politics

Sleaze watchdog targets ‘loophole’ in Boris Johnson’s Marbella villa stay



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arliament’s sleaze watchdog on Monday moved to tighten rules which allowed Boris Johnson to escape having to declare the value of his week-long break in Marbella last month.

The Prime Minister declared his stay in a villa owned by the family of his friend Lord Goldsmith in the ministerial register of interests, but was not required to enter it into the separate MPs’ register — meaning he didn’t have to reveal how much the holiday was worth.

Proposals published by the House of Commons Standards Committee on Monday could close that loophole, ending the exemption where ministers are not required to register gifts and hospitality they receive while serving in their roles in the MPs’ register.

“The distinction between Ministerial interests and Members’ interests is not always clear cut,” the committee says in a report, adding that it may recommend that ministers enter all benefits and hospitality received “whether or not it is in their capacity as a minister”.

Other recommendations include an outright ban on any MPs providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy services and a requirement that MPs must have a written contract for any outside work which bars lobbying of ministers and public officials.

The committee was already working on a new code of conduct for MPs before the Government’s botched handling of the Owen Paterson affair led to a Westminster sleaze storm.

Although ministers U-turned on plans to block the ex-minister’s suspension for breaking lobbying rules, the moves placed MPs under scrutiny over second jobs and gifts.

The Government has now recommended banning MPs from acting as parliamentary strategists and consultants, a move which was backed in a Commons vote.

The standards committee will consult on its proposals before producing a final report, likely to be put to MPs for a vote before the end of January.

Last week No 10 said Parliamentary Commissioner on Standards Kathryn Stone had told Mr Johnson that he did not have to declare the stay in the villa, reportedly worth £25,000, adding: “The Prime Minister has made the relevant declarations as in line with the rules.”



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