Shooting trip and tickets to the BAFTAs: Gifts and donors to MPs revealed
- Credit: OFFICE OF JAMES CARTLIDGE/ARCHANT/PA WIRE/WILL QUINCE MP
From international travel and re-election dinners, to a day out on the shooting range; Suffolk and north Essex MPs have declared a series of financial interests over the past two years.
There is a renewed focus on MPs' financial interests after it emerged that former prime minister, David Cameron, lobbied ministers to allow a finance company called Greensill access to government support schemes.
He owned share options in Greensill which could have been worth several million pounds.
But instead Greensill collapsed and the ex-PM's lobbying, including text messages sent to chancellor Rishi Sunak, has now been exposed.
Help for Hancock
Health secretary Matt Hancock has declared the most donations and gifts since the 2019 register of any Suffolk or north Essex MP.
A week ago the West Suffolk MP faced questions over his shareholding in wastage firm Topwood Ltd after it emerged the company, owned by his sister, won key NHS contracts – one in England, and two in Wales.
The lion’s share of the £263,500 donations to Mr Hancock was for his leadership campaign, with prominent names in the horse-racing community assisting him to the tune of £120,000.
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A further £60,000 was paid for his constituency office costs and he accepted an additional £27,000 for the Matt Hancock app, donated in work by app developer Disciple Media Ltd.
His spokeswoman said: “All Mr Hancock’s interests are properly declared according to the transparency rules.”
Two fellow Conservative MPs, James Cartlidge for South Suffolk and Jo Churchill for Bury St Edmunds, both declared business interests.
Former entrepreneur Mr Cartlidge holds shares in property company Share to Buy Ltd, and has done since before his election in 2015, and subsidiary Share to Buy (Advertising) Ltd, which is not trading.
Meanwhile, Mrs Churchill has held shares in South Lincolnshire Scaffolding Ltd, owned by her husband, since before her election, and she holds a 50% directorship in a dormant company called SLS Ltd.
Re-election dinners, BAFTAs, and the Royal Ascot
MPs also have to declare gifts and benefits.
Therese Coffey, Suffolk Coastal MP, is tasked with providing support to some of the most vulnerable in society as work and pensions secretary.
Donations declared on Dr Coffey’s register included a ticket to the BAFTAs valued at just over £1,000, three tickets for the Royal Ascot (£2,318) plus tickets and hospitality for both the races (£425) and a football match (£450).
A minister in her department, Colchester MP Will Quince, was gifted a £3,496 dinner to fundraise for his re-election in 2019 while estate agents Spicerhaart donated £8,500 for printing leaflets and his constituency newspaper ‘Reporting Back’.
Neither of the above members responded to our requests for comment.
Meanwhile, Ipswich MP Tom Hunt, elected at the end of 2019, received a £2,500 donation from the members-only Carlton Club in St James’s, London.
"I am very open about (my) dealings within Parliament and have nothing further to add," he said.
Harwich and north Essex MP Sir Bernard Jenkin, whose public accounts committee has been tasked with chairing an inquiry into lobbying, was gifted a shooting trip by a Richard Matthews, worth £1,500, in January 2019.
He said MPs should not lobby on behalf of anyone from whom they have obtained a political donation or a gift or hospitality.
“MPs are under an obligation to represent their constituents, but in that case, we declare an interest if we are representing a local donor,” he said.
‘Revolving door’ between business and politics
Sir Bernard pointed to an Observer article he penned in the wake of the Greensill scandal in which he warned “the line between public service and private gain is shamefully blurred”.
Sir Bernard said the affair “presents an opportunity for a reset in politics and Whitehall”, warning that “tougher rules on lobbying may well be necessary, but will not be sufficient”.
"There needs to be much clearer regulation of the ‘revolving door’ between business and politics, and much better understanding in government about how to handle actual, potential and perceived conflicts of interest,” he added.
Dr Dan Poulter, MP for Central Suffolk and north Ipswich, called for a full investigation into the revelations, arguing the situation “must change”.
He said: “I am particularly alarmed that several senior Whitehall civil servants are also allowed to hold jobs outside of the civil service in companies which may directly benefit from procurement decisions directly related to their role."
What do MPs have to declare?
MPs have to declare any information about a financial interest or benefit which could influence their work.
An updated register of interests is published every fortnight, while the House of Commons is sitting, and remains on the register for a year after the interest has ended.
MPs have 28 days to register a financial interest.
They have to declare any employment and earnings, donations and other support received, gifts and hospitality, land and property they own, shareholdings over £70,000, and family members employed through parliamentary expenses.
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