Shadow minister's `conflict of interests' to be reported

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A complaint about a shadow minister's possible conflict of interest, between a pounds 25,000-a-year management consultancy and his front-bench Commons responsibilities, has been made to Sir Gordon Downey, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

Dennis MacShane, Labour MP for Rotherham, wrote to Sir Gordon yesterday, pointing out that the outside job taken up by David Willetts with an employment consultancy, Monitor, could conflict with his post as a Conservative spokesman on employment.

"His new employer advises a large number of firms on employment policy issues and has a direct interest in parliamentary matters relating to employment policy," Mr MacShane told Sir Gordon.

If Mr Willetts was allowed to keep both jobs, he added, it would make a "mockery" of a new Commons clampdown on outside consultancies.

But Mr Willetts said yesterday: "Labour front-bench spokesmen had outside interests in opposition and every elected member of the (Labour) Shadow Cabinet was sponsored by a trade union. Moreover, I have discussed and cleared this arrangement with Sir Gordon Downey." Anthony Bevins