Published on Thursday, February 6, 2020

Trade body dragged into John Bercow peerage row

The Institute of Travel and Tourism has become embroiled in the row over whether to grant former speaker John Bercow a peerage after it emerged that he is being paid to speak at the association's overseas conference, having previously hosted its members on several occasions at his grace-and-favour home.

The Daily Mail claimed ITT was paying Bercow an undisclosed sum, believed to be 'in the region of £10,000' to speak at the conference in Turkey, where he will also be hosted at a five-star Hilton hotel.

The newspaper claimed the former Speaker had a 'cosy' relationship with what it referred to as 'a little known trade body'.

It claimed that Bercow had hosted ITT almost more than any other organisation at his London residence, Speakers House, which is normally used for charity events. While organisers of events held in the state rooms meet the cost of any food and drink, they don't pay to use the historic building.

Public records show that the ITT held its Christmas cocktail party there on five occasions, with occasional appearances by the Speaker himself, who, says the Mail, also took guests on unplanned tours of the building.

There is no suggestion that ITT has done anything wrong, or that Bercow breached any Commons rules but the Daily Mail quoted one unnamed Tory MP saying: "Bercow was remarkably generous to the ITT over a number of years, for no obvious reason. He gave them free use of his state rooms on five occasions. Now he's on their payroll. To a casual observer, it looks very much as if the two facts are connected. And that stinks."

Taxpayers' Alliance research director Duncan Simpson told the newspaper: "Bercow must not give the appearance of cashing in on his past privileges."

ITT chairman Steven Freudmann told the Daily Mail: "'There is no connection between our use of [Bercow's] state rooms and the fact that we are now hiring him to speak at our conference.

"It's a bit cynical to suggest a link."

Freudmann added that all the Christmas parties were charitable events, as they raised funds for good causes.

In 2012 Bercow's wife Sally was being paid roughly £2,000 to speak at ITT's Barbados conference, said the Mail.  At the time, Bercow insisted there was no connection between him hosting the ITT Christmas parties and his wife's engagement, declaring that he had no involvement in her professional diary.

Bercow has been nominated for a peerage by Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn after the Conservatives declned to send the former Tory MP to the House of Lords.

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