The Attack on Sleaze: MPs rush to reveal interests

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The Independent Online
MPs are leaving nothing to chance in the rush to register their latest interests within the four-week period allowed under Commons rules.

The clerk to the Select Committee on Members' Interests has run off a fresh edition of the loose-leaf register just 11 days after the last as nearly 50 MPs have flocked to register overseas trips and new interests - or clarify earlier ones.

The current register, as at 24 October, is the first since MPs returned from their summer break. Even allowing for late entries, business has been extremely brisk.

One MP whose trips go back well beyond the recess is Bernie Grant, Labour MP for Tottenham, who had entered an additional seven.

Mr Grant's 13 October entry declares a November 1993 visit to Dominica. In the 24 October register, he has added a January trip to Anguilla, February and August trips to Libya as a guest of the Libyan government, an April trip to Uganda at the invitation of the Pan African Congress, membership of a delegation to South Africa in July, a trip to Dublin in August and a September journey to Sudan as a guest of its government.

Further out-of-timers include Lady Olga Maitland, Tory MP for Sutton and Cheam, who has added a one-night stay on 29 July at the Phoenica Hotel, Malta, for a family stay as guest of the Maltese government.

Jeremy Hanley, the Tory party chairman, has declared his remuneration from the party and use of a car provided by the Rover Group.

Two ministers have also added September visits to Germany to their 13 October entries. They are Tim Boswell, the higher education minister, and James Paice, a junior employment minister.

Among parliamentary private secretaries - who lose their jobs at the slightest hint of trouble - Nigel Evans, PPS to David Hunt, the open government minister, declares an August visit to Sri Lanka and a September trip to Azerbaijan, while Richard Ottaway, PPS to Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, has added a visit to Cairo for the population conference.

David Lidington, PPS to Michael Howard, the Home Secretary, has included for the first time occasional fees from journalism, broadcasting, lecturing and opinion research.

Anne Campbell, Labour MP for Cambridge, had added a paid-for non-executive directorship with the Welding Institute, but adds that her salary is used to pay a part-time research assistant.

Another MP leaving no stone unturned is Michael Clark, Tory MP for Rochford, who has added occasional fees for the chairmanship of conferences.

Alan Howarth, Tory MP for Stratford-upon-Avon, has taken the precaution of adding an unpaid vice-presidency of the British Dyslexia Association. Mark Robinson, Tory MP for Somerton & Frome, has amplified an earlier entry relating to an Action Aid sponsored visit to Somaliland, saying: '. . . to see NGO projects supported by ODA funding'.

Each year's register includes almost touching declarations. Quentin Davies, Tory MP for Stamford & Spalding, consistently includes a 'small flock of sheep'. With Alan Meale, Labour MP for Mansfield, it is 'parliamentary spokesman and consultant, unpaid, to the 'Stand By Me Club', an organisation devoted to promotion of the song 'Stand By Me', especially the recorded versions made by the artists Ben E King and/or Kenny Lynch.'

More seriously, there seems to be little sign of MPs dropping the consultancy habit. Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs and defence spokesman, has given up his paid-for non-executive directorship with Westminster Communications Group, a public relations firm. A similar post with the same company held by Ann Taylor, shadow Leader of the House, remains on the register.