Parliament: Interests register may be extended

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The Independent Online
CANDIDATES STANDING for Parliament might have to declare their interests before election day so that voters know their financial connections, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, said yesterday.

He told the Neill Committee on Standards in Public Life that the proposal, first raised by the Labour left-winger Tony Benn, might be worth pursuing.

He promised to think about the issue after being asked about it by a member of the committee, which is holding a wide-ranging review on standards in public life. "The point about the register of members' interests is not that it provides evidence of corrupt practice but that it provides evidence of interests. To have such declarations would not be a bad idea."

Mr Benn said last week details of candidates' interests should be circulated with polling cards and returning officers should be responsible for ensuring they were registered.

Mr Straw also promised a discussion paper before the end of the year on proposals for a new law on corruption. In a separate exercise, the Government was also looking at the possible creation of an offence of public office, he added.

Earlier, Margaret Beckett, Leader of the House of Commons, told the committee that the most serious allegations against MPs might be better dealt with by an external body rather than the Standards and Privileges Committee.