Anti-Nolan MPs earn a packet on the side

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The Independent Online
THE Tory MPs who took the decision to keep their additional earnings secret have good reason for doing so, writes Catherine Pepinster. Three of the Conservative members of the select committee who voted against a key recommendation of the Nolan report on disclosure of earnings are topping up their pounds 33,189 parliamentary salaries with lucrative second jobs. Sir Archie Hamilton, Sir Terence Higgins and Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith are all earning around pounds 20,000 a year in fees from directorships and consultancies. The other two MPs who voted against disclosure, Quentin Davies and Iain Duncan-Smith, also earn additional sums.

The Nolan committee, set up after the House of Commons "cash for questions" scandal, wants MPs to be forced to disclose how much they earn from firms anxious to gain influence in Whitehall and Westminster.

But the special 11-strong Committee on Standards in Public Life, formed to make recommendations to the Commons on the Nolan report, split along party lines. Tory members refused to endorse Nolan, although the committee did recommend banning what it termed "paid advocacy".

Under existing rules, MPs must note who they work for in the members' register of interests, but not how much they are paid. Such information is hidden in complicated financial documents which the Independent on Sunday has tracked down.

Sir Terence Higgins, MP for Worthing, earns more than pounds 25,000 a year from directorships and consultancies. His most lucrative post is as a director of First Choice, the package holiday company, which paid him pounds 25,000 in 1994. He secured pounds 38,000 from the company in 1993, when it fought off a takeover bid from rivals Airtours. Sir Terence also works as a consultant for Lex Pensions Trustees, whose accounts say heholds 2,810 shares. Lex's list of shareholders, in fact, shows that the shares are in his wife's name.

Sir Archie Hamilton, privy counsellor and MP for Epsom and Ewell, has directorships with seven companies, including Saladin Holdings, a security company, three Far East emerging market investment houses, and a dairy farm. The companies' most recent records show that Sir Archie earned up to pounds 10,000 from Saladin, up to pounds 5,000 from both Siam Selective Growth and the First Philippine Investment Trust, and up to pounds 5,000 from Woodgate Farms Dairy. He also owns a farm in Surrey.

Sir Geoffrey Johnson Smith, MP for Wealden, Sussex, has acted as an adviser on parliamentary affairs to Philips Communications Systems, worked as a non-executive director for the quantity surveyors Monk Dunstone Associates and also holds directorships with PR consultancy Taylor Alden and the property developer Glengate Holdings. Taylor Alden, which also runs a marketing business, paid Sir Geoffrey up to pounds 10,000 last year. Glengate paid him a similar sum.

Yesterday Sir Geoffrey said: "It's my business what I earn." Working as a director, he said, did not interfere with his work as an MP. "Nobody would pretend that being an MP is a full-time occupation."