Parkinson pressed to reveal shares

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The Independent Online
Lord Parkinson, the Conservative Party chairman, was under pressure last night to register his 10 directorships after the disclosure that less than half of the peers had registered their interests in the House of Lords.

Lord Parkinson backed John Redwood's campaign for the Labour peer, Lord Simon of Highbury to sell his pounds 2.3m shares in BP because of an alleged conflict of interests with his role as a trade minister.

But Lord Parkinson was among the prominent Tories who failed to enter their interests in the register set up by the House of Lords. Unlike the register for MPs, the register in the Lords is voluntary and Lord Parkinson has broken no rules.

Lord Parkinson, a former trade secretary, has directorships in a range of companies, including holding companies and an Internet operation run by Paul Sykes, the Yorkshire businessman who gave financial support to Euro-sceptic Tory candidates at the election. Other prominent Tories who have failed or refused to enter their interests include Baroness Thatcher.

However, pressure is also likely to be on the working Labour peers, announced a fortnight ago by Tony Blair, to declare their interests. They include leading city figures, financiers and prominent people from the arts, including David Puttnam, the film producer, who is heading one of the Government's task forces.

Tory peers who have registered their interests include Lord Tebbit, also a former trade secretary, Lord Archer, and two former foreign secretaries, Lords Howe and Hurd.

Lord Nolan's committee on standards in public life may investigate the failure of so many peers to register their interests, but a spokesman for the committee last night dismissed a report that an investigation was expected. "I can't rule out the committee looking at the House of Lords but we have just started a review of our first reports, and it is unlikely we will get around to Parliament until the autumn. And it won't be carried out by Lord Nolan. He has announced he is standing down."'

Lord Parkinson was on holiday but a spokesman for the Tory party said it was "ridiculous" to compare Lord Parkinson's directorships with the BP holdings of Lord Simon.

"There is no comparison because Lord Simon is a minister at the DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] who had shares in BP, a company with wide interests in an industry regulated by the DTI. It is ridiculous to make such a comparison," said the spokesman.