Mr Marcus Fysh Contents

Report

1.This Report arises from a complaint to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards that Mr Marcus Fysh MP’s entry in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests was inaccurate. As the allegation related to a failure to register interests, the Commissioner also considered whether there had been a failure to declare them: the inquiry was therefore extended to encompass Mr Fysh’s declarations to the European Scrutiny and International Trade select committees of which he is a member. The Commissioner has supplied us with a memorandum relating to these matters, which we publish as an appendix to this report.1

The Commissioner’s investigation

2.On 21 September 2018 the magazine Private Eye published an article which claimed that Mr Marcus Fysh MP’s Register of Members’ Financial Interests entry relating to his shareholding in West Sea Investments Limited (formerly London Wessex Ltd.) was inaccurate.2 On 26 September 2018 Ben Bradshaw MP wrote to the Commissioner asking her to investigate Mr Fysh for a possible breach of the rules on registering his interests. He enclosed the Private Eye article and an email he had received from a Sunday Times journalist which contained allegations about the activities of certain companies with which Mr Fysh was or had allegedly been associated.3

3.The 1 October 2018 edition of the Register contained some changes notified by Mr Fysh on 13 September 2018 relating to Mr Fysh’s three previous registered shareholdings in: London Wessex Ltd, Wessex Investments Proprietary Ltd and London Wessex Brands Ltd.4 However, information on the Companies House website indicated that changes to these companies had taken place more than 28 days before they were registered. Paragraph 2 of Chapter 1 of the Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members (the Guide) states that Members should register within 28 days any change in their registrable interests.

4.The Commissioner opened an inquiry into Mr Fysh’s registration of his financial interests on 24 October 2018. She told Mr Fysh that she would be investigating whether he should have updated sooner his entry in the Register concerning his holdings in the three companies listed in paragraph 3 above, and consider whether he had breached Paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament in force at that time, which stated that:

Members shall fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the 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 officer holders.5

5.The main aim of registration and declaration 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 about any financial interest which might reasonably be thought by others to influence a Member’s actions, speeches or votes in Parliament, or actions taken in his or her capacity as a Member of Parliament.6

6.During the course of the Commissioner’s inquiry it became apparent that when he was elected Mr Fysh held unpaid directorships of five companies in the same group—Wessex Investment Proprietary Group, which later became Samfire Proprietary Ltd—which he had not registered. He had shareholdings in three of these companies; these shareholdings had been registered. The Commissioner therefore also considered whether Mr Fysh had breached paragraph 14 of the Rules of Conduct—specifically in terms of whether he should have registered his unpaid directorships under Category 8 of the Register, “Miscellaneous,” which included:

Any other interest, if the Member considers that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member in the same way as a financial interest. This might include an unpaid employment or directorship [ … ]7

7.Following this development, the Commissioner also considered whether Mr Fysh should have declared these roles when he joined the International Trade and European Scrutiny Select Committees, and therefore whether by not doing so he again breached paragraph 14 of the Code and paragraph 7 (c) of Chapter 2 of the Guide:

[ … ] at the Committee’s first meeting. Members must provide details of any registered financial interests, and of any non-registerable interests which meet the test of relevance [ … ]8

The “test of relevance” is “whether those interests might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member”.9

The Commissioner’s conclusions

8.The Commissioner concluded that Mr Fysh had breached paragraph 14 of the Code in three respects:

a)Mr Fysh was late in registering changes to three companies in which he had shareholdings (paragraph 2 of Chapter 1 of the Guide);

b)Mr Fysh should have registered his five unpaid directorships when he entered the House in 2015 and amended the Register entries for these directorships when changes occurred in 2018 (Category 8, paragraph 55(b) of Chapter 1 of the Guide); and

c)Mr Fysh should have declared his and his brother’s unpaid directorships to the International Trade and European Scrutiny committees when he joined them (paragraph 7(i) of Chapter 2 of the Guide).

Referral to the Committee on Standards

9.The Commissioner wrote to Mr Fysh on 4 April 2019 to say that she was prepared to resolve the inquiry through the rectification procedure.10 Mr Fysh responded on 29 April 2019 to say that while he agreed with the Commissioner’s first conclusion, he did not accept the second and third conclusions. This meant that the Commissioner was unable to resolve the complaint through the rectification procedure, and she accordingly referred the matter to us. The Commissioner’s memorandum was sent to us on 24 October 2019. We have taken oral evidence in private from Mr Fysh, at his request, and also received written evidence from him.11 We showed Mr Fysh’s written evidence to the Commissioner, who submitted additional information, which we shared with Mr Fysh.12 These documents, together with a letter from Mr Fysh to the previous Chair of the Committee,13 are published with our Report.

10.Full details of the Commissioner’s inquiry and her findings are set out in her memorandum. Mr Fysh’s position is set out in the appendices to the Commissioner’s memorandum as well as his written and oral evidence to the Committee. We shall summarise their respective arguments briefly in each section before setting out our own conclusions. We will first deal with the matter of Mr Fysh’s registration of interests and then his declarations to the select committees. It is worth noting that the three matters that are the focus of this inquiry are all clearly interlinked, and that they raise some common questions of principle.

Overview: Mr Fysh’s interests and registration

11.An overview of Mr Fysh’s interests and registration can be found in the Annex. When Mr Fysh entered the House in 2015, he was an unpaid director of five companies in the same group “Wessex Investments Proprietary Group”: namely London Wessex Ltd, Wessex Investments Proprietary Ltd, London Wessex Brands Ltd, Makoonor Holdings Ltd and Alibante Developments Ltd. He had shareholdings in the first two of these companies and held shares in London Wessex Brands Ltd under option. London Wessex Ltd and London Wessex Brands Ltd were registered in England, Wessex Investments Proprietary Ltd was registered in Australia (where Mr Fysh used to live), and Makoonor Holdings Ltd and Alibante Developments Ltd were registered in Cyprus. There is more information on the companies in Items 8 and 9 of the written evidence appended to the Commissioner’s memorandum. Following his first election as an MP in 2015 Mr Fysh registered his shareholdings but not his unpaid directorships; his 2015 register entry is reproduced in Appendix 3.

12.In 2018, there were several changes to three of the companies in which Mr Fysh has shareholdings:

a)London Wessex Brands Ltd was dissolved;

b)London Wessex Ltd had its name changed to West Sea Investments Ltd; and

c)Wessex Investments Proprietary Ltd had its name changed to Samfire Proprietary Ltd.

Mr Fysh updated his Register entry, but not within the required 28 days. The changes were completed late by 140, 234 and 148 days respectively. He did not register this or his unpaid directorships. Mr Fysh’s current register entry is reproduced in Appendix 4.

Late Register entries

13.Mr Fysh apologised to the Committee for registering late the changes made in 2018 to the companies in which he had shareholdings. In his written evidence, he states:

I updated the Register late for name changes of companies in my group and the dissolution of one of its subsidiaries in 2018, a clerical oversight during an exceptionally busy time for which I apologise to the Committee and have apologised to the Commissioner.14

Non-registration of unpaid directorships

14.Mr Fysh argues that he did not register his directorships because “I consider and have always considered my unremunerated directorships not to be things that others might reasonably think could influence my actions or words as a Member [ … ] they do not, never have and never would influence or bias what I do or say as a Member.”15 There are two key elements to his argument: the extent of influence and the definition of reasonableness.

Extent of influence

15.During her inquiry, the Commissioner consulted the Registrar about Mr Fysh’s unpaid directorships. The Registrar told her that, had Mr Fysh sought her advice, she would have “advised him to register the directorships under the Miscellaneous category of the Register”.16 She said she would have “drawn his attention to the Nolan principle of openness” and also compared Mr Fysh’s situation to the requirement in subparagraph 8(b) of the Chapter 1 of the Guide to Rules which states that Members must register an unpaid directorship if the company concerned belongs to a group in which the Member also holds a paid directorship. The Registrar stated that this is comparable because although Mr Fysh was not a paid director of any company within the group, he did hold financial interests in the form of shareholdings. Subparagraph 55(b) “Miscellaneous” of the Guide to the Rules also states that a Member should register “any other interest if the Member considers that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words in the same way as a financial interest”. The Guide continues: “This might include an unpaid employment or directorship of a company not currently trading”.

16.Mr Fysh does not accept the Registrar’s analogy. This is because he does not accept “that a Member’s influence on a company leads to a conclusion that this might be thought to influence his or her actions or words as a Member”.17 In his letter to the Commissioner on 19 June 2019, he argues that “directorship is different from the nature of ownership. Directors do not have the right to remuneration unless that is contracted [whereas] Owners may or may not become entitled to a dividend or be able to realise their investment.”18 He also asserts that the “potential financial consequence of unremunerated directorship by virtue of potential impact on the benefits of ownership” was already covered through his registration of his three shareholdings.19

17.The Committee explored the issue of future financial benefit further during the oral evidence session. Mr Fysh confirmed that while the companies are not currently trading, their total potential value is “in the small amounts of millions”20 and that “he hopes that they will be worth something in the future”.21 He stated that “the way they are structured means that that would come through a payment of a dividend up into the top company, which has always been declared [i.e. Mr Fysh’s registration of his shareholding in Samfire Proprietary Ltd]”.22 Mr Fysh contends that Members do not need to register an unpaid role in a subsidiary company if they have shares in the company (which have been registered).

18.The Commissioner notes that “An entry in the Register showing that an MP has shares does not necessarily indicate that he or she has control or influence in the company”.23 The Commissioner contends that Mr Fysh had “more control and influence than his shares by themselves would have suggested” and that “someone who is both a director and a shareholder is particularly influential”.24 In a letter to the Commissioner on 8 July 2019, the Registrar outlined the extent of Mr Fysh’s involvement in the companies:

Some or all of these companies were established by him. In each case the Board of Directors was small; he was often the only individual director, or one of two individual directors, so that he played an important role in governance. [ … ]

Even though these companies were not actively trading, they have since 2015 required some director involvement, particularly in connection with the restructure.

[For example] West Sea Investments Ltd (formerly London Wessex Ltd). [..] Mr Fysh has been since 2 August 2017 the only director of this company and also a person with significant control. If an MP is both an unpaid director and a person with significant control I would normally advise registering the directorship.25

19.The Commissioner concluded that “others might reasonably consider Mr Fysh’s unpaid directorships to influence him, and that he should have registered them”.26 In her letter to the Chair on 28 May 2020, she explained that her “assessment took into account that although the companies were not trading, Mr Fysh had carried out various tasks connected with the governance and financial management of the companies, as well as holding shares in them”.27

Reasonableness

20.The Guide to the Rules does not say a Member should only register an interest if it is likely to influence them. Under the House’s rules as set out in the Guide, the test of whether to register or declare an interest is if “it might reasonably be thought by others to influence” them.28 The Commissioner concluded that others might reasonably consider Mr Fysh’s unpaid directorships to influence him, based on the reasoning outlined above.

21.Mr Fysh disputes this, because he disagrees with the Commissioner’s application of reasonableness.29 He argues that the Code of Conduct and Guide to the Rules do not define “reasonableness”.30 He draws attention to the House of Lords Guide to its Code of Conduct which defines a “reasonable member of the public” as “an impartial and well-informed person, who judges all the relevant facts in an objective manner”.31 Mr Fysh argues that:

It is clear from this definition that acting reasonably in consideration of whether an interest might be relevant, in that it might influence the way a Member acts in his or her Parliamentary duties or activities, requires knowledge of all relevant facts, a good level of information and or experience of their context, and impartial and objective application of mind.32

22.In his definition of “reasonableness”, Mr Fysh states that a “good level of information” is crucial to making a reasonable assessment of influence. In his written evidence, he states that the existence of his directorships was “openly accessible at all times through public registers.”33 However, the Commissioner states that she “did not take into account that there were other sources of information about Mr Fysh’s financial interests because [her] remit, set out in paragraph 20 of the Code of Conduct for Members, is to consider allegations relating to “a member’s adherence to the rules of conduct under the Code” and the Code itself makes no reference to reliance on sources of information other than the Register”.34

23.“Knowledge of all the relevant facts” is a key part of Mr Fysh’s arguments relating to what a “reasonable” assessment of his interests would be. In a meeting with the Commissioner and the Registrar on 26 March 2019, Mr Fysh said that he felt “the general lack of public understanding of the way international investment management work is undertaken had given opportunity for a politically motivated complaint to be made against him”.35

24.In her memorandum, the Commissioner considers “what the ordinary person might think about Mr Fysh’s unpaid directorships”. She argues that they would reasonably conclude a degree of influence:

I think that if an MP had been a director of several companies before entering Parliament, if those companies were “the product of [his] career overseas in international investment”, and if he continued some of the directorships on an unpaid basis while in the House, those unpaid roles might reasonably be thought by others to influence his actions or words as an MP in the same way as a paid interest.36

25.The Commissioner also highlights that Mr Fysh has argued both that it could not reasonably be thought that his interests might influence him, and also that the public have a limited understanding of investment management and therefore that his interests might look more influential than they are. The Commissioner argues that this “limited understanding” should be taken into account by providing information to the public.37

26.The Committee on Standards has considered the application of “reasonableness” on previous occasions. The case of Mr Peter Lilley in 2015 has some relevance here.38 In that case, our predecessors considered whether the test of reasonableness should be applied from the perspective of an “uninformed observer”. The Commissioner had concluded that Mr Lilley breached the Code by failing to declare a relevant financial interest. The interest was a non-executive directorship in a company which operated exclusively in Central Asia–Mr Lilley argued that this was not relevant to debates dealing with the UK energy market. The question was whether an ordinary person should reasonably have been expected to know that that the company operated only in central Asia and whether Mr Lilley should have clarified this via a declaration. The Committee commented that the test of reasonableness is “not about the objective nature of the interest in question, but about what an observer would presume from information in the public domain”39 and added that interpretation might depend on “the level of understanding which should be required before an observer decided that it could ‘reasonably be thought’ that an interest influenced a speech”,40 In this case, the Committee did not find Mr Lilley in breach because “We do not think it would be fair to Mr Lilley to find him in breach of a rule which was not clear at the time he considered the matter”.41 The rule has been clarified since then in the current Guide to the Rules.42

Select committee declarations

27.Mr Fysh was a member of the International Trade Committee from October 2016 to November 2019 and has been a member of the European Scrutiny Committee since October 2017. He declared his shareholdings to both committees, but not his unpaid directorships or his brother’s unpaid directorship.43 He included some additional information in his declarations (in 2017–19 only):

He declared his interests to the International Trade Committee by submitting his register entry (which outlined his shareholdings), which was published with the addition of the following sentence:

Some of these companies have investments in the EU and Africa (interest declared at private meeting of the International Trade Committee, 13 September 2017).

The European Scrutiny Committee recorded that its members declared their interests as registered on 23 October 2017. Mr Fysh’s entry was published with the addition of the following sentence:

Indirect interest in companies domiciled in Europe.

28.In his written evidence, Mr Fysh states that his arguments against making ad-hoc declarations to the select committees are the same as those for not registering his directorships:

my unremunerated directorships are not capable of having any influence on what I might say or do as a Member, have not done so and could not reasonably be perceived to be at risk of doing so, the relevance test was not met, and the Commissioner has not shown that it should have been judged to have been.

29.In her memorandum, the Commissioner notes that the Registrar said that she would have advised Mr Fysh to declare his directorships in companies registered outside the UK when joining the International Trade Committee. She said that the test of relevance is identical to that for registration:

[Mr Fysh] says that international trade could not influence his companies. But that is not the question. The question is whether on any particular occasion—such as while serving on the International Trade or European Scrutiny Committee—Mr Fysh’s interests might reasonably be thought to influence his actions or words. I think they might.

30.During the course of the evidence session, Mr Fysh told the Committee that he has now updated his declaration to the European Scrutiny Committee to reflect that his wholly owned investment company has EU subsidiaries in Cyprus, for investment into the EU and India.44 He has also added a number of other details, including the fact that his wife grew up in Germany, his sister-in-law has become German and his father-in-law is Swedish (amongst other details). See Appendix 5 for his full declaration. He argued that “none of these matters could reasonably be said to in any way influence what I might say or do as an MP or as a member of the Committee” but he did so to take a “belt and braces approach”.45

The benefits of declaration and registration

31.The Commissioner’s memorandum states the benefits of declaration in relation to select committees:

The House’s system of select committees enables MPs to bring relevant experience and expertise to bear on a particular policy area. It is not unknown for MPs serving on a select committee to have specialist financial or other interests in areas related to the committee’s remit. I consider it particularly important for MPs to be open about their interests in the context of the committee. In some cases that may involve an MP explaining an interest which others might believe likely to influence him or her—even if the MP regards that belief as mistaken.46

32.During the evidence session, the Committee questioned Mr Fysh on this point. He stated that he was “not aware of having brought any particular expertise or background experience to any particular questions or thoughts that we might have had.”47 He also outlined his concerns that registration and declaration could mean “people might reasonably consider these things to have an influence [ … ] but they absolutely don’t and couldn’t and wouldn’t.”48

33.One of the principles underpinning paragraph 14 of the Code is that of openness. The Introduction to the Guide to the Rules states that “The aim of this [registering and declaring interests] is openness. Neither registration nor declaration imply any wrongdoing”.49 In the Peter Lilley case (the details of which are outlined above), the Committee concluded that:

We do not think the requirement to declare interests ought solely to be directed at conflicts of interest. Its purpose should include ensuring those participating in debates, and those listening, are aware of matters which may be reasonably perceived to be directly related to the views expressed. We consider that a Member should ensure that his or her Register entry is as informative as possible.50

Mr Fysh’s comments on the Commissioner’s investigation

34.Mr Fysh raised some key aspects of the Commissioner’s investigation where he felt he had been treated unfairly. He argued that the Commissioner provided no evidence that he had been influenced by his interests, and that the Registrar and Commissioner had not made their judgements objectively. Both of these issues are underpinned by his argument that, during this investigation, the Commissioner disregarded his right to discretion over whether or not he should register and/or declare his interests.

Member’s discretion

35.The Guide to the Rules states that “Members must register [ … ] Any other interest, if the Member considers that it might reasonably be thought to influence his or her actions or words as a Member in the same way as a financial interest.”51

36.Mr Fysh states that “[ … ] it is clear from the code of conduct that discretion is given to the Member over the declaration of certain things such as unpaid directorships.”52 During the evidence session, he said that he felt during the Commissioner’s investigation, “the Registrar’s opinion effectively removed the discretion explicitly and logically given to members to interpret whether a registration under the “Miscellaneous” category or a declaration of interest should be made”.53

37.In her memorandum, the Commissioner states that “the Registrar’s advice amounts to good counsel, but it is not in itself binding”; it is for the Commissioner to decide “whether Mr Fysh broke the rules when he did not take the actions she would have recommended”.54 She confirms that Members have discretion over whether or not to declare and/or register an interest but comments that once the Member has made a decision on “whether others would reasonably think that the interest influenced him or her”, if she then opens an inquiry, it follows that the scope of the investigation may include that decision.55 She also suggests that Mr Fysh’s assertion that the judgements about registration and declaration were for him to make implies that “he disputes my right to determine these matters”.56

38.In the oral evidence session, Mr Fysh stated:

She [the Commissioner] has a right to say what she wants to say, but that does not mean it is correct in either its appreciation of the legal and normative context or indeed the explicit guidance given in the rules. In this case, I think she is just not correct in making this assumption and she has not provided any objective justification for her position.57

Lack of evidence

39.Mr Fysh disputes the Commissioner’s conclusions because she did not “suggest let alone demonstrate any way in which my words or actions in Parliament have been influenced by an interest”.58 He draws comparison with the House of Lords definition of reasonable which, he argues, enables “objective justification”59 and he also suggests that “the standards system of the House of Commons would benefit from being consistent with it” otherwise “the House of Commons risks being seen as preferring arbitrary decision making”.60

40.In the evidence session, he cited the “reasonable observer test, as settled in common law” which “established the test of whether a fair-minded and informed observer, having considered the facts, would conclude that there was a real possibility of bias when considering whether someone, in this case a judge, might be influenced or biased by something”.61 He used this to argue that the Commissioner’s position “that only her assessment of what others might reasonably think about the degree to which words or actions might be influence should matter” is “inconsistent with the aforementioned reasonable observer test” because she did not provide “an adequate understanding or recognition of the circumstances”.62 He suggested to the Committee that this would set a precedent:

[ … ] If the Commissioner’s position were adopted, a precedent would be set that these legal and standards consideration norms do not apply in the House of Commons, and that innuendo, rather than evidence and knowledge is in fact what matters to it.”63

41.In her letter to the Chair on 28 May 2020, the Commissioner stated:

Mr Fysh states that neither I nor the Registrar have suggested that his words or actions in Parliament have been influenced by any of his interests. That is correct. Not having suggested it, I saw no need to adduce evidence in my memorandum that it had happened.

Mr Fysh goes on to suggest that a lack of evidence on this point undermines my assessment of what others might reasonably think. I had explained in paragraphs 42–45 of my memorandum the basis for that assessment. If I had found evidence that Mr Fysh’s words or actions as a Member had actually been influenced by his interests, that would have been a far more serious matter.64

Commissioner’s judgement and objectivity

42.In his written evidence, Mr Fysh asserts that a lack of evidence meant that “the Commissioner’s case rests entirely on her and the Registrar’s assertions and contrary interpretation [of the Code]”.65 He says that “The Commissioner has set too much store by the unsubstantiated opinion of the Registrar as to influence on a Member’s action or words”.66 He asks the Committee to consider the Commissioner’s assessment of the case on light of “such fallacies being adopted, shifting rationales, subjective views being accepted and a complete lack of factual evidence”.67

43.In her comments on this written evidence in her letter to the Chair on 28 May 2020, the Commissioner responds to this by emphasising that she explained her rationale for her judgements in her memorandum and offers corresponding paragraph references.68

44.The Committee asked Mr Fysh for clarification on these assertions in the evidence session. He responded:

She [the Commissioner] completely elides the point about Member discretion. That has been my experience all along. She has never really been willing to hear the other side of this and has never, ever gone beyond apprehension of what she thinks things mean, rather than looking for an objective assessment of those things. [ … ] I still respect her and the office—of course I do—but it is important we get these things right.69

The Committee’s conclusions

45.We have considered Mr Fysh’s arguments carefully, but we uphold the Commissioner’s findings, for reasons we set out below.

46.We find that Mr Fysh breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct when he did not register the changes made in 2018 to the companies in which he had shareholdings. This breach is acknowledged by Mr Fysh.

47.We find that Mr Fysh breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct when he did not register his unpaid directorships.

48.As set out in the Guide, Members must produce their Register entry at the first meeting of a select committee. Mr Fysh’s Register entry should have included his unpaid directorships. It therefore follows that Mr Fysh breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct when he did not declare his unpaid directorships and his brother’s unpaid directorship to the European Scrutiny Committee and International Trade Committee.

49.There are a number of factors that make Mr Fysh’s unpaid directorships relevant to these committees: Mr Fysh had a career overseas in international investment prior to becoming an MP, and these companies are a result of that; Samfire Proprietary Ltd is registered in Australia; and Makoonor Holdings Ltd and Alibante Developments Ltd were registered in Cyprus. In addition, his companies have assets in the “small numbers of millions” and could represent significant value for Mr Fysh when they are active. Mr Fysh continues to play a significant role in these companies by virtue of being both a director and a shareholder.

50.We therefore disagree with Mr Fysh’s contention that his unpaid directorships could not be reasonably thought to influence him.

51.We also disagree with his assessment of the rules. The Guide to the Rules specifically states that “neither registration nor declaration imply wrongdoing” and should not imply a conflict of interest. In many cases experience and expertise obtained outside Parliament is an asset, especially on a select committee. But the corollary is that the public have a right to know the full extent of a Member’s interests, both financial and non-financial. That includes unpaid directorships.

52.The test—for the Member and for the Commissioner—is not therefore whether an undue influence has been exercised by a financial or non-financial interest, as Mr Fysh implies. It is rather, as the Guide says, ‘that it might reasonably be thought by others to influence his or her actions or words as a Member’. Mr Fysh’s argument that the Commissioner did not provide evidence that he had been so influenced is therefore irrelevant.

53.Nor is the test, as Mr Fysh asserts, the ‘reasonableness’ test that applies in the House of Lords. The two Houses have different requirements, reflecting their different roles, composition and powers. The House of Commons has set a high bar for its elected members and the public expects the fullest degree of transparency possible. Consequently, although the requirement to declare and register non-financial interests allows the Member a degree of discretion, we would always urge a Member to err on the side of transparency. Companies House is not a substitute for the House of Commons Register, which aims to bring together in a single place all a Member’s interests for the convenience of the public. If Members have any doubt about the application of the rules, they should seek and follow advice from the Registrar.

54.In accordance with our usual practice, we have considered whether there are any aggravating or mitigating factors in relation to these breaches.

55.We regard the following to be mitigating factors:

56.We regard the following to be aggravating factors:

Sanction

57.We have concluded that Mr Fysh breached paragraph 14 of the House of Commons Code of Conduct, albeit with no imputation of bad faith.

58.Taking into account the various factors set out in the previous two paragraphs, we conclude that Mr Fysh should meet the minimum standards of rectification allowed for in the Guide to the Rules, which requires (in paragraph 15 of Chapter 4 relating to the Commissioner’s resolution of inquiries) :

a)For non-registration, a belated entry in the current Register in bold italic type with an appropriate explanatory note for 12 months; and

b)Apology by way of point of order for failures to make declarations.

59.We recommend that corrections to the Register outlining Mr Fysh’s four unpaid directorships which have continued since he entered the House in 2015 should appear in bold italic type for the next 12 months (as above) and that Mr Fysh should make an apology on the floor of the House for both the non-registrations and non-declarations by means of a personal statement. Mr Fysh should also apologise in writing to the Commissioner and the Registrar; the text of that apology should be agreed in advance by the Chair of the Committee.


1 Referred to in footnote citations as “PCS memorandum”

2 PCS memorandum, para 2

3 PCS memorandum, para 1

4 PCS memorandum, para 3

5 The Code of Conduct together with The Guide to the Rules relating to the conduct of Members (Session 2017-19, HC 1882)

6 The Code of Conduct, Introduction to the Guide to the Rules, para 5

7 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 1, para 55b

8 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of members, Chapter 2, para 7(c)

9 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of members, Chapter 2, para 5

10 Standing Order 150

11 Referred to in footnote citations as “MF written evidence”

12 Referred to in footnote citations as “PCS Letter to Chair 28 May 2020”

13 Referred to in footnote citations as “MF Letter to former Chair 12 February 2020”

14 MF written evidence, Summary and Background, lines 7–11

15 Q1

16 PCS memorandum, Item 11, lines 12–13

17 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 28

18 PCS memorandum, Item 19

19 PCS memorandum, Item 19

20 Q10

21 Q19

22 Q19

23 PCS memorandum, para 44

24 PCS memorandum, para 44

25 PCS memorandum, Item 20

26 PCS memorandum, paras 44–5

27 PCS Letter to Chair 28 May 2020, page 3, lines 14–18

28 Guide to the Rules relating to the Code of Conduct of Members, Chapter 1, para 55 (b)

29 Q1

30 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 15

31 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 6

32 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 7

33 MF written evidence, Summary and Background, line 15

34 PCS letter to Chair 28 May 2020, page 2, lines 8–13

35 PCS memo, Appendix 1, item 12

36 PCS memorandum, para 42

37 PCS memorandum, para 42

38 Committee on Standards, Fifth Report of Session 2014–15, Mr Peter Lilley (HC 951)

39 Committee on Standards, Fifth Report of Session 2014–15, HC 951, Mr Peter Lilley

40 Committee on Standards, Fifth Report of Session 2014–15, HC 951, Mr Peter Lilley, para 9

41 Committee on Standards, Fifth Report of Session 2014–15, HC 951, Mr Peter Lilley, para 6

42 Chapter 2, paragraph 3 of the Guide to the Rules states: The declaration of interests ensures that Members, the public and others are made aware at the appropriate time, in proceedings of the House and on other occasions, of any interest relevant to those proceedings or to the actions or words of a Member. The requirement to declare an interest complements the registration requirements and applies from the time the House first sits after the Member is elected and to almost every aspect of a Member’s parliamentary duties. It covers a broader range of interests than registration.

43 See International Trade Committee formal minutes 2016–17 and 2017–19, and European Scrutiny Committee formal minutes 2017–19

44 Q37

45 Q40

46 PCS memorandum, para 50

47 Q24

48 Q48

49 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Introduction, para 5

50 Committee on Standards, Fifth Report of Session 2014–15, HC 951, Mr Peter Lilley, para 8

51 Guide to the Rules relating to the Conduct of Members, Chapter 1, para 55(b)

52 Letter from Mr Fysh to Chair, 12 February 2020

53 Q1

54 PCS memorandum, para 41

55 PCS memo, para 39

56 PCS memorandum, para 56

57 Q46

58 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 9 – also paras 20, 25, 31

59 Q1

60 Ibid

61 Ibid

62 Ibid

63 Q1

64 PCS letter to Chair 29 May 2020, page 3, lines 32–40

65 MF written evidence, Summary and background, page 5

66 MF written evidence, Response to report, para 26

67 MF written evidence Response to report, para 31

68 See page 3 of Letter from PCS to Chair 28 May 2020

69 Q45




Published: 18 June 2020