West Norfolk MP apologises following critical standards report
The North West Norfolk MP, Sir Henry Bellingham, has been told to apologise for breaching Parliamentary rules over the registration of outside business interests.
A report, published today, said Sir Henry had made “several” breaches of MPs’ code of conduct in relation to his role with Clifton Africa Ltd, an African mining and development company, and other firms.
The House of Commons Committee for Standards said there was “no suggestion” that Sir Henry had been trying to conceal any part of his financial interests.
But it upheld the findings of an inquiry by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards which said he had failed to make timely declarations of interests and had entered incorrect information.
It also found it had taken “far too long” for errors of the record to be corrected.
The committee said: “Sir Henry’s failure to take the necessary rectification actions over a protracted period means that a sanction imposed by the Committee is called for.
“We recommend that Sir Henry should apologise to the House in writing, through a letter to the Committee, for his mistakes in relation to the Register and for not having taken prompt action to comply with the Commissioner’s rectification requests.”
The report also stated that the commissioner’s investigation had been “prompted” by a Sunday Times story on the subject, over which Sir Henry threatened to take legal action against the paper.
Documents published alongside the report showed Sir Henry had described the coverage as “a hatchet job.”
In response to the report’s publication, Sir Henry said: “The complaint did not involve the serious matter of late registration of a payment, but rather a delay in bringing a Companies House entry into line with my Register of Members’ Interests entry.
“I have always been assiduous in keeping payments up to date. Although I took action to implement the Commissioner’s recommendation, this took longer than I would have liked.
“I have apologised unreservedly for the delay, but my entry is now fully up to date.
“I am glad both the Commissioner and the Committee found that this delay was at the less serious end of the spectrum.”