King’s Lynn MP defends £66,000 business earnings

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MP Henry Bellingham has defended his business interests after new documents showed he earned almost as much from them as his MP’s salary over the past year.

The details are contained in the latest Register of Members’ Financial Interests, which lists all MPs’ employments and payments for work outside the House of Commons.

Henry Bellingham MP ENGANL00120130910155218

Henry Bellingham MP ENGANL00120130910155218

The list shows Mr Bellingham has been paid more than £66,000 since October last year as non-executive chairman of two companies and a non-executive director of a third.

The total is only just below a backbench MP’s salary of just over £67,000 a year.

But the NW Norfolk MP said he was receiving “the going rate” for his private sector work. He says he works around 60 hours a week on constituency and Parliamentary business, while his business interests account for around four hours a week.

He said board meetings often take place early in the morning or during the evening around his Parliamentary commitments.

He added; “I would not be doing this if I felt they prevented me from doing the job as an MP.”

The list shows payments to MPs for additional work ranging from book deals and appearances on television programmes to work as a barrister or as a company director.

Mr Bellingham is non-executive chairman of Pontus Marine Ltd, a firm which describes itself as “Somaliland’s first global fishing company”, which has an office in London, and Pathfinder Minerals Ltd, a London-based company which has mining interests in Mozambique.

He is also a non-executive director of Developing Markets Associates Ltd, which stages investment conferences for governments around the world.

And Mr Bellingham is not happy with what he feels is the differing treatment given to those who pursue business interests than other activities.

He said that, unlike other MPs, he had not continued to pursue his original legal career, because of the risk that cases could take him away from his Parliamentary duties for long periods.

He added: “I think the House of Commons is stronger having MPs with outside interests. They understand a little bit about the real world.”

The register also shows that Mr Bellingham employs his wife, Emma, as a temporary part-time Parliamentary assistant and researcher. He is one of around 150 MPs listed as employing their partners or other members of their families.

The only entry in the register for South West Norfolk MP Elizabeth Truss relates to a box and lunch for herself and her husband at Norwich City’s Carrow Road ground, valued at £2,000.

The register says the gift was received in September 2013, but only accepted on Boxing Day, when the Canaries played Fulham.