Tory MP Conor Burns quits as Minister over loans threats

4 May 2020, 11:29

The Tory MP has quit as a Minister
The Tory MP has quit as a Minister. Picture: PA
EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Conservative MP Conor Burns has resigned his post as Trade Minister after he was found to have made veiled threats whilst attempting to intervene in his father’s dispute over a loan.

The Tory MP for Bournemouth West resigned on Monday morning after the Parliamentary Standards Committee published a report which suggested he be suspended.

A Downing Street spokesman said: "Conor Burns has resigned as Minister of State for International Trade following a report from the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

"A replacement will be announced in due course."

The MP said he was resigning with "deep regret" but he would continue to give Boris Johnson his "wholehearted support from the backbenchers."

The report concluded he breached standards after a complaint that he suggested he would use parliamentary privilege over a debt dispute involving his father.

"The committee's overall conclusion is that Mr Burns used his parliamentary position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public into doing as Mr Burns wished, in a dispute relating to purely private family interests which had no connection with Mr Burns' parliamentary duties, that he persisted in making veiled threats to use parliamentary privilege to further his family's interests even during the course of the commissioner's investigation, and that he misleadingly implied that his conduct had the support of the House authorities," the committee said.

"The committee considers that Mr Burns' abuse of his privileged status in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public calls for a sanction more severe than apology.

"It recommends that Mr Burns should be suspended from the service of the House for seven days."

The Commissioner found that Mr Burns acted in breach of rules when he used House-supplied stationary to write to the complainant, a member of the public who was connected with a company with which the MP’s father was in dispute over repayment of a loan.

In the letter he referred to parliamentary privilege, stating “my role in the public eye could well attract interest especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to raise the case”.

The Commissioner said this was a breach of the rules, as the letter to the complainant was concerned solely with a personal financial situation and was not sent in support of his parliamentary activities.

She also concluded that Mr Burns “put personal interest before the public interest by suggesting that he would take advantage of his public office to pursue his father's financial dispute”.

Mr Burns wrote to the Committee and said: “I absolutely should not have written to the complainant in the terms I did or used House stationary to do so”.