ONE OF Boris Johnson's closest allies has resigned from the government after he was found guilty of trying to use parliamentary privilege to “intimidate a member of the public” in a row over debt.

Conor Burns, Minister of State for International Trade, faces a seven day ban from the Commons following his intervention in a dispute over a loan reypayment beteween with a company and his father.

The probe into Burns was kicked off following a complaint he had used House stationary to deal with a purely personal family interest.

In a letter on Commons headed notepaper, Burns seemingly suggested he would use parliamentary privilege to raise the case in the House.

That left the person who received the letter with the implication that the complainant could avoid this “potentially unpleasant experience” by helping secure a loan repayment.

In the letter he referred to parliamentary privilege, stating “my role in the public eye could well attract interest especially if I were to use parliamentary privilege to raise the case”.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards said this was a breach of the rules, as the letter to the complainant was concerned solely with a personal financial situation and was not sent in support of his parliamentary activities.

She also concluded that Burns “put personal interest before the public interest by suggesting that he would take advantage of his public office to pursue his father's financial dispute”.

She said his actions “gives fuel to the belief that Members are able and willing to use the privileges accorded them by their membership of the House to benefit their own personal interests”.

In a letter to the Committee on Standards, Burns apologised for his behaviour saying “I absolutely should not have written to the complainant in the terms I did or used House stationary to do so”.

The Committee said that the MP had been under a considerable degree of personal stress, but they said the apology came at the end of a process in which he had "initially argued he had acted within the rules, and that he had persisted in making ill-disguised threats to use his privileged position as a Member to pursue his family interests, even after the Commissioner had informed him that this was a serious breach of the rules."

The Committee’s overall conclusion was "that Mr Burns used his parliamentary position in an attempt to intimidate a member of the public into doing as Mr Burns wished, in a dispute relating to purely private family interests which had no connection with Mr Burns’ parliamentary duties, that he persisted in making veiled threats to use parliamentary privilege to further his family’s interests even during the course of the Commissioner’s investigation, and that he misleadingly implied that his conduct had the support of the House authorities."

They called for Burns to be "suspended from the service of the House for seven days."

They also recommend he apologise in writing to the House by way of a letter to the Speaker, and to the complainant as the injured party.

Kate Green, the MP who chairs the committee, said: “The Committee regrets the time taken to bring this matter to a conclusion. Both the Commissioner and the Committee are however aware of the importance of proceeding according to due process, which sometimes extends the duration of an investigation, as a result of giving the parties to a complaint full opportunity to provide evidence or to comment on the factual accuracy of draft material.

"In this case, the delay was also due to events beyond the control of the Commissioner or the Committee, such as the general election campaign, the time taken to re-appoint the Committee afterwards, and the impact of the coronavirus lockdown.”