Conservative MP Tim Yeo 'totally rejects' accusations he breached lobbying rules to help business colleagues

Select committee head cancelled TV interviews after suggestions he aided business colleague

Parliament’s reputation has been hit by another potential lobbying scandal as the chairman of a powerful Commons committee was filmed apparently boasting of helping a business colleague prepare for an appearance before his committee.

Tim Yeo, the Tory chairman of the Commons Energy and Climate Change Committee, is battling to save his reputation after being filmed by undercover reporters posing as representatives of a solar energy company seeking to employ him as an advocate.

Unlike his fellow Conservative MP Patrick Mercer – the target of a similar sting by BBC’s Panorama programme, less than a month ago – Mr Yeo did not accept any money. But he was filmed talking indiscreetly over a meal in a sushi bar.

At one point, the conversation turned to the appearance before the energy select committee last month of John Smith, managing director of GB Railfreight. Mr Yeo took no part in the questioning of Mr Smith because of a potential clash of interest – he is a paid director of the firm’s parent company, Eurotunnel. But he told the undercover reporters: “I was able to tell him in advance what he should say.”

The case has raised questions about whether the heads of parliamentary committees, who are better paid than rank and file MPs, should be allowed to hold outside business interests. Mr Yeo earns as much outside Parliament as he does through being an MP. He has declared almost £81,000 in outside earnings since March 2012, in addition to his MP’s annual salary of £66,396. Those figures are topped up with £14,728 in additional pay for his duties as a committee chairman.

The former Tory MP Paul Goodman, who now edits the Conservative Home website, said yesterday: “The lesson of the Yeo affair is that those who chair select committees should be barred from having any outside interest that can reasonably be seen to conflict with their role as chairmen. The case for banning conflicting outside interests has now become overwhelming.”

Mr Yeo had agreed to appear on Sky News and the BBC on Sunday to answer any suggestion of wrongdoing, but pulled out of both programmes at short notice.

He later issued a statement denying he had done wrong and accusing The Sunday Times, whose undercover reporters filmed him, of being selective in the extracts they published. He has asked for an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, believing that its findings will clear him.

In his statement, Mr Yeo said: “I want to make clear that I totally reject these allegations. The Sunday Times has chosen to quote very selectively from a recording obtained clandestinely during a conversation of nearly an hour and a half.

“My lawyer requested the whole recording from which these extracts were obtained but this has not been given.

“The whole recording would show the context of the conversation and demonstrate clearly that at no stage did I agree or offer to work for the fictitious company these undercover reporters claimed to be representing.”

He added that it was “totally untrue” that he had coached Mr Smith before his committee appearance, though he confirmed having met him five days before the hearing.

He said: “I spoke briefly to Mr Smith about his forthcoming appearance in front of the committee to explain that, because of the business connection between us, I would not take part in questioning him. I did not want him to think that my silence indicated a lack of interest in what he was saying,” he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
election 2015The 10 best quotes of the campaign
News
A caravan being used as a polling station in Ford near Salisbury, during the 2010 election
election 2015The Independent's guide to get you through polling day
News
people
Voices
David Blunkett joins the Labour candidate for Redcar Anna Turley on a campaigning visit last month
voicesWhat I learnt from my years in government, by the former Home Secretary David Blunkett
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (B2B) - Romford - £40,000 + car

£35000 - £40000 per annum + car and benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager...

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst - Devon - £20,000 ...

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'