If that does happen, there would surely be further accusations of members of the political class protecting each other. However, we must wait and see what the Standards Committee concludes first. But it’s a thought.