Peer demands Heath be called to account

SIR EDWARD Heath, the former prime minister, has been referred to the Conservative Ethics and Integrity Committee for failing to declare his business interests, including a consultancy with a Chinese state-owned company.

Lord Willoughby de Broke, a Tory peer, has written to Conservative Party chairman Michael Ancram, asking him to refer Sir Edward to the body set up last year by William Hague to clamp down on "sleaze" in the party. The former prime minister may have broken House of Commons rules by failing to declare in the Commons Register of Members' Interests that he has been earning thousands of pounds a year as a paid adviser to four companies. The matter is also to be investigated by Elizabeth Filkin, the new Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

As the Independent on Sunday revealed, Sir Edward - Father of the House - is "senior adviser" to the China Ocean Shipping Company (Cosco), one of the world's biggest freight operators, owned by the Communist Chinese government. He is also on the Governing Board of the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a think tank run by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, former Saudi minister for petroleum and mineral resources. And he is an adviser on China for investment funds run by Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and CGU. However, none of these interests are declared in the Register, set up to "provide information of any pecuniary interest".

In his letter to Mr Ancram, Lord Willoughby de Broke, who piloted private legislation on Hong Kong through the Lords, wrote: "In the light of the disclosures made in the Independent on Sunday I hope Sir Edward Heath will be asked to explain ... why he has consistently failed to list his paid consultancies ... After the difficulties caused to the last government by this sort of lack of openness I would expect someone in Sir Edward's position to take the lead in declaring his interests without reserve. If we are to attack effectively the Labour Party, it is not remotely helpful to allow them to divert attention from their own financial shenanigans by pointing the finger at a past Conservative Prime Minister."

Tory MPs and Conservative Central Office are privately livid about Sir Edward's failure to register the interests. The former prime minister has confirmed the links, but insisted he did not need to declare them because he did not lobby on their behalf. He said he had cleared the arrangements with the former Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.