A House of Commons select committee on standards has recommended that former shadow attorney general Karl Turner apologise for failing to declare a relevant interest in relation to parliamentary questions and debates on criminal law and legal aid reform.
The committee said its report, published today, arises from a complaint made to the Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards that Turner (pictured) failed to declare a relevant interest in tabling five written questions on 29 October 2015 relating to legal representation for defendants in criminal proceedings and the legal aid duty solicitor procurement process.
The complainant alleged that Turner, who was shadow solicitor general when the investigation started, should have declared an interest ‘in that his wife was employed as a solicitor in a firm tendering for the Humberside area contract’.
Following comments made by the Labour MP for Kingston upon Hull East on Twitter and media coverage, the same complainant wrote to the commissioner again, identifying five debates on criminal law and legal aid reform in which Turner spoke without declaring his wife’s role as a solicitor as an interest, and alleging that such an interest was relevant on each occasion.
The committee said it agreed with the commissioner that Turner should have declared an indirect interest in respect of his wife’s employment in speaking in the debates and in tabling the parliamentary questions.
The report states: ‘The purpose of declaration is transparency. It is not intended to prevent members participating in proceedings but to ensure that other members of the house and the public are fully informed at the relevant time about possible influences on members.’
The committee adds: ‘We also agree with the commissioner that this is a serious case made so by the number of occasions involved and by Mr Turner’s insistence on his own interpretation of the rules.
'We consider that if he had acknowledged the error at an earlier stage of the investigation, the matter could have been resolved by means of a rectification and without referral to this committee.’
The committee recommended that Turner apologise to the house in writing through the committee for failing to declare the relevant interests in relation to the five parliamentary questions tabled on 29 October 2015 and the five debates, on 15 September 2010, 29 June 2011, 15 March 2012, 27 June 2013 and 4 September 2013.
In a statement to the Gazette, Turner said: ‘I fully accept the findings from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards and the Committee on Standards.
‘I would like to apologise for not declaring a relevant interest when tabling the five written questions and during the five concerned debates on legal aid and the criminal bar. I will be writing to the Committee on Standards in due course to do so formally.’
He added: ‘Since the initial investigation, I have put in place processes for staff to follow when tabling questions and have refamiliarised myself with the rules of the House of Commons to make sure that this does not happen again.’
Turner left his post as shadow attorney general earlier this week as one of the spate of resignations in protest at the leadership of the Labour party.