Labour MPs write to IPSA about use of public funds by European Research Group

A group of Labour MPs have today written to the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), seeking clarification about the revelations yesterday by Open Democracy, who suggested that at least 40 Conservative MPs are channelling public funds claimed for "research" into the European Research Group, a hard-Brexit grouping within the Conservative Party that has a restricted and secret membership.

In the letter, the Labour MPs - Stephen Doughty, Ben Bradshaw, Chris Bryant, Neil Coyle, and David Lammy – all leading supporters of the Open Britain campaign, ask IPSA several pressing questions:

  • If IPSA funds are permitted to be claimed for research of this nature, what requirements exist around the registering of such claims, and the transparency required of the overall activities, funding and operations of closed pooled research services?
  • What the total amount of IPSA funding claimed for the ERG or other "European Research" by Conservative Members has been in each of the last five years, broken down by the Member claiming it?
  • Whether the ERG or any of its staff are registered in any capacity that would allow them the use of Parliamentary offices, phones, passes etc.?
  • Whether Christopher Howarth is currently occupying offices provided to his sponsoring member Steve Baker, or whether he is located elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster and on what basis?

/ends 

Notes to editors:

Open Democracy’s original story on the funding of the ERG: 

https://www.opendemocracy.net/uk/brexitinc/james-cusick-adam-ramsay-crina-boros/revealed-tory-mps-using-taxpayers-cash-to-fund-sec

The full text of the letter is below: 

Dear Marcial, Kathryn,

**Allegations surrounding the funding and activities of the European Research Group**

You will be aware of allegations that have surfaced in recent days regarding the alleged use of IPSA funding claimed by a number of Members - it is suggested at least 40 - with total funds claimed for "research" in the hundreds of thousands, which is apparently being funnelled to the European Research Group, a hard-right, hard-Brexit grouping within the Conservative Party that has a restricted and secret membership.

You will note this arrangement appears to be significantly different from the funding that is used for other pooled research facilities such as the PRS, PRU etc. which are open to all MPs. The current Chair of the group, Suella Fernandes MP, has allegedly refused to provide a full public list of members. 

Allegations have also been made about the use of Parliamentary facilities by Christopher Howarth, who appears to be the senior official supporting the group.

Could you advise us as to whether: 

  • If IPSA funds are permitted to be claimed for research of this nature, what requirements exist around the registering of such claims, and the transparency required of the overall activities, funding and operations of closed pooled research services?
  • What the total amount of IPSA funding claimed for the ERG or other "European Research" by Conservative Members has been in each of the last five years, broken down by the Member blaming it?
  • Whether the ERG or any of its staff are registered in any capacity that would allow them the use of Parliamentary offices, phones, passes etc.?
  • Whether Christopher Howarth is currently occupying offices provided to his sponsoring member Steve Baker, or whether he is located elsewhere in the Palace of Westminster and on what basis?

In the interests of transparency, we will be publishing this letter. 

We look forward to your urgent reply. 

Yours sincerely,

Stephen Doughty MP

Ben Bradshaw MP

Chris Bryant MP

Neil Coyle MP

David Lammy MP

Leading Supporters of Open Britain