Former health secretary Matt Hancock has been told to apologise to Parliament over a "minor breach" of the MPs' code of conduct.
The minister-turned-reality-TV-star was told to say sorry by the Commons Committee on Standards for seeking to interfere with an investigation by the standards commissioner into a Conservative colleague.
It said Mr Hancock broke the rules by writing an unsolicited letter to Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Daniel Greenberg in defence of senior Tory Steve Brine, who is under investigation for an alleged breach of lobbying rules.
The Commons Committee on Standards said: “This was a minor breach of the Code; however, Mr Hancock has still not acknowledged his mistake.”
The committee recommended that Mr Hancock should make a personal statement to apologise to the House of Commons and the commissioner.
The former minister swiftly obliged, admitting to the Commons that he "inadvertently committed a minor breach of the House rule that forbids members from lobbying the commissioner or members of the committee over an investigation".
He said: “The Committee On Standards found that I did not seek to break the rules, had no prospect of personal gain and acted without malice.
“However, they recommended that I apologise to the House and the commissioner for this minor breach and underline that respect for the code and the processes of investigating potential breaches of the code is an important and necessary part of the code.
“I’m happy to do so.”
The committee also said he should attend a “briefing on his obligations under the code with the commissioner”, the committee’s report said.
Mr Hancock wrote to the commissioner, saying it's his "firm belief that Mr Brine did nothing improper and should be cleared from any accusation".
He did not ask the commissioner whether it “would be appropriate, nor check the terms of the inquiry” into the MP “and whether this letter would assist that inquiry”, the committee said.
The committee found that this was a “clear attempt to influence the Commissioner’s investigation” and told him to apologise.
It said the “the lobbying in his letter was likely due to inattention and carelessness rather than a deliberate attempt to subvert the Commissioner’s inquiry”.
It added: “This case underlines that respect for the Code and the processes for investigating potential breaches of the Code, which were voted for by the House, is an important and necessary part of the Code, and that it expects Mr Hancock to reflect his understanding of this in his apology.”
Mr Hancock told the Committee in written evidence: “While I do not agree that the letter I write [sic] was a breach of these new rules, I do accept that the Commission [sic] has found any breach to be minor and inadvertent.”
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