MP told to apologise over undeclared payments

Labour MP Diane Abbott was today told to apologise in person to the House of Commons for failing to declare payments for her work as a co–presenter of a television programme.

The Commons standards and privileges committee said the Hackney North and Stoke Newington MP failed to register in the Common's Register of Members' Interests money she received for her work on the BBC 1 programme This Week, which she co–presented with Tory MP Michael Portillo.

In a report published today, the committee said: "The effect of Ms Abbott's failure to declare her work for This Week is that an interest from which she derived a substantial financial benefit – £17,300 in the calendar year 2003 – has been omitted from the Register for about a year.

"She should apologise to the House for her oversight by way of a personal statement."

The committee welcomed the fact that Ms Abbott had taken full responsibility for the failure, co–operated fully with Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards Sir Philip Mawer's investigation, and apologised to him for her oversight.

In his report, Sir Philip upheld a complaint about Ms Abbott's failure to register made by the Tory MP for Romford Andrew Rosindell.

In his conclusions, Sir Philip said: "Ms Abbott argues that her failure to register was completely inadvertent. There was no attempt to conceal her involvement in the programme and it did not occur to her that anybody would think she was not being paid for it.

"This does not, however, obviate the need for her to register her remuneration for that work."

Last October, Ms Abbott used an appearance on This Week to admit that sending her son to a private school was "indefensible", but declared she was ready to sacrifice her reputation for consistency for his sake.

Ms Abbott was widely criticised within the Labour Party for choosing to send 12–year–old James to the City of London School rather than to a local state school.