Is the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, John Lyons, an inside man defending the criminals in Westminster?
(John Lyons on the left of the picture above.)
The man in charge of investigating whether Ministers Jacqui Smith and Tony McNulty breached Westminster rules over their housing claims has been accused of shrouding his role in secrecy.
John Lyon was appointed Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards 15 months ago, earning £108,000 a year for a four-day week. But he has refused to give interviews and no photograph of him has ever been released.
Extensive enquiries by this newspaper have found only one picture of him in public archives – dating from 1991, when Mr Lyon sat on the judicial inquiry into the previous year’s Strangeways prison riots.
Lyon, who lives in a £1.5million house in Islington, North London, is solely responsible for deciding whether to launch a full investigation into complaints against MPs, depending on the available evidence.
But if he rejects a complaint, or pursues it and then dismisses it, he does not have to publicly justify his decision.
If he launches an investigation, Lyon, 61, presents a secret report to the Standards and Privileges Committee. This body of ten MPs then writes its own report based on Lyon’s private findings and recommends what penalty, if any, an MP must pay.
Each summer the commissioner publishes a report logging the number of complaints received.
A total of 113 were lodged during his first three months in the post but only one of these was resolved.
Of the rest, 93 were dismissed summarily, three dismissed after a brief investigation, and 16 were carried forward and may still be under consideration.
Last week this newspaper contacted Lyon’s office about the complaints. But his spokeswoman Heather Wood said ‘it is our policy not to discuss [complaints]’ until the committee’s final report is released.
Lyon initially rejected a complaint into Jacqui Smith’s £116,000 second-home allowances claim just 24 hours after Tory MP Ben Wallace raised the issue.
Lyon vetoed the complaint without even asking The Mail on Sunday, which had broken the story, for any evidence. But he then said he would investigate Smith after a further disclosure by this newspaper.
Former MP Martin Bell said: ‘John Lyon is supposed to be an independent figure. He is there on behalf of the taxpayer. It’s not right for him to hide away.
‘When he doesn’t take up a case, the public has a right to know why. When he said he wouldn’t investigate Jacqui Smith, that was a spectacular misjudgment.
‘The fact that he decided not to investigate it made him seem like a Government stooge. His investigations must be thorough and impartial.’
A senior source who has worked with Lyon described him as a ‘ditherer’, adding: ‘John Lyon is not that well regarded. He’s not felt to have much substance.’