This story first emerged three weeks ago when the Sunday Times revealed that David Cameron and other senior Conservatives have been hosting events in Parliament which are offered as enticements to donors to become members of exclusive high subscription “Patrons Clubs”.
This would appear to be in direct contravention to Parliamentary rules.
And today, The Guardian has splashed on the news that
Sir Philip Mawer, the parliamentary standards commissioner has begun an investigation following formal complaints about events held at the Commons dining rooms and prestigious rooms in Lords over the last three months.
The Guardian's David Hencke, writes:
"His office confirmed that Sir Philip would not open an investigation unless it had raised a matter of substance."As well as David Cameron, other senior Tories facing official complaints include Michael Howard, George Osbourne, Alan Duncan, and Oliver Letwin and a host of backbenchers.
The Guardian explains that one example of Patrons' Clubs is the platinum membership of Chester Conservatives which, for a £500 subscription promises "chances to meet leading party figures in a select environment, plus dinner at the House of Commons with a senior Conservative MP".
Chester, currently a Labour seat with a majority of 915, is one of the marginals David Cameron would have to win to form a Government at the next election.
Two Labour backbenchers, Kevan Jones (Durham North) and John Mann (Bassetlaw)allege that two rules are being broken by the Tories.
One rule states:
"The private dining rooms are not to be used for direct financial or material gain by a sponsor, political party, or any other person or outside organisation."Another rule says:
"The private dining rooms may not be used as an inducement to recruit new members of outside organisations or non-parliamentary associations."UPDATE: Tory chairman Francis Maude has admitted that the issues was a "grey area". Speaking on BBC Radio4's World at One Mr Maude denied that the party was making money out of their patrons' clubs having dinners in the House of Commons.
So that's OK then...