Roger Willoughby, the Commons Registrar for Members' Interests, has agreed that Sir Edward's failure to declare consultancies to four companies - including a Chinese state-owned shipping corporation - should be scrutinised. He has written to tell Fraser Kemp, the Labour MP who is pursuing the matter, that it will be "taken forward" when Elizabeth Filkin becomes Parliamentary Commissioner next month.
As the Independent on Sunday disclosed, Sir Edward, the longest-serving MP and Father of the House, has been earning thousands of pounds a year as an adviser to four companies, which he does not declare in the Commons Register of Members' Interests. He is a "senior adviser" to the China Ocean Shipping Company (Cosco), one of the world's biggest freight operators, which is owned by the Chinese government. He is on the governing board of the Centre for Global Energy Studies, a think-tank set up and run by Sheikh Ahmed Zaki Yamani, the former Saudi minister for petroleum and mineral resources, and is an adviser on China for investment funds run by Dresdner Kleinwort Benson and CGU.
In addition, the former prime minister was on the review board of Arthur Andersen until the end of last year.
None of these interests is declared in the Register, which was set up to "provide information of any pecuniary interest" that MPs have. Sir Edward says only that he is chairman of Dumpton Gap, an unlimited private company, and was a member of Lloyd's until 1995.
Tory MPs and Conservative Central Office are livid at Sir Edward's failure to register the interests. "We've done everything we can to throw off the image of sleaze and this is the last thing we need," one Tory frontbencher said.
Sir Edward last week confirmed his links with the companies but insisted that he did not need to declare them as he did not use Parliament to lobby on their behalf. He said he had cleared this with Sir Gordon Downey, the last Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards. However, he later said that he would detail his interests in full in the next Register.
Letters, page 27