Tory MP in new 'sleaze' row

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A new "sleaze" row hit the Government last night with the admission by a senior Tory MP that he used a colleague's name to ask Commons questions concerning an industry for which he is a paid adviser.

The revelation that Sir Jerry Wiggin, the MP for Weston-super-Mare, used the name of Sebastian Coe, Tory MP for Falmouth and Camborne, to table amendments to the Gas Bill concerning the mobile and holiday home industry is expected to provoke protests in the Commons, where MPs will debate the Nolan committee recommendations on standards in public life tomorrow.

Sir Jerry admitted using Mr Coe's name in his effort to get the Bill changed - and that he had previously used "friendly" MPs to table amendments on topics on which he had declarable interests. The Commons' register of MPs' financial interests shows Sir Jerry, a Tory party grandee and former minister, is a paid adviser to the British Holiday & Home Parks Association. Under Commons rules he would normally declare an interest when tabling questions or amendments in relation to it.

Mr Coe, the former Olympic gold medalist, whose name was used because he was serving on the Gas Bill Commons standing committee, said he did not know his name had been used until afterwards. The amendments were on the Commons list for a day before Government business managers had them removed.

Sir Jerry made the admissions in a Channel 4 Despatches programme to be screened tonight in association with the Guardian newspaper. In extracts shown on News at Ten last night, Sir Jerry said he "preferred not" to table his own amendments.

"I think it's better not to put down amendments in which one has an interest because one can't be on the committee to declare an interest. Although I'm technically allowed to, I prefer to get a friend to do it," he said

Mr Coe said: "He put down my name before I'd even realised it had gone down."

Sir Jerry said: "I thought he would be friendly to this amendment. I put his name on it. It turned out he wasn't. I should have asked him in advance. I didn't ... this is the way I have always operated."

Peter Hain, Labour MP for Neath, last night accused Sir Jerry of "gross misconduct".

Lord Cochrane, a Scottish peer on the Tory benches, said he drafted the amendments after meeting Sir Jerry at a British Holiday & Home Parks Association conference in March. The peer, whose special interests include the caravan and UK holiday industry, said: "He said that he would get them tabled."

He said the amendments, were needed to ensure ease of supply of natural gas to caravans.

The MPs' register shows Sir Jerry is a paid adviser or consultant to a range of other organisations: British Sugar, the British Marine Industries Federation, Sears PLC, and the Security Industry Association.

Sir Jerry, who is currently in South Africa, refused to comment last night.

Nolan decision, page 10