The House of Common’s expenses watchdog is set to investigation allegations that the taxpayer indirectly funded a gay sex party at 2011 Conservative Party Conference. The party that was advertised on the gay networking application grindr and is said to have taken place at a £2500 a night hotel suite, reports the Independent.
The suite itself was paid for by the Parliamentary Research Unit (PRU) that is in turn funded by MPs from their expenses budget. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which is charged with monitoring spending said it was “deeply worried” about the allegations.
The PRU, receives an annual income of £437,725-a-year, almost all of which comes from Conservative MPs staff budget. Members of the scheme pay around £4,000 a year to gain access to research papers and standard letters.
The body is based in the Palace of Westminster but is not directly controlled by it. It is chaired by the Conservative MP Henry Bellingham and states on its website that “the same work which would otherwise be permitted to be undertaken within a member’s own office by their own publicly funded staff”.
It is now unclear whether rules were broken because, according to IPSA, the staff budget “may not be claimed for any party political activity”. The rules go on to point out that “attendance at political party conferences or meetings” is not covered by the expenses.
An IPSA spokesman said: “MPs who use a parliamentary research company, such as PRU, can seek reimbursement for the cost as a perfectly reasonable claim. Allegations that the PRU has misused public money are deeply worrying and pose serious questions for the PRU board to answer.
“We have received the proper assurances and evidence from all MPs who claim through PRU but, in the light of these concerns, we will be contacting PRU to seek further assurance about their work and that the claims fall within IPSA’s scheme.”
Earlier this month Iain Corby, the PRU director, resigned from his job to “return to the commercial world”. His resignation is not linked in any way to the booking of the hotel rooms and there has been no suggestion of wrongdoing on his part.
The allegations against the PRU will cause further embarrassment to the Conservative Party following a week of damaging claims of drunkenness and sexual harassment by MPs.