The disciplinary action taken by the English ICA against Tim Smith has provoked a range of reactions. I comment as a member of parliament who appeared in front of the Council’s disciplinary tribunal to give evidence on behalf of Tim Smith.
The proceedings were fair, the questioning relevant and the conclusion seemed to me to reflect the evidence. Most MPs who commented accepted the penalty.
Tim Smith has not been accused of breaking the law or of breaking any accountancy rule. He could point to the difference between his fault in relation to Parliamentary procedure and that of a practising accountant who, instead of losing a job, might be reprimanded and fined for a breach of accountancy rules. The former MP had already given up his parliamentary career and resigned as a minister. It is also relevant that when the question came up, Tim Smith told the truth. He did not challenge the complaint presented to the institute tribunal.
The hearing was in effect to decide the appropriate penalty and costs.
Credit could be given for the full account given successively to the Cabinet Secretary, the Prime Minister and the Commissioner for Standards in the House of Commons.
The basic facts have been known since 1994, over three years before the issues came before the institute.
There were no protests when, after his resignation as a minister, Tim Smith was appointed by the Commons to the Northern Ireland select committee and, more pointedly, to the Public Accounts Committee.
I know that a senior member of that body would turn to Tim Smith to lead on complicated issues of public finance and accountancy. He was also appointed to the Financial Reporting Advisory Board and to the Inland Revenue tax law re-write steering committee.
Now his professional body has imposed its penalty, perhaps Parliament and the profession can allow him to earn a living and contribute to professional issues as he has done with such distinction in the past.
Peter Bottomley is Conservative MP for Worthing West.
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