Register of Members' Interests Contents


REGISTER OF MEMBERS' INTERESTS

INTRODUCTION TO THE OCTOBER 1997 EDITION

  This edition of the Register, the first for the Parliament elected in May 1997, reflects Members' Interests as they stood at 31 October 1997. Like the two previous editions in March 1996 and January 1997, it takes account of certain recommendations of the First Report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life (the Nolan Committee) and subsequent decisions of the House of Commons taken in July and November 1995.

  In July 1996 the House approved the publication of a Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament, together with a Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members.[1] This document, which I circulated to all Members following their election, sets out in detail the rules governing the registration and declaration of Members' financial interests, as well as offering guidance on their practical application.

  The establishment of the Register dates from a Resolution of the House of 22 May 1974. Since my appointment by the House in November 1995 as Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, the Register has appeared in my name. I exercise this function in agreement with the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges which has replaced the former Select Committees on Privileges and Members' Interests.

  Members are now required to complete a registration form and return it to me within three months of taking their seats after a General Election. The expiry of this period during the summer adjournment has led to some delay in publication.

Purpose of the Register

  The defining purpose of the Register is "to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member receives which might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament".[2] Members are required to keep that overall purpose in mind when registering their interests.

Form of the Register

  I have continued to take into account the recommendation of the Nolan Committee that, while the Register should continue broadly in its existing form, the detailed entry requirements should be improved to give a clearer description of the nature and scope of the interests declared. Each Member is, however, ultimately responsible for his or her own entry; and inconsistencies of style or content in the Register are attributable largely to that fact.

Relevant Remuneration

  While Members have been obliged since 1974 to register their sources of paid outside employment, there was, until recently, no requirement to disclose the amounts of remuneration obtained. Following a recommendation of the Nolan Committee, however, the House resolved on 6 November 1995 that any Member who has an existing agreement or who proposes to enter into a new agreement involving the provision of services in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament must reduce it to writing and deposit it with me. The agreements, which are available for public inspection on the same terms as the Register itself, must include the fees or benefits payable in bands of up to £1,000, up to £5,000 and thereafter in bands of £5,000, and these figures are shown in brackets after the Register entries. While it is too early in the new Parliament to be certain of long-term trends, it is notable that the number of commitments of this kind undertaken by Members has fallen by some two-thirds compared with the Register published in March 1996, when the new rule came into force.

The advocacy rule

  A Resolution of the House of 6th November 1995, extending and reinforcing an earlier Resolution in 1947, prohibits Members from engaging in advocacy on behalf of outside bodies or persons from whom they receive payment. The Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members makes it clear that continuing benefits, i.e. directorships, other employment and sponsorship, can be divested to release a Member with immediate effect from the restrictions imposed by this rule, provided that there is no expectation of renewal. In the case of any `one-off' benefits such as visits and gifts recorded in this Register, the advocacy rule will apply for the period of a year from registration, and for this purpose the date of registration appears against the benefit in question.

The categories of registrable interests

  The form supplied to Members for the registration of their interests is divided into ten sections, which are represented in this edition by the following headings:

1.   Remunerated directorships

  In this section Members are required to register any remunerated directorships which they may hold in public or private companies. The requirement extends to directorships which are themselves unremunerated but where the companies in question are associated with or subsidiaries of a company in which the Member holds a remunerated directorship.

2.   Remunerated employment, office, profession etc.

  This is the category for registering outside employment, professions and sources of remuneration not clearly covered elsewhere in the registration form. It is also the section for the registration of membership of Lloyd's of London; the requirement is to disclose the categories of insurance underwritten rather than, as previously, individual syndicate numbers.

3.   Clients

  In this section Members are required to disclose the names of clients (other than companies or organisations already identified in sections 1 and 2, but including clients of those companies or organisations) for whom they provide services which depend essentially upon or arise out of membership of the House; for example, sponsoring functions in the parliamentary buildings, making representations to Government Departments or providing advice on parliamentary or public affairs.

4.   Sponsorship or financial or material support

  In this section the Member is required to register (a) the source of any contribution to his or her election expenses at the last Election which exceeded 25% of the total of such expenses, and (b) any regular or continuing support from companies or organisations from which the Member receives any financial or material benefit in support of his or her role as a Member of Parliament. This includes any regular donation in excess of £500 per year made by an organisation or company to the Member's constituency party if the donation is linked directly to the Member's candidacy in the constituency or to membership of the House.

  Category 4(a) was originally framed to ensure that it included sponsorship of a Member by a trade union under the former Hastings Agreement. As a consequence of the advocacy rule described above, a number of trade unions have amended their sponsorship arrangements so as to remove any financial link with a particular Member though, as the Register shows, several other unions continued to support individual Members at the last Election in the traditional manner. The Committee on Standards and Privileges, aware that the rule in its present form sits uneasily with current practice, have recently issued a consultation paper[3] with a view to revising the sponsorship provisions of the Rules for Registration.

5.   Gifts, benefits and hospitality (U.K.)

  This section is for the registration of any gift or material advantage received by the Member or the Member's spouse from a United Kingdom source, which in any way relates to membership of the House. Gifts are exempt from registration if less than £125 in value. Other benefits are exempt if less than £215 in value.

6.   Overseas visits

  This section covers overseas visits, made by Members or their spouses, which relate to or arise out of membership of the House, where the cost of any such visit has not been wholly borne by the Member or by United Kingdom public funds. Several categories of visit, made by Members in the normal course of their parliamentary duties, are specifically exempted from registration. These include: visits paid for by, or undertaken on behalf of, the Government or which are made on behalf of an international organisation to which the United Kingdom Government belongs; visits with or on behalf of a Select Committee of the House; visits undertaken under the auspices of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the British-Irish Parliamentary Body, the British-American Parliamentary Group, the Council of Europe and equivalent recognised international parliamentary assemblies; visits arranged and paid for wholly by a Member's own political party; visits paid for wholly by an institution of the European Community; and visits as part of an Industry and Parliament Trust fellowship.

7.   Overseas benefits and gifts

  This section is subject to the same rules as section 5, but covers gifts and benefits from overseas rather than U.K. sources.

8.   Land and property

  The requirement in this section is to register any land or property of substantial value, other than any home used solely for the personal residential purposes of the Member or the Member's spouse.

9.   Registrable shareholdings

  In this section Members are required to register the name of any public or private company or other body in which, to their knowledge, they have a beneficial interest in a shareholding having a nominal (i.e. face) value: (a) greater than 1 per cent of the issued share capital of the company or body, or (b) less than one per cent of the issued share capital but more than £25,000. The letters (a) and (b) are used accordingly in the printed entries. The requirement extends to holdings in which the interest is held by or on behalf of the Member's spouse or dependent children.

10.   Miscellaneous and unremunerated interests

  This is a discretionary section for use by Members wishing to register interests, including unremunerated interests, which do not clearly fall within any of the specific categories but which they consider to be relevant to the definition of the Register's purpose.

Administrative arrangements and inspection

  The printing of the Register is authorised by the Select Committee on Standards and Privileges in accordance with the general practice, established in past years, that the Register should be published and put on sale by The Stationery Office at the beginning of a Parliament and thereafter approximately once a year.

  It is the responsibility of Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks of the change occurring; and between its annual printings the Register is periodically updated, in a looseleaf version, to take account of such amendments. The looseleaf version is open for public inspection in the Registry of Members' Interests, situated in the Committee Office of the House of Commons (Tel: 0171-219 6615). It may be inspected when the House is sitting between 11 am and 5 pm on Monday to Thursday and between 11 am and 3 pm on Friday. During parliamentary recesses, and especially during the month of August, more limited hours of inspection apply. A copy of the current looseleaf Register is also placed in the Library of the House for the use of Members.

Complaints

  Any complaint of a failure to disclose interests in accordance with the rules of the House should be made to me in writing.

SIR GORDON DOWNEY, KCB

Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards


1   House of Commons Paper No. 688 (1995-96). Back

2   First Report of the Select Committee on Members' Interests (1991-92), para. 27. Back

3   Fourth Report of the Committee on Standards and Privileges (1997-98), House of Commons Paper No. 181. Back


 

 
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Prepared 2 December 1998