Watchdog asked to rule on Tory interests

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Indy Politics

Tory frontbenchers could break parliamentary rules if they oppose the Government's budget plans, a Labour MP claimed last night.

Four members of the Conservatives' Treasury team have paid outside interests, which could be relevant to theirparliamentary responsibilities and therefore they shouldnot debate those issues, said Denis MacShane, the MP for Rotherham.

He has written to Elizabeth Filkin, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, to ask for a ruling on the issue.

Mr MacShane said the shadow Chancellor, Michael Portillo, the shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Heathcoat-Amory, and two shadow Treasury spokesmen, Howard Flight and Oliver Letwin, should be barred from serving on the committee that will debate the Government's Finance Bill.

Mr Portillo apologised to MPs last month for failing to mention his connection with an oil exploration company when he spoke to the House of Commons about petrol prices.

Mr Heathcoat-Amory is director of a property management company and an agricultural machinery company. Mr Flight is chairman of a City investment fund holding company with numerous subsidiaries, and Mr Letwin is director of a Rothschild banking house. Parliamentary rules require MPs to list their interests in the Register of Members' Interests and also to declare them when they speak on a related subject. The stricter advocacy rule also bars them from initiating proceedings on subjects related "specifically and directly" to their interests.

Amendments to the Finance Bill tabled by Mr Heathcoat-Amory yesterday had an "R" by them, denoting that he had a relevant paid interest.

A spokesman for Mr Portillo said the Tories were "quite happy" for Mr MacShane to highlight that their front bench had extensive business experience and knowledge.