Anne Milton, Parliamentary Liaison Services (PLS) and Palace Computing

This entry was posted on
Thursday, July 17th, 2008
11:58 am and is filed
under Anne Milton, Tories! Tories! Tories!.

Times – Tory MPs’ use of staff budgets to pay for PR advice ‘against rules’: MPs are paying up to £10,000 from their staffing budgets for services from public relations firms in an apparent breach of Parliamentary rules, The Times has learnt. As MPs finally agreed to undertake limited reforms of their expenses, the first disclosure of how Tory MPs spent their allowances has revealed more than a dozen Conservatives, including Shadow Cabinet members, are using their allowances to pay PR firms. Companies such as Parliamentary Liaison Services (PLS) and Media Intelligence are being paid from staffing and office budgets, with the head of PLS claiming he works as a “communications adviser” for up to 20 MPs. This would appear to be in breach of the Green Book, which outlines the rules for MPs. It says there is an explicit bar on “advice for individual Members on self promotion, or PR for individuals or political parties”…. The MPs who list their use of PLS services are Simon Burns, James Gray, Jonathan Djanogly, James Dudderidge, James Gray, Damian Green, Stephen Hammond, John Horam, David Lidington, Anne Milton, Owen Paterson and John Whittingdale.

(The full details of these disclosures are available here.)

Anne Milton claimed £7347.53 from her communications allowance between 1st April – 30th June 2008. Typically, unlike many other Conservative MPs (most of whom claimed considerably less), she offers no details regarding this expenditure.

The only MP who claimed more than Anne Milton against their communications allowance in this period was David Davies (£7494.76).

Amme would have claimed the top spot easily if the amounts she had paid to Politicos Design (£1838 for “website support”) and/or Parliamentary Liaison Services (£2350 “in respect of a business survey”) had been claimed against her communications allowance and not her staff budget.

“But why should she do so for an innocent fact-finding survey?” one of her more ardent, blinkered and downright vicious supporters might ask.

Well, perhaps instead of asking me they should ask David Lidington, who claimed £1115 against his communications allowance (instead of his staffing budget) for “Reimbursement to PLS Ltd of money spent on survey of constituency businesses.”

Perhaps Amme would care to explain (a) what made her business survey from PLS so different to David Lidington’s, (b) why she thinks outsourced website fees should be absorbed into staff costs, and especially (c) exactly what she blew the other £7347.53 on.

She certainly didn’t spend any money communicating with me. I haven’t heard a damn thing from her since she offered this pissweak response to questions about the £13,000 of taxpayer’s money that went into her husband’s pocket.

[Incidentally, David Lidington and John Horam (who claimed against his staff allowance payments made to PLS Ltd for “Work on constituency newspaper”) both had their websites (“funded from the Incidental Expenses Provision”) built/supplied by Palace Computing (formerly Finbyte Ltd). Palace Computing shares a poky attic-like space with Parliamentary Liaison Services on the 5th floor at 38 Grosvenor Gardens, SW1W 0EB – and the two companies have a lot more in common than their common address and the kind of grand official-sounding names one normally expects from inventive people like Joseph Obi. Not that I’m suggesting that they’re in any way dishonest, heavens no. It just might appear to some bystanders that a lot of taxpayer’s money flows through that office and they shouldn’t be surprised if someone decides to start poking around. Oh, and I hope they’ll forgive me for being so unkind, but the web design skillz of Palace Computing strike me as being very… 20th century.]

UPDATE – Curse me for a fool. I let another official-sounding name pass me by…

Paul Waugh – Has Cameron unwittingly exposed a Tory fiddle?: The Times today points out that yesterday’s list of expenses revealed that some Tories are claiming up to £10k for PR budgets. But my attention has also been brought to the other mysterious item that crops up on many of their expense claims. Many, including Mr Cameron himself, use taxpayers’ cash to fund a subscription to a “Parliamentary Resources Unit”. Sounds innocuous enough, doesn’t it? But this turns out to be a unit that helps only Tory MPs. The PRU, as it is known, has been around for more than 10 years but until yesterday few Labour MPs realised just how the Tories were funding it – partly through Parliamentary allowances, as well as Short Money.

These documents reveal 36 near-identical ‘annual subscription’ payments to the PRU in this quarter of £3877 or £3877.50 filed under ‘office costs’. That’s nearly £140K reported in this quarter alone. If all Conservative MPs pay this same rate, it adds up to just a shade under £750K per annum. Three quarters of a million squid a year, out of your pocket and mine, to pay for a Tory-only research unit.

UPDATE – PRU claims to provide services to; “150 Conservative MPs and front bench peers”. That’s just over half a million squid a year if we take this as a precise figure, so I’m sure you’re feeling a lot more relaxed about it now.

UPDATE (18 Jul) – I *knew* I smelled something nasty in Grosvenor Gardens. Here, watch these two pieces suddenly click together. These are the WHOIS details for the websites of the Parliamentary Resources Unit. You’ll never guess in a million years who looks after them:


Palace Computing

Registrant type:

Registrant’s address:
38 Grosvenor Gardens

Easyspace Ltd t/a Easyspace Ltd [Tag = EASYSPACE]

Relevant dates:
Registered on: 02-Sep-2002
Renewal date: 02-Sep-2008
Last updated: 21-Aug-2006

Registration status:
Registered until renewal date.

Name servers:



Palace Computing
38 Grosvenor Gardens
London, SW1W 0EB

Administrative Contact:
Roberts, Hugh
38 Grosvenor Gardens
London, SW1W 0EB
020 7730 9706 Fax: 020 7730 4854

Technical Contact:
Roberts, Hugh
38 Grosvenor Gardens
London, SW1W 0EB
020 7730 9706 Fax: 020 7730 4854

Registrar of Record: Easyspace Ltd.
Record last updated on 22-May-2008.
Record expires on 01-Aug-2009.
Record created on 01-Aug-2003.

Domain servers in listed order:

UPDATE (18 Jul) – Anne Milton has made a defiant statement to our local newspaper. Apparently she sees nothing wrong with using taxpayer’s money (reserved for staff-related expenses) to pay a PR company to conduct a “business survey” and she plans to do so again in the future. Milton is then quoted as saying; “I do not use them for PR, I use them for business,” because – and I don’t think it’s unfair to describe the quote that followed this as totally moronic – “Business is significant in Guildford and an important part of the local economy.”

No shit, Sherlock… but I fail to see how this obvious observation serves as mitigation.

The first time I encountered Milton was over a push-polling call to my home. When confronted about it, she played the innocent lamb when she knew exactly what was going on and why it was wrong. But, just in case she is innocent this time [rolls eyes], here’s some advice for Amme the Lamb:

PR companies tend to specialise in public relations. That’s what the ‘PR’ stands for. If a PR company has any expertise in conducting surveys, that expertise will quite logically lean toward asking questions that get desirable answers and then presenting the already-skewed data that results in a manner that is most favourable to the client and/or the agenda of the client. If you wish to avoid suspicion in future, you may want to commission business surveys from companies that specialise in business surveys and other forms of polling and research. To further avoid suspicion, you may even wish to choose a company that doesn’t have clearly-cemented and very profitable ties to the Conservative Party.

UPDATE (18 Jul) – I’ve asked Amme’s office for a copy of the survey that they seemed perfectly happy to share with all sorts of people a few weeks ago (because business is important to the economy, dontcha know), but now they’re shy all of a sudden, and I have to wait for Anne Milton herself to get back to me. I don’t *want* Anne Milton to get back to me, and I didn’t *ask* for Anne Milton to get back to me because – as I have already made clear – the last time she got back to me about something like this she fobbed me off with a lie. What I want is a copy of that survey.

UPDATE (18 Jul) – And here’s a picture I collected this morning, boys and girls. Two companies. One button. At the risk of repeating myself, I think it’s fair to say that it just might appear to some bystanders that a lot of taxpayer’s money flows through this office. In fact, I would even add that the PRU’s choice of Palace Computing for web services smells of a party political arrangement. More on the PRU in a dedicated post at lunchtime today. Work awaits.


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