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Complaint upheld against MP Liam Byrne over expenses for mayoral campaign

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority found there was ‘overwhelming evidence’ a staff member for the Labour MP had worked on his campaign.

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Liam Byrne

A parliamentary investigation has upheld a complaint against MP Liam Byrne for using expenses on his failed bid to become West Midlands mayor.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) found there was “overwhelming evidence” that a staff member for the Labour MP had worked on his campaign during office hours.

Mr Byrne said that the employee was “not on the clock” in terms of their Ipsa-contracted work when they were undertaking political activities.

But he accepted he should have better formalised working arrangements to avoid the crossover, which saw a parliamentary staff member work on his 2021 bid to become West Midlands mayor before his defeat by Conservative Andy Street.

The MP for Birmingham Hodge Hill said the campaign work had been done on leave or on a voluntary basis.

Ipsa upheld the complaint but did not pursue a repayment direction, saying it was not possible to calculate what financial penalty could be imposed.

The report said: “The compliance officer has determined the staff member did work on the mayoral campaign during some of the time they were contracted to work for the MP in his parliamentary role.

“The compliance officer believes there is overwhelming evidence that many of the mayoral events/activities took place during the staff member’s contracted hours.”

It added that the compliance officer was “willing to accept the point that Mr Byrne did not deliberately exploit the imbalance of power”, but noted he neglected to put in place measures to distinguish his parliamentary work from campaign work.

MPs are not permitted to use taxpayer-funded allowances for political campaigns.

A statement issued on Mr Byrne’s behalf said: “Mr Byrne is very grateful to the Ipsa investigator for her comprehensive investigation which, as Mr Byrne argued all along, comes to a clear conclusion that no repayment of money to Ipsa is requested or required.

“Mr Byrne fully agrees with the conclusion that stronger safeguards are needed for MPs, such as volunteer agreements and contractual clarity around delivery of set hours where time was worked flexibly, to guard against lines ‘getting blurred’ between political and parliamentary work.

“As such, Mr Byrne strongly supports the recommendations made by the Ipsa investigator that Ipsa contracts now need reform to ensure protection of the public purse and profoundly thanks her for her exhaustive investigation.”