The maverick Tory MP Nadine Dorries was forced to apologise to the House of Commons today for hiding her income from appearing as a contestant on the reality TV show I'm a Celebrity ... Get Me Out of Here! from public scrutiny.
Ms Dorries had refused to declare the payment on the Register of Members' Interests because she claimed it was made to her company, Averbrook, rather than to her personally.
When she was investigated for a breach of Parliamentary rules she accused the Commissioner for Standards of conducting a “witch hunt” against her and threatened to sue.
But today the House of Commons Standards Committee threw out her defence and concluded she had breached the MPs code of conduct through her “attitude to the Commissioner's inquiries”.
It ordered her to make a formal apology for behaviour to MPs and said she must publish the fees she received from ‘I’m a Celebrity’ and eight other media appearances in full.
In a damming report the cross party committee said that, while her media work may not have influenced her representation of her Mid Bedfordshire seat, it was “likely to have been linked to her work in the House”.
“We find it hard to believe she would have been invited to appear on I'm a Celebrity if she had not come to public prominence as a Member of the House,” it concluded.
“It is clear that Ms Dorries's media work was remunerated, whether or not those payments were made to her or to her company.
“We agree with the Commissioner that Ms Dorries should have registered payments for such media services even though those payments were made through Averbrook Ltd.”
Ms Dorries told the Committee that if she disclosed how much she had been paid by ITV she would “fall foul” of the contract's confidentiality clause.
But the committee said the public’s right to information could not be “overridden by confidentiality agreements” and added: “In any event, Ms Dorries should not have signed a contract which required her to keep confidential matters which should have been registered.”
Ms Dorries updated her entry on the register of MPs' interests at the end of October, covering the previous 12 months.
It showed Averbrook's gross income was £142,000, giving a profit of £82,000, and that Ms Dorries had taken a £10,000 dividend on October 30.
She spent approximately 60 days working on Averbrook's projects, which were described as “writing and media appearances”.
The committee said Ms Dorries should consult the registrar within 21 days about the detail of her entry on the register.
“We will monitor Ms Dorries's compliance and will recommend further action if necessary,” the report said.
Ms Dorries threatened to take legal action against the Commissioner over Ms Hudson's inquiry, the report revealed.
In a letter to the commissioner Ms Dorries wrote: “I should inform you that I feel your report amounts to a witch hunt and I have forwarded it on to legal professionals for further advice regarding my position in relation to the committee and you personally.
“You are choosing to use a vexatious complaint made against me to reinforce your 'on the hoof, make it up as you go' policy. I will not tolerate that or any report which invokes libellous negative coverage against me as a result and will not hesitate to pursue you personally should that be the case."
But the committee concluded that Parliamentary rules required Members to subject themselves to the Commissioner’s scrutiny.
“Accusations of the sort made by Ms Dorries are unacceptable,” it concluded. “We agree with the Commissioner that Ms Dorries has committed a breach of the Code through her attitude to the Commissioner’s inquiries.
Today in a very short statement to MPs Ms Dorries apologised “fully and unreservedly for what was a genuinely inadvertent breach of the rules” which she claimed she had “at all times sought to comply with”.