Mandy told to declare that loan

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The Independent Online
PETER MANDELSON has been told by the new Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that he should declare his pounds 373,000 loan from Geoffrey Robinson in the House of Commons Register of Members' Interests, writes Rachel Sylvester.

Elizabeth Filkin, who takes over as the Commons "sleaze" watchdog next month, plans to make clear that MPs should publish the details of any such personal loans in order to ensure that there is transparency about their financial dealings.

She has advised the former Trade and Industry Secretary that, although strictly speaking he broke no rules by failing to declare the money he borrowed from the former Paymaster-General, in her view it would be better if such arrangements were made public. Mr Mandelson has agreed to list the loan he accepted for the purchase of his Notting Hill house in the next Register.

Ms Filkin's ruling, which follows a conversation with Mr Mandelson last week, will form a precedent and has wide-ranging implications for the actions of other MPs in future. It greatly extends the scope of the Parliamentary Register to include interests inside as well as outside the Commons. Until now, politicians have been required to declare outside interests from which they earn money, but in the rules no mention is made of personal loans between MPs.

However, the new Commissioner is concerned that this has left a grey area which is open to exploitation by politicians. "Her view, which Peter concurs with, is that to be on the safe side everything should be registered," said one friend of the former Trade Secretary. "It is a break with the convention that arrangements between members have not [previously] been disclosed but in Peter's view, based on his recent experience, total transparency is the only way to avoid the perception of a conflict."

Mr Mandelson was forced to resign as Trade Secretary after details of his loan from Mr Robinson became public. The millionaire businessman stepped down as Paymaster-General on the same day, and the affair also led to to the resignation of Charlie Whelan, Gordon Brown's press secretary, who was accused of leaking details of the loan.

The MP for Hartlepool has paid back more than pounds 40,000 of the loan and is now paying off the outstanding pounds 332,000 with the help of his mother.