Conor Burns, the Conservative MP for Bournemouth West, has been suspended from the Commons for seven days for behaviour where he “used his parliamentary position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public into doing as Mr Burns wished”.
Burns was accused of:
“Using House of Commons stationery to deal with a purely personal family interest, and attempting to secure a payment to his father by suggesting he might use parliamentary privilege to raise the case in the House, with the implication that the complainant could avoid this (in the complainant’s words) “potentially unpleasant experience” by helping to secure that payment to Mr Burns’ father.”
Burns, who was a Minister, wrote to the individual saying:
“I have reflected carefully before deciding to become involved. I am acutely aware that my role in the public eye could well attract interest especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to raise the case (on which I have taken advice from the House authorities). I am also conscious that your high-profile role outside [the company] could well add to that attention”.
A report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said in their conclusion:
“The Commissioner finds that Mr Burns’ letter to the complainant was concerned solely with the financial affairs of a close family member and that his letter was not sent in support of his parliamentary activities. The reference to parliamentary privilege in the letter carried the implication, which would have been understood by the complainant, that if Mr Burns were to raise this matter during parliamentary proceedings, his words would have been protected from challenge through legal proceedings, i.e. that this was “a threat of the consequences if [the complainant] did not do as Mr Burns wished”.
The Parliamentary Select Committee concluded:
“We accept the Commissioner’s findings that Mr Burns committed breaches of paragraphs 11, 16 and 17 of the Code of Conduct.”