Select Committee on Standards and Privileges First Report

Annex 3

Introduction to the 1991 Edition of the Register of Members' Interests

In May 1974 the House resolved to establish a Register of Members' Interests and in June 1975 substantially agreed to a Report from the Select Committee on Members' Interests (Declaration)[4] which set out the purpose and scope of the Register and arrangements connected with the registration of interests. Registration of interests is additional to, and in no way a replacement of, the requirement on Members to declare their interests when they speak in debate in the House or in a Committee of the House.

The Select Committee recommended, and the House agreed, that: "the purpose of this Register is to provide information of any pecuniary interest or other material benefit which a Member may receive which might be thought to affect his conduct as a Member or influence his actions, speeches or vote in Parliament"[5].

Members are required to have this general purpose in mind when determining what interests should properly be declared. To assist Members in meeting their obligation the Select Committee identified nine categories of pecuniary interest. It emphasised that the definitions of the various classes of interest should be seen as broad guidelines within which Members should proceed with good sense and responsibility. Members may disclose interests beyond those set out below.

The scope of the Register, devised by the Select Committee and adopted by the House, seeks to balance, on the one hand, what should be publicly known about Members of Parliament with, on the other, the proper degree of privacy to which they and their families are entitled. They are not required to disclose the amount of any remuneration or benefit they may have, nor the interests of spouses or children, except in certain circumstances relating to shareholdings.

It is left to individual Members, with or without the advice of the Registrar, to give the required information, and any inconsistencies of style or content that are apparent in the Register spring from that fact. Each Member is responsible for what is recorded about himself here, as each is answerable to his fellow Members and the public.

The nine specific classes under which Members have been required to register their interests are: —

    (1)  remunerated directorships of companies, public or private.

    (2)  remunerated employments or offices. Ministerial office and membership of the European Parliament, Council of Europe, Western European Union and the North Atlantic Assembly do not need to be registered.[6]

    (3)  remunerated trades, professions or vocations.

    (4)  the names of clients when the interests referred to above include personal services by the Member which arise out of or are related in any manner to his membership of the House. These services include any action connected with any proceedings in the House or its Committees. In addition, they include the sponsoring of functions in the Palace, making representations to Ministers, Civil Servants and other Members, accompanying delegations to Ministers and the like.[7]

    (5)  financial sponsorships, (a) as a parliamentary candidate where to the knowledge of the Member the sponsorship in any case exceeds 25 per cent of the candidate's election expenses, or (b) as a Member of Parliament, by any person or organisation, stating whether any such sponsorship includes any payment to the Member or any material benefit or advantage direct or indirect. Although the majority of the sponsorships registered within this category are trade union sponsorships, other sponsorships falling within this description are also registrable. This subsection includes gifts in relation to a Member's parliamentary duties, other than those received from abroad to which category 7 applies.[8] Such gifts include services: for example the full or part-time services of a research assistant or secretary by an external organisation.[9] It is, however, not necessary for a Member to register the fact that he is supported by his local constituency party.

    (6)  overseas visits relating to or arising out of membership of the House where the cost of any such visit has not been wholly borne by the Member or by public funds. Overseas visits undertaken on behalf of the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association, the Council of Europe, the Western European Union and the North Atlantic Assembly, or by any institution of the European Economic Communities need not be registered.[10]

    (7)  any payments or any material benefits or advantages received from or on behalf of foreign Governments, organisations or persons. In its First Report of Session 1989-90 the Select Committee on Members' Interests recommended that this category by amended so as to make it clear that such payments or material benefits include such benefits received by a company in which a Member has a controlling interest, or the largest shareholding, as well as payments or material benefits received by the Member personally. The House agreed to the Committee's Report on 8th March 1990.[11]

    (8)  land and property of substantial value or from which a substantial income is derived. The requirement is to register the general nature of the interest rather than a detailed list of the holdings. A Member's home need not be declared, unless he also receives an income from it.

    (9)  the names of companies or other bodies in which the Member has, to his knowledge, either himself or with or on behalf of his spouse or infant children, a beneficial interest in shareholdings of a nominal value greater than one-hundredth of the issued share capital. It has not been the usual practice to register companies which have not begun to trade or which have ceased trading.

Members are required to register in the appropriate category single, as well as continuing, payments and such payments are normally maintained in the Register for one year.

In the Register, these interests are listed under the following abbreviated headings:

    1.   Directorships;
    2.   Employment or Office;
    3.   Trades or Professions, etc.;
    4.   Clients;
    5.   Financial Sponsorships, Gifts, etc;
    6.   Overseas Visits;
    7.   Payments, etc., from Abroad;
    8.   Land and Property;
    9.   Declarable Shareholdings.

For brevity's sake, no reference is made in the Register to individual headings under which a Member has had nothing to record.

As stated above, the decision of the House to establish a Register of Interests in no way affects the obligation on Members to declare an interest, when appropriate. Indeed, what had for some years been a convention of debate became a rule on 22 May 1974 when the House agreed that: "in any debate or proceeding of the House or its committees or transactions or communications which a Member may have with other Members or with Ministers or servants of the Crown, he shall disclose any relevant pecuniary interest or benefit of whatever nature, whether direct or indirect, that he may have had, may have or may be expecting to have". Any interest which is shown in the Register is, however, sufficiently disclosed for the purpose of voting in the House or in Committee.

It is the responsibility of Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks of the change occurring. The Register, amended accordingly, is open for public inspection, by prior appointment, in the Registry of Members' Interests, situated in the Committee Office of the House of Commons (Tel: 071-219 6615). The hours during which it may be inspected when the House is sitting are between 11 am and 5 pm on Monday to Thursday and between 11 am and 3 pm on Friday. During recesses it may be inspected between 11 am and 1 pm except on public holidays, and during the month of August when it is available for public inspection on one day of the week. A copy of the current Register is placed in the Library of the House for the use of Members.

This edition of the Register, reproduces the Register as it stood on 14 January 1991. Overseas visits, single payments or commissions and single gifts which were recorded in previous printed editions are not repeated in this edition but those subsequently declared are listed. In its Third Report of Session 1987-88[12] the Select Committee on Members' Interests agreed that, for the remainder of this Parliament all directorships held by a Member during the Parliament should be listed, whether relinquished or not. Members have generally followed this recommendation in their entries. In this, as in the previous Register, directorships relinquished since the first Register of the present Parliament was laid before the House on 8th December 1987 are indicated by the word "to ..." (followed by the date upon which the directorship terminated). New directorships assumed in the same period are indicated by the word "from ..." (followed by the date upon which the Member became a director).

A J Hastings
Registrar of Members' Interests

4  HC 1974-75, No.102. Back

5  Ibid para 11. Back

6  HC 1974-75, No.677. Back

7  Resolution of the House, 17 December 1985. Back

8  HC 1974-75, No.677. Back

9  HC 1987-88, No.314. Back

10  HC 1974-75, No.677. Back

11  V & P (1989-90) 353. Back

12  HC 1987-88, No.350. Back

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