Former Tory minister refers pounds 5,000 loan to watchdog

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The Independent Online
A FORMER Conservative minister has invited the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to examine a pounds 5,000 loan that he received from a business associate.

The Banbury MP, Tony Baldry, a former agriculture minister, is said to have received the money from a prominent City solicitor early in 1997, shortly before the Tories' general election defeat.

It was not declared in the Commons Register of Members' Interests, nor referred to civil servants. Mr Baldry, 49, said he did not believe that it was necessary to register the loan. "This was a personal loan without interest," Mr Baldry told The Sunday Telegraph.

"What I said [to the lender] at the time was that, even if the Conservatives had won [the May 1997 election], I was almost certainly not going to be a minister," said Mr Baldry, who is on the pro-European wing of the party.

"I told him I would repay the loan out of the small amount of money ministers get in the way of redundancy. I didn't mention it to my department and I didn't think to register it. I didn't believe it had to be registered."

A Tory party spokesman confirmed that the MP had referred the matter to the Parliamentary Commissioner. "He didn't think that it was anything that needed technically to be registered," said the spokesman. "But if he has breached the regulations, he will accept any sanctions." The spokesman could not confirm a suggestion that Mr Baldry planned to absent himself from the Commons while the Commissioner examined the case.