John Spellar, the anti-Momentum Labour MP for Warley in the West Midlands borough of Sandwell, is a key figure in the Labour right – and has been at the centre of controversy after complaints from Labour members that the Brandhall Labour Club, from which he has long rented his constituency office at a cost of many thousands of pounds to the taxpayer, has been delegating people to his CLP and one other against their wishes.
Registered directors of the club work or worked for him, while his organisation, Labour First, uses the venue for key conferences. Local Labour members consider it ‘Spellar’s club’.
But the SKWAWKBOX can now reveal it is also literally his club, at least in part – as is shown by a document filed last August with Companies House:
The document – a ‘confirmation statement’ of shareholders in the club – lists thirty-five individuals, with idiosyncratic renditions of some of the names, who each own one of the company’s thirty-five issued shares:
But one name is clear, alongside that of his two employees: that of the “RT [Right Hon] Spellar M.P:
This document means that Spellar has – or had on 17 August last year – a direct financial interest in the company that receives the rental for his own office.
This raises serious ethical questions – but it is not the end of the issues. Because Mr Spellar not only owns a share of the company – he does not appear to have declared it.
Every MP has to maintain a register of his or her ‘financial interests’ – a formal declaration of any financial benefits, shareholdings, directorships etc. But Mr Spellar’s register since 2015 only appears to contain details of paid-for trips abroad:
According to his entry at TheyWorkForYou, his register since the year 2000 has not contained a mention of Brandhall.
The SKWAWKBOX emailed Mr Spellar this morning, using both his parliamentary and private email addresses, copied to the parliamentary aide specified on his website, asking:
According to the attached [Companies House statement], John is a shareholder in Brandhall Labour Club Limited, since at least August 2017. The shareholding does not appear to be included in his parliamentary register of interests.
Please advise by return:
- why it does not appear
- your comments on the ethics of the fact that the taxpayer is paying John’s office costs to a club in which he is a shareholder
- your comments on the ethics of a club in which John and at least two employees/officers of Warley CLP sending delegates to influence Warley CLP decisions and elections
There has been no response so far.
Mr Spellar has had issues with office-related declarations before. In the 2003-4 parliamentary session, a report was lodged on the parliamentary website titled:
The report details Mr Spellar’s failure to ‘properly declare’ an office provided for him by a union of which he had formerly been an official:
7. The Commissioner has upheld that part of Mr Birkett’s complaint relating to Mr Spellar’s failure to declare, in the Register of Members’ Interests, the net benefit, from June 1997 to April 2002, of the office accommodation provided by the union.
Spellar was allowed to make a backdated declaration and no further action was taken, except to issue a reminder of the expectations of what members were expected to declare under the law.
Brandhall Labour Club Limited has exercised considerable influence on John Spellar’s Warley CLP (constituency Labour party) by means of delegates with voting rights – some of whom have said they were delegated without their knowledge or even against their will.
The company has also been a significant factor in the politics of the Labour Party nationally as the venue for the hard-right Labour faction Labour First.
It has also received thousands of pounds in taxpayer funds for the rental of Spellar’s office.
John Spellar is an owner of the club. That ownership does not, to date, appear to have been declared to Parliament.
While Spellar was not penalised for his failure to declare an office benefit in the 2004 report, the additional aspects with regard to Brandhall Labour Club’s influence in his CLP and the payment of public cash to rent his office from a company he part owns raise far more serious questions.
The Labour Party must investigate this as a matter of urgency.
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