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Constitutional Reform and Governance Act 2010

Section 33: Investigations

185.This section replaces the existing section 9 of the 2009 Act (which made provision for investigations by the Commissioner for Parliamentary Investigations) with new sections 9 and 9A which provide for investigations by the Compliance Officer.

186.New section 9(1) provides that the Compliance Officer may conduct an investigation if he or she has reason to believe that a member of the House of Commons may have been overpaid an allowance under the allowances scheme.

187.New section 9(2) sets out who may initiate an investigation. This can be on the Compliance Officer’s own initiative, at the request of the IPSA, at the request of the MP concerned, or as the result of a complaint from an individual.

188.New section 9(3) requires the MP concerned and the IPSA to provide any information reasonably required by the Compliance Officer for the purposes of the investigation and to do so within the period specified by the Compliance Officer. Such information may include documents and may extend to providing explanations as to the information contained in such documents.

189.New section 9(4) to (8) deal with the conduct of investigations by the Compliance Officer.

190.New section 9(4) and (5) set out a two stage process whereby the Compliance Officer, following his or her investigation, prepares provisional findings and then concludes the investigation by issuing a statement of his or her definitive findings. The MP concerned and the IPSA will have an opportunity to make representations to the Compliance Officer during the course of the investigation and following receipt of the Compliance Officer’s provisional findings. By virtue of procedures made under new sections 9A(2)(b) and (3), in making representations during the investigation phase an MP will have an opportunity to give oral evidence to the Compliance Officer and to call and examine witnesses.

191.New section 9(6) provides that the findings of the Compliance Officer may include a finding that the MP concerned has failed to co-operate with the investigation by not providing the Compliance Officer with requested information within the timeframe specified. Findings may also include findings about the role of the IPSA in respect of the matters under investigation. The Compliance Officer may, therefore, make a finding that the MP concerned had been paid expenses which should not have been paid under the allowances scheme, but that this is either wholly or partly the fault of the IPSA.

192.By virtue of new sections 9(7) and (8) the Compliance Officer need not make a definitive finding if the MP has accepted the provisional finding, if such other conditions as may be specified by the IPSA are met, and if the MP repays the IPSA such an amount as the Compliance Officer considers reasonable. The Compliance Officer will have discretion whether to terminate an investigation through this procedure.

193.New section 9A requires the IPSA to determine procedures for the conduct of investigations by the Compliance Officer. Such procedure must, amongst other things, cover the handling of complaints from individuals. This may, for example, include procedures for refusing to conduct an investigation in response to a complaint where the complaint is vexatious or is frivolous. The IPSA must also determine procedures about the circumstances in which findings of the Compliance Officer and agreements reached between the Compliance Officer and an MP as to the voluntary repayment of overpaid expenses are to be published (new section 9A(4)). The IPSA must also determine procedures in respect of the publication of the Compliance Officer’s conclusions of his or her review of a decision by the IPSA not to pay (in part or in full) an MP’s expenses claim and of his or her decision to issue a penalty notice under new Schedule 4 (new section 9A(5)).

194.New section 9A(6) requires that such procedures must be fair and also requires the IPSA to consult the Speaker, the Leader of the House of Commons, the Committee on Standards and Privileges, the Compliance Officer and any other person the IPSA considers appropriate, in determining its procedures.

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