The MP carried out a superb interrogation of the failing project but the Committee on Standards has hauled her over the coals for trivialities, says Will Hurst
In his previous job as London mayor, Boris Johnson spent close to £50 million of public money on not building an extremely ill-conceived bridge, a sum equivalent to the total amount raised by the BBC’s Children in Need this year.
MP Margaret Hodge used her Parliamentary office to thoroughly and professionally research that episode on behalf of Johnson’s mayoral successor Sadiq Khan, spending the princely sum of £3 of taxpayers’ cash on Commons-headed stationery in doing so.
And yet somehow it is Hodge who has had to apologise to Parliament for her actions.
Perhaps Hodge should have conducted her six months of research in a nearby Starbucks
Thanks to a complaint by Tory member of the London Assembly Andrew Boff and a subsequent inquiry, Hodge has been found to have breached the MPs’ code of conduct by the Committee on Standards.
The code states that MPs should use public resources only ‘in support of parliamentary duties’ and Hodge was found to have wrongly used parliamentary facilities for her review of the London Garden Bridge project.
Hodge may have broken the rules but the committee’s conclusion that this amounts to a ‘serious breach’ and the idea that she – and not Johnson – should be apologising to the House of Commons and the public is both ludicrously petty and deeply unjust.
As one of the 40 or so people who gave evidence to Hodge in her Westminster office I can tell you that contrary to the findings of Kathryn Hudson, the standards commissioner who investigated her, I never assumed or was led to believe by Hodge that her work on the Garden Bridge was on behalf of the House of Commons.
She made it 100 per cent clear that the work had been commissioned by the London mayor, but I thought the work would be of benefit to both the Commons and City Hall, not least because Londoners’ £30 million contribution to the bridge had been matched by £30 million from central government. How naïve of me!
Perhaps she shouldn’t have spent £2.97 on 70 sheets of headed House of Commons paper. Perhaps, given that the GLA did not provide her with office space, she should have conducted her six months of excellent and thorough research in a nearby Starbucks. Surely though, it is Boris Johnson and not her who should be being hauled over the coals by the Parliamentary authorities.