MP in conflict of interest storm

SUFFOLK MP Tim Yeo last nightdismissed calls to give up his chairmanship of a company that runs care homes for the elderly amid claims that the job gave rise to conflicts of interest.

SUFFOLK MP Tim Yeo last nightdismissed calls to give up his chairmanship of a company that runs care homes for the elderly amid claims that the job gave rise to conflicts of interest.

The demand came as the chief executive of Univent plc revealed the company had profited from the Labour Government's policies on health.

Labour backbencher Kevin Brennan said it was “extraordinary” that Shadow Health Secretary Mr Yeo who is MP for South Suffolk attacked the Government over health in the Commons, while making thousands of pounds from his 125,000 shares in the company.

He urged the MP to follow the lead of Shadow Chancellor Oliver Letwin, who quit his directorship of City firm NM Rothschild last month after being appointed to the Treasury brief.


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And he said he would table an Early Day Motion in the Commons calling on Tory leader Michael Howard to introduce a Code of Conduct to cover the outside interests of his shadow ministers.

But Mr Yeo said: “All my business interests have always been properly disclosed under parliamentary rules and I nothing more to say.”

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He had earlier dismissed calls for him to give up the chairmanship of Univent, pointing out that he had complied with the parliamentary rules by disclosing his interests in the MPs' register.

Univent chief executive Alain Leong-Son today told Bloomberg News that Government spending on health was “good for business”.

“Labour has spent so much on public services it can only be good for us and our sector,” he said.

The company's shares have risen in value by 28% since Chancellor Gordon Brown's April 2002 announcement of a £40 billion increase in health spending.

Mr Yeo has protested in Parliament about “over-regulation” of nursing homes which he said had forced many to close.

But Mr Leong-Son said the estimated 70,000 reduction in bed numbers was good for Univent, which operates seven homes and a staffing agency based in Weston-super-Mare.

“Because of the cull of the sector, it is creating better opportunities for people like us,” he said.

Mr Brennan said: “I cannot see how Mr Yeo can carry on his role with Univent plc. whilst he is a front bench spokesperson for Her Majesty's Opposition, attempting to influence government policy in this sector.

“He should follow Oliver Letwin's lead and give up outside interests which impact on his brief.”

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