British Labour Politician
Clive Betts has been the Member of Parliament for Sheffield Attercliffe since 1992. Apart from his years spent in the Whips Office between 1997 and 2001, he has so far been untroubled by the burdens of office.
Early life and career
Clive James Charles Betts was born in Sheffield on the 13th January 1950 being later educated at the Longley School in Sheffield and King Edward VII School, before going up to Pembroke College, Cambridge, where he read Economics and Politics. After graduation he was variously employed as an economist by the Trades Union Congress (1971-1973), Derbyshire County Council (1973-1974), South Yorkshire County Council (1974-1986) and Rotherham Borough Council (1986-1981).
Having joined the Labour Party whilst he was at university in 1969, Clive was later elected in 1976 as a member of Sheffield City Council, where he served on the Housing and Finance committees, became friendly with a certain David Blunkett and later succeeded him as leader of the council in 1987 when Blunkett was elected to Parliament. Naturally Clive had his own ambitions to join Blunkett in the House of Commons, and had already stood as the Labour candidate for Sheffield Hallam in October 1974 and again at Louth at the 1979 General Election without much success. However towards the end of 1989 Patrick Duffy, the sitting member for the solidly Labour seat of Sheffield Attercliffe, announced his intention to stand down at the next election, and Clive was selected to replace him as the Labour PPC./p>
At the 1992 General Election, Clive was elected with a majority of 15,480 and subsequently had the distinction of being the first Member to make his maiden speech in that Parliament during the debate on the Queen's Speech on the 6th May 1992. He was lateer appointed an Opposition Whip by Tony Blair in 1996, and with the election of a Labour Government in 1997, Clive became an Assistant Whip on the 6th May 1997 and was then promoted to the status of full Government Whip on the 28th July 1998.
Generally speaking a period in the Whips office was regarded as a necessary stepping stone on the way to political office, although in Clive's case this was not to be, as his services were dispensed with entirely on the 11th June 2001 and he returned to the backbenches. At the time he said that he "welcomed the opportunity to speak after four years' enforced silence" although since that time his "contributions have mainly been about levels of local government finance" which was not a topic that excited many unless it involved Icelandic banks.
He is currently the member of the Select Committee for Finance and Services and for the Department for Communities and Local Government, having previously been a member of the Select Committee for the Department for Environment, Transport and the Regions, and before that for the Select Committee for the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. He also served as the chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Urban Development and the All Party Parliamentary Group for Arms Length Management Organisations.
His Political Contributions
Clive enjoyed one brief moment of fame in 2003 when The Sun ran a series of articles over the four days between the 26th February and 1st March 2003 which cantered around the fact that he had employed a 'personal friend' named José Gasparo to work for him at the House of Commons, which was followed by a number of related allegations which appeared in the Daily Mail on the 5th March 2007. The facts were that Mr Gasparo was a Brazilian national who had come to Britain to study for a diploma in travel and tourism management at the City of London College, but had also been working as a male escort, that is a prostitute, a revelation which led to certain inevitable conclusions regarding Clive's sexuality and the exact nature of his relationship with Mr Gasparo.
One Michael Barnbrook duly complained to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on the basis of the article in the Daily Mail, which was rather a waste of time since Betts had already referred himself on the 28th February. The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Philip Mawer later concluded that "on the evidence available, Mr Betts did not contravene any rules of the House relating to the staffing allowance in employing Mr Gasparo", although Mawer also decided that his "conduct fell well below the standard expected of a Member", since he had "connived in a course of action which might have led to the immigration officer being deceived as to facts on which to decide on Mr Gasparo's re-entry to the United Kingdom". Mawer also warned of the dangers of handing out House of Commons passes to former workers in the sex industry.
Clive also briefly enjoyed some media attention on the 22nd May 2007 when he put forward an Early Day Motion on the subject of 'Prejudice In The Service Sector', in which he called on the House of Commons to express its regrets for the "use of derogatory phrases attached to these jobs such as 'McJob'". At the time McDonald's was engaged in a half-hearted attempt to persuade the Oxford English Dictionary to change its definition of the word 'McJob', and in the circumstances The Guardian felt obliged to point out that Clive had previously enjoyed the generous hospitality provided by McDonald's at both Euro 2004 and the 2006 World Cup. As might be expected, Clive was indeed a football enthusiast and is a supporter of Sheffield Wednesday FC, as well as being a member of both the Parliamentary Football Club and the Independent Football Commission.
However Clive's most significant contribution to political life came in the year 2001, shortly after he had returned to the backbenches when Clive put forward a resolution that proposed an increase in the Additional Costs Allowance, paid to cover the cost of an MP's second home, from £13,322 a year to £19,469 a year. At the time he claimed that any delay in increasing the Additional Costs Allowance "could cause considerable problems for many honourable members", and reassured those members who believed that such an increase might be seen as rather excessive that the full amount "would be paid only on the basis of need".
The House of Commons duly accepted Clive's argument and voted through the increase. It certainly seemed as if Clive needed the money, since he claimed the maximum allowable in five of the subsequent six years, and only failed by a mere £2 to hit the maximum in the sixth. The Times later reported that back in 1999 Clive had acquired what was described as "a small country estate" at Ridgeway on the Sheffield-Derbyshire border which featured its own croquet lawn, tennis courts and an ornamental pond. Although sadly under Clive's ownership the pond became overgrown, the hoops were removed, and the tennis court disappeared, he nevertheless earned himself a place in the Hall of Infamy that became the MPs' Expense Scandal.
- About Clive at
- Clive Betts, Labour MP for Sheffield, Attercliffe
- House of Commons Wednesday 6 May 1992
- Clive Betts, BBC News, Vote 2001 Candidates
- Clive Betts, BBC News, 16 October, 2002
- Standards and Privileges - Fifth Report Session 2002-03, 16 July 2003
- Robert Potts Friday, Hard to swallow: McDonald's bid to police the language, Guardian Books Blog, 25 May 2007
- Early Day Motion 1542, Prejudice in the service sector, 22.05.2007
- Dominic Kennedy and Rebecca O’Connor, Clive Betts had farm estate when he fought for 'hardship' expenses, The Times July 13, 2009