The allegation I investigated was that the Member had made repeated late registrations of his financial interests in the preceding 12 months.
When I wrote to the Member to initiate my inquiry, he replied promptly acknowledging that he had, on nine occasions, failed to register remuneration he had received within the 28 days required by the House. The Member apologised for those breaches of House’s requirements and explained that he had taken steps to obtain fortnightly financial statements in order to avoid a recurrence. The Member said that it had never been his intention to mislead nor to avoid disclosure. He also told me that all his financial interests had been registered.
When the Member next wrote to me, he told me that he had received the first of his fortnightly statements and had registered some subsequent payments, one more of which was registered outside of the 28-day time-limit. The Member said that he had noted suggestions made by the Registrar in relation to the creation of separate accounts or amending payment days and said that he was open to these options if proven necessary.
The nine late registrations made by the Member at the time I began my inquiry had a total value of £52,722.80 which represents almost seventy per cent of a Member’s salary. The number of late registrations suggested a lack of attention to the House’s requirements, rather than inadvertent error. In light of that, this matter could not be concluded by way of the rectification procedure.
For this reason, I am submitting this Memorandum to the Committee on Standards for consideration.
1.This memorandum reports on my inquiry into a complaint that Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP had on several occasions in the preceding twelve months been late in registering remuneration he had received in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. While Mr Johnson has apologised for these late registrations, in light of the number (nine) and value of the late registrations (£52,772.80), the matter is brought to the Standards Committee for their consideration.
2.On 8 October 2018 I received a letter from Mr Anthony Crook concerning Rt Hon Boris Johnson MP. He asked me to investigate the registration of Mr Johnson’s financial interests, drawing particular attention to the timing of Mr Johnson’s registration of the first payment under a monthly contract he had entered into with The Daily Telegraph newspaper. Mr Crook also said; “I can see that this is by no means the first time within the past year or so that there has been a failure on his part to comply with the rules, which apply to all MPs.”
3.Before I initiate an inquiry, I consider whether there is sufficient evidence to justify an inquiry into whether the named Member may have breached the rules of conduct as alleged. In this case, the facts were that Mr Johnson’s entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests of 1 October 2018 contained nine entries where the date of registration was more than 28 days later than the date of receipt of the payment. I therefore considered there was sufficient evidence to justify beginning an inquiry and I wrote to Mr Johnson to initiate the inquiry on 16 October 2018.
4.Mr Crook referred in his letter of complaint to the rules requiring former Ministers to consult the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments before accepting outside employment. I have not investigated that matter because those rules flow from the Ministerial Code and allegations of breaches of that Code are outside my remit.
5.The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament approved by the House on 17 March 2015 said in paragraph 13:
Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of registration of interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests. They shall always be open and frank in drawing attention to any relevant interest in any proceeding of the House or its Committees, and in any communications with Ministers, Members, public officials or public office holders.
The Code of Conduct was revised on 19 July 2018. The same provision appears in the revised Code, at paragraph 14.
6.The main purpose of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests (the Register) is described in paragraph 5 of the introduction to the Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members (the Guide) as:
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 action, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament.
7.In paragraph 2 of chapter 1 of the Guide, it is stated
The House requires new Members, within one month of their election, to register their current financial interests, and any registrable benefits (other than earnings) received in the 12 months before their election. After that, Members are required to register within 28 days any change in those registrable interests … .
8.Employment and earnings are registered in category 1 of the Register. Paragraph 6 of chapter 1 of the Guide defines the thresholds for registration in this category.
Members must register individual payments of more than £100 which they receive for any employment outside the House. They must also register individual payments of £100 or less once they have received a total of over £300 in payments of whatever size from the same source in the same calendar year.
9.In the course of my inquiry I have considered evidence from Mr Johnson. I did not consider it necessary to seek the advice of the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests on this occasion. Mr Johnson has seen a draft of this Memorandum and had the opportunity to comment on its factual accuracy.
10.Mr Johnson’s entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests included the following:
1. Employment and earnings
Payments from Hodder and Stoughton UK, Carmelite House, 50 Victoria Embankment, London EC4Y 0DZ, via United Agents, 12–26 Lexington St, London W1F 0LE:
29 September 2017, received £15,372.17 for royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 20 December 2017)
17 October 2017, received £1,167.40 for Bulgarian and Hungarian subrights and royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 20 December 2017)
8 February 2018, received £499.49 for Czech subrights on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 12 March 2018)
30 March 2018, received £6,013.27 for royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 17 April 2018)
17 April 2018, received £560.13 for Czech subrights on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 09 May 2018)
10 July 2018, received £11,290.17 for French and US royalties on books already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 22 August 2018)
Payments from HarperCollins UK, 1 London Bridge Street, London, SE1 9GF via United Agents, 12–26 Lexington St, London W1F 0LE:
26 September 2017, received £1,382.58 for advance on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 20 December 2017)
11 January 2018, received £5,970.76 for US and Dutch royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 05 February 2018)
5 July 2018, received £37.82 for French royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 22 August 2018)
Payments from HarperCollins UK, 1 London Bridge St, London SE1 9GF, via Rogers, Coleridge and White Ltd, 20 Powis Mews, London W11 1JN:
30 September 2017, received £42.79 for royalties on books already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 20 December 2017)
30 April 2018, received £244.91 for royalties on books already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 09 May 2018)
5 September 2017, received £63.72 from Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, via United Agents, 12–26 Lexington St, London W1F 0LE, for royalties on book already written. Hours: no additional hours. (Registered 20 December 2017)
From 11 July 2018 until 10 July 2019, articles for the Telegraph Media Group Ltd, 111 Buckingham Palace Road, London SW1W 0DT, for which I expect to receive £22,916.66 a month. Hours: 10 hrs a month. First payment received on 13 August 2018. I consulted ACoBA about this appointment. (Registered 17 September 2018)
3. Gifts, benefits and hospitality from UK sources
Name of donor: Surrey County Cricket Club
Address of donor: The Kia Oval, Kennington, London SE11 5SS
Amount of donation, or nature and value if donation in kind: Two tickets with hospitality to Test Match at the Oval, value £1,800
Date received: 8 September 2018
Date accepted: 8 September 2018
Donor status: company, registration IP27896R
(Registered 01 October 2018)
6. Land and property portfolio: (i) value over £100,000 and/or (ii) giving rental income of over £10,000 a year
From 1 November 2016, house in London, owned jointly with my wife: (i) and, from 1 March 2017, (ii). (Registered 20 March 2017)
11.Mr Johnson acknowledged, in his response to my letter of 16 October 2018, that he had been late in registering nine payments in the Register as it stood on 1 October 2018. He said that these payments “may have inadvertently been declared outside of the permitted time” and apologised for “any unintended delay”. Mr Johnson said that the “specific instances that [I had] highlighted [were] primarily the result of a delay in up to date financial statements being received and duly processed and declared”.
12.Mr Johnson was first elected as a Member in June 2001, representing Henley for seven years. He was re-elected in May 2015, and has, therefore, been a Member, subject to the Code of Conduct for ten years.
13.I am aware that, since May 2015, it has been the routine practice of the Registrar and her team to offer to meet all newly elected Members (including those who, although former Members, were not Members of the most recent Parliament) within one month of their election on a one-to-one basis to explain their responsibilities in respect of registration and their wider responsibilities under the Code of Conduct for Members. Mr Johnson was aware of the requirement to register his financial interests within 28 days of any change; he acknowledged this in his letter of 24 October 2018.
14.The first of Mr Johnson’s late entries in the Register of 1 October 2018 was made on 20 December 2017. Five of the entries made on that date were outside the 28 day time limit. Mr Johnson next made a late registration on 12 March 2018. On 22 August 2018, he made two more late registrations. On 17 September 2018 he made his ninth late registration in nine months.
15.The total value of these late registrations was approximately £53,000, which represents almost seventy per cent of a Member’s annual salary.
16.The delay in registering these payments varied; the least delayed registration was one week late, the longest was eleven weeks.
17.The late registrations are, for the most part, royalties or for the sale of rights on books already written. The largest single payment registered late was the first payment of a monthly-contract which Mr Johnson entered into on leaving the Government.
18.It is a matter of fact that Mr Johnson has registered remuneration from several sources outside the time-limit the House has decided.
19.Most of the late registrations are of payments which might reasonably be regarded as unpredictable, in the form of royalties and payments arising from the sale of books already written. However, these payments cannot have been entirely unexpected and, given that the House has made explicit that it expects Members to fulfil their responsibilities “conscientiously”, it would have been prudent for Mr Johnson to have had an administrative system in place to ensure his compliance with those rules. It appears that he did not arrange that until after I had begun my inquiry.
20.Although Mr Johnson has told me that the late registrations were “inadvertent”, the fact that the late registrations had happened on four separate occasions and involved nine payments, suggests a lack of attention to, or regard for, the House’s requirements rather than oversight or inadvertent error.
21.Mr Johnson has told me about one step he has taken to a “minimise any likelihood of this happening again”. That is, to obtain fortnightly statements. This clearly was not arduous or difficult to arrange. Provided those statements are checked promptly, this system should enable Mr Johnson to fulfil his responsibilities conscientiously in future.
22.Mr Johnson has acted in breach of the House’s rules on the registration of his financial interests. Those breaches concern late registration, rather than a failure to register. The total amount of money involved represented a significant proportion of the annual parliamentary salary. On the other hand, the individual payments were made irregularly and, as Mr Johnson has pointed out, their timing was not closely linked to recent hours of work. Having made five late registrations in December 2017, Mr Johnson did not take steps to avoid a recurrence until I initiated an inquiry in October 2018. The steps Mr Johnson has since taken appear sufficient to avoid a recurrence and he has expressed a willingness to adopt additional measures if they prove necessary. Mr Johnson apologised as soon as this matter was drawn to his attention and he has co-operated fully and promptly with my enquiries.
23.I am referring this Memorandum to the Committee on Standards because the rectification procedure is available only where the financial interests are minor or the breach of the rules were inadvertent. Neither of those criteria are met in this instance.
Kathryn Stone OBE
Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards
26 November 2018
13 WE 2
Published: 6 December 2018