Mark Pritchard, a prominent Conservative MP, has reported himself to the parliamentary standards watchdog after being caught in a newspaper sting operation seemingly offering to use his political contacts to secure highly lucrative business deals.
The MP was filmed speaking to an undercover reporter from The Daily Telegraph posing as a businessman. The Telegraph alleged that Mr Pritchard had suggested investing £10m in an Albanian hotel chain, and that he asked for £3,000 a month in consultancy fees, and three per cent of any deal, implying that he was looking to be paid £300,000 on top of his fee.
In a section of the conversation, shown on the 10 o'clock news, he is heard saying: “To be brutally honest, I know the mayor, I know the prime minister, I know the speaker. I don't lobby. I don't, whatever. But my network I will use.
”So it would be the figure that I've mentioned, but also it would be 3 per cent, and this is in, I'll email you my contract, 3 per cent of the gross amount - for the introduction - on the signing of the contract.“
The Telegraph revealed that their reporter contacted Mr Pritchard in Malta, after the paper had been tipped off that Mr Pritchard, a member and former chairman of the all party parliamentary group for Albania, might be using his parliamentary trips abroad for business purposes.
A series of meetings in expensive London venues followed, during which Mr Pritchard is reported to have made repeated offers to set up deals in countries where he has contacts. During one meeting, he allegedly sent a text to the mayor of Tirana, the Albanian capital, with a query about investment opportunities - though he specifically said that he would not lobby on behalf of clients.
Mr Pritchard denies breaking the House of Commons code of conduct, which forbids MPs from making money by using confidential information received during the course of their parliamentary work and instructs them to avoid any conflict between the public and their personal interests. He said that meetings with business contacts took place in his own time, but was reported to be taking legal advice.
In September, Mr Pritchard registered a new company, Mark Pritchard Advisory Limited, with the Commons authorities. So far, it has no clients.
During his conversations with the undercover reporter, Mr Pritchard is also reported to have suggested a possible investment opportunity in Hungary, and to have claimed to have visited 86 countries. He is alleged to have said that he met a friend during a visit to Croatia, for a NATO meeting, to discuss a possible business opportunity. The trip would have been paid for by the taxpayer.
Discussing the proposed Albanian venture, he said, according to the Telegraph: ”The person that decides on hotels in Tirana is the mayor… he's completely straight. And I know, because I know people left and right, I know the prime minister, I know the former prime minister… I know everybody.