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S4C: Committee of MPs calls on government to appoint new chair for Welsh-language broadcaster | UK News

A committee of MPs has recommended the government appoint a new chair for Welsh-language broadcaster S4C.

The chair of the Welsh affairs committee has written to the culture secretary after an evidence session with current S4C chair Rhodri Williams and the lead non-executive board member of the unitary board, Chris Jones.

Sian Doyle was sacked as chief executive of the public service broadcaster in November after an investigation into the organisation’s culture.

The report – conducted by commercial legal firm Capital Law – said Ms Doyle’s leadership style was “dictatorial” and found she was “creating a culture of fear”.

Ms Doyle was admitted to hospital last month following her dismissal.

In a statement released at the time, her husband said she had “suffered a sustained pattern of retaliation, unfair treatment, and bullying at the hands of the chairman of S4C”.

Mr Williams denies the allegations.

“It has been suggested in some of the comments that have been in the press that this is something that I’ve driven, that I’ve made decisions. I would refute those allegations completely,” he said.

Mr Williams insisted while giving evidence to MPs on Wednesday that it was “the right decision” to dismiss Ms Doyle.

Sian Doyle Chief Executive of S4C takes part in a discussion to celebrate 40 years of the Welsh language
Image:
Sian Doyle

In his letter to Lucy Frazer, committee chair Stephen Crabb noted “an absence of cultural leadership at board level”.

Mr Crabb said “urgent work” was required to update HR policies.

“We are concerned at the approach Mr Williams and the board took in seeking advice and reaching assurance in relation to key decisions it made,” he added.

He said the committee remained “concerned about the ability of the current leadership to oversee the changes required to rebuild trust at all levels of the organisation and with its wider stakeholders”.

The committee was not satisfied “different complaints made against specific individuals had been handled equitably and with proper consideration of the fair treatment of all those involved”.

The recommendation of the committee is for the government to appoint a new chair, “given the importance of S4C and the scale of the challenges”.

An S4C spokesperson said the broadcaster had nothing further to add to the chair’s previous comments.

Sky News has asked the department for digital, culture, media and sport for its response.

Tobias Ellwood resigns as defence committee chair after controversial Afghanistan video | Politics News

The chair of the Commons’ defence committee, Tobias Ellwood, has resigned from his role after criticism over a video he posted on X, Sky News understands.

The Tory MP, who had been the chair of the cross-party group since 2020, came under pressure to quit after sharing the clip on the platform formerly known as Twitter, where he appeared to praise the Taliban’s leadership in Afghanistan.

Burberry chair Murphy lined up to replace Allan at helm of Tesco | Business News

One of Britain’s most senior boardroom figures is to replace John Allan at the helm of Tesco.

Sky News can exclusively reveal that Gerry Murphy, the chairman of Burberry and Tate & Lyle, has been chosen to replace Mr Allan, whose recent departure was hastened by a series of personal misconduct allegations.

Sources said Dr Murphy’s appointment was expected to be announced early next week, although it could be brought forward to this weekend as a result of its disclosure by Sky News.

Dr Murphy is also chairman of Burberry, the global luxury fashion brand, and Tate & Lyle, the ingredients maker.

He is expected to step down from Tate & Lyle, which he has led since 2016, in due course.

The City is expected to welcome his appointment at Tesco given the extent of his consumer and retail industry pedigree.

During his executive career, he ran Carlton Communications, the DIY retailer Kingfisher and the logistics group Exel – which was also run at one stage by Mr Allan.

Dr Murphy has also worked at Blackstone, the private equity giant, and served on the boards of Abbey National, British American Tobacco and Reckitt Benckiser.

Mr Allan’s exit from Tesco had always been planned to take place in the next 12 months, but was accelerated when he became the subject of several unsubstantiated and anonymous claims about his behaviour.

It came as the CBI, the employers’ group where Mr Allan served a two-year term as president, was engulfed by sexual assault allegations which have brought it to the brink of collapse.

In a subsequent interview with Sky News’ Sophy Ridge, Mr Allan said Tesco and Barratt Developments, the housebuilder, had felt compelled “to propel me under the nearest bus”.

Sky News revealed in March that the supermarket chain had begun sounding out candidates to replace Mr Allan.

Lygon Group, the headhunter, has been working on the search with Byron Grote, Tesco’s acting chairman and senior independent director.

Mr Allan was due to step down next year, by which time he would have served for nearly a decade and be ‘timed out’ under corporate governance guidelines which mean that he would no longer be regarded as independent.

He was appointed as chairman of Tesco during the aftermath of the biggest crisis in the chain’s history, with the discovery of an accounting black hole which raised genuine questions about its survival.

Mr Allan arrived as the company scrambled to cut thousands of jobs, sell assets and shore up investor confidence.

Alongside Sir Dave Lewis, the then chief executive, he helped to stabilise the company, overseeing the sale of several large overseas businesses and rebuilding its market share in the UK.

In 2019, he oversaw the process of identifying Sir Dave’s successor, appointing former Boots executive Ken Murphy to replace him.

Tesco has steadily revived its domestic fortunes, and remains by far the largest food retailer in Britain.

Like its rivals, it has been grappling with the impact of the pandemic and, more recently, the rampant inflation which has gripped Britain’s economy.

In recent weeks the company, along with its peers, has been thrust into a fierce political debate about industry profiteering, with supermarket bosses quizzed this week by MPs about their pricing behaviour.

Its recovery has come during a period of seismic change in the industry, with Morrisons’ performance faltering, the German discounters Aldi and Lidl growing rapidly and Asda being sold to the billionaire Issa brothers and buyout firm TDR Capital.

On Friday, Tesco shares were trading at 260.8p, giving the company a market value of over £19bn.

Tesco and Tate & Lyle both declined to comment, while Burberry has been contacted for comment.

COVID inquiry chair insists it is for her to decide what material is ‘relevant’ amid row over Johnson WhatsApps | Politics News

The chair of the COVID inquiry says it is up to her to decide what evidence is “relevant or potentially relevant” amid a legal row with the government over Boris Johnson’s WhatsApp messages.

Baroness Hallett refused to withdraw her order for the government to hand over unredacted material for her investigation as she formally opened the COVID inquiry on Tuesday.

It comes just days after the government launched a judicial review over her order to the Cabinet Office that it hand over Mr Johnson’s unredacted WhatsApp messages and other documents.

The former prime minister has already sent “all unredacted WhatsApps” directly to the inquiry.

Acknowledging the legal battle, Baroness Hallett said: “As has been widely reported in the media, an issue has arisen between the inquiry and the Cabinet Office as to who decides what is relevant or potentially relevant.

“I issued a notice under Section 21 of the Inquiries Act 2005 making it clear that, in my view, it is for the inquiry chair to decide what is relevant or potentially relevant.

“The Cabinet Office disagrees, claiming they are not obliged to disclose what they consider to be unambiguously irrelevant material. They invited me to withdraw the Section 21 notice. I declined.

“They are now challenging my decision to decline to withdraw the notice in the High Court by way of judicial review.

“With litigation pending and as the decision-maker, I can make no further comment.”

Partygate inquiry chair Harriet Harman was in personal contact with Sue Gray in early stages of parliamentary probe | Politics News

Harriet Harman, the chair of parliament’s partygate inquiry, was in personal contact with Sir Keir Starmer’s incoming chief of staff Sue Gray while she was still a civil servant.

In the early stages of the parliamentary probe, the veteran Labour MP privately said of her fact-finding efforts: “I just speak to Sue.”

Sky News understands the contact was direct and not via parliamentary or civil service officials.

At the time, Ms Gray had concluded her own report into lockdown-breaking parties in government and was running the constitution unit at the Cabinet Office.

Harriet Harman
Image:
Labour MP Harriet Harman is the chair of parliament’s partygate inquiry

In March this year, Sky News broke the news that Ms Gray was in secret talks with Labour about becoming Sir Keir’s chief of staff.

Within hours she had quit the civil service in order to take up the role.

She is now awaiting a ruling from ACOBA (the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments) on how long she must wait before taking up the position.

Last week, we revealed these conversations between Labour and Ms Gray began in October 2022.

There is no suggestion Ms Harman was aware of Labour’s plans to recruit Ms Gray at the time of her conversations, or that the contact continued after Ms Gray was first approached by aides to Sir Keir.

A privileges committee spokesperson said: “It was the duty of the chair to make contact with anyone, including Sue Gray, who might be able to indicate potential witnesses. The only evidence the committee will rely on it is that which is separately and independently verified by the relevant witness. The privileges committee is not relying on evidence gathered by Sue Gray.

“The chair with the full knowledge of the committee has had regular contact with a number of ministers and officials in the Cabinet Office to discuss matters such as the provision of documents to the committee, the identity of potential witnesses and the welfare of civil servants who may be affected by the inquiry.”

Speaking to Sky News, Jacob Rees-Mogg, MP for North East Somerset, said “the question has to be asked” over whether Ms Harman was accurate and straight forward during her role as chairman.

“What is really important [is that] Sue Gray may have been, through secret back channels, an important part of the chairman’s role within the inquiry,” he said.

“As this is all about strict accuracy and whether things are misleading or not misleading, the chairman has a duty to the committee to be very straight forward. And the question has to be asked, did she achieve this?”

Ms Harman and Ms Gray have not responded to requests for comment.

Boris Johnson: BBC chair made ‘significant errors of judgement’ over £800k loan | UK News

BBC chairman Richard Sharp made “significant errors of judgement” by facilitating an £800,000 loan guarantee for Boris Johnson, a cross-party committee of MPs has found.

The committee said Mr Sharp should “consider the impact his omissions will have” on public trust in the broadcaster after he failed to declare his role as a go-between for the former prime minister when applying for the chairman’s job.

The MPs also said his actions “constitute a breach of the standards expected of individuals” applying for prominent public appointments.

Mr Sharp said he did not arrange the loan but admitted introducing his friend Sam Blyth, a cousin of Mr Johnson who wanted to help the then-prime minister, to the Cabinet Office.

Richard Sharp appearing before the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee
Image:
Richard Sharp appearing before the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee

A spokesperson for Mr Sharp said he “regrets” not telling MPs about his association with Mr Blyth “and apologises”.

Chairman of the BBC – What is the role?

The Chairman of the BBC is the head of the BBC board – on a salary of £160,000.

They are responsible for maintaining the independence of the BBC while overseeing the functioning of the corporation to fulfill its mission.

The chairman is also in charge of the process for appointing the director-general and can dismiss the person in this role. They also act as the corporation’s most senior representative to Parliament and the government, including the devolved administrations.

Roger Mosey, a former head of TV news at the BBC, told Sky News it was a job with “two directions”.

He said while it is “the most important role for the accountability of the BBC to the public”, it is not one which is involved in the BBC’s journalism.

But Mr Mosey pointed out that it is not uncommon for the chair to be a political appointment and that this is “nothing new”.

“It was in seeking at the time to ensure that the rules were followed, and in the belief that this had been achieved, that Mr Sharp acted in good faith in the way he did,” the spokesperson said.

The strongly-worded report from the cross-party MPs on the Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee suggests Mr Sharp’s actions could damage the BBC.

The same committee backed Mr Sharp’s appointment to the chairman’s job in January 2021 but was not aware of his role in facilitating the loan.

Read more: Boris Johnson becoming highest-earning MP this parliament

“Richard Sharp’s decisions, firstly to become involved in the facilitation of a loan to the then-prime minister while at the same time applying for a job that was in that same person’s gift, and then to fail to disclose this material relationship, were significant errors of judgement, which undermine confidence in the public appointments process and could deter qualified individuals from applying for such posts,” the committee said.

Timeline

November 2020:
According to the Sunday Times the loan guarantee was first suggested by Canadian millionaire Sam Blyth during a dinner with Richard Sharp.

Early December 2020:
In early December, Richard Sharp put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

Late 2020:
Before the end of the year, Richard Sharp and Sam Blyth met with Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Chequers. They insist the prime minister’s finances were not discussed.

January 2021:
At the start of January, the government announced Richard Sharp as the preferred candidate to be BBC chairman.

The MPs continued: “Mr Sharp should consider the impact his omissions will have on trust in him, the BBC and the public appointments process.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The Office of the Commissioner for Public Appointments is reviewing the competition to ensure the process was run in compliance with the rules and we will await the outcome.”

Boris Johnson told to stop asking Richard Sharp for financial advice days before he was made BBC chair – reports | Politics News

Boris Johnson was reportedly told to stop asking Richard Sharp for “advice” about his “personal financial matters” just days before he was announced as the new BBC chairman.

Mr Johnson, who was prime minister at the time, was warned by officials to stop discussing his financial arrangements with Mr Sharp on 22 December 2020, according to The Sunday Times.

Mr Sharp was due to be announced as BBC chair on 6 January 2021.

The former banker has been facing calls to stand down as BBC chairman after it emerged that in late 2020 he had introduced Sam Blyth to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case to discuss whether Mr Blyth, a distant cousin of Mr Johnson whom Mr Sharp has known for more than 40 years, could act as a guarantor for a loan facility for the prime minister.

Mr Sharp previously said that he will remain in place, with the BBC chairman due to be grilled by MPs on the controversy next month.

A spokesperson for the former prime minister said Mr Sharp has “never given any financial advice to Boris Johnson, nor has Mr Johnson sought any financial advice from him”.

They added: “Neither Mr Johnson nor anyone acting on his behalf was ever aware that Sam Blyth was being considered for any role at the British Council, nor did Mr Johnson have any discussions with Sam Blyth or anyone else about any such role.

“Neither Mr Johnson nor anyone acting on his behalf spoke to anyone in the FCDO (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office) regarding Mr Blyth for any public appointment.”

The spokesperson said that “throughout this process, as the material The Sunday Times has obtained demonstrates, Mr Johnson followed advice and took the necessary steps to ensure probity. All declarations were made properly”.

Timeline

November 2020:
According to the Sunday Times the loan guarantee was first suggested by Canadian millionaire Sam Blyth during a dinner with Richard Sharp.

Early December 2020:
In early December, Richard Sharp put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

Late 2020:
Before the end of the year, Richard Sharp and Sam Blyth met with Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Chequers. They insist the prime minister’s finances were not discussed.

January 2021:
At the start of January, the government announced Richard Sharp as the preferred candidate to be BBC chairman.

The newspaper, citing a leaked Cabinet Office memo, said advice was issued by top civil servant Mr Case after Mr Johnson and Mr Sharp sought out advice on accepting the £800,000 loan from Mr Blyth.

Mr Johnson reportedly secured the loan in February 2021.

The paper quotes advice issued by Mr Case, which stated: “Given the imminent announcement of Richard Sharp as the new BBC chair, it is important that you no longer ask his advice about your personal financial matters.”

Public appointments commissioner William Shawcross has already said that he plans to investigate Mr Sharp’s appointment as BBC chairman, following the first set of reports last week.

Read more:
BBC chairman Richard Sharp confident he was ‘appointed on merit’ after Boris Johnson loan row

Chairman of the BBC – What is the role?

The Chairman of the BBC is the head of the BBC board – on a salary of £160,000.

They are responsible for maintaining the independence of the BBC while overseeing the functioning of the corporation to fulfill its mission.

The chairman is also in charge of the process for appointing the director-general and can dismiss the person in this role. They also act as the corporation’s most senior representative to Parliament and the government, including the devolved administrations.

Speaking to Sky News yesterday, Roger Mosey, a former head of TV news at the BBC, said it was a job with “two directions”.

He said while it is “the most important role for the accountability of the BBC to the public”, it is not one which is involved in the BBC’s journalism.

But Mr Mosey pointed out that it is not uncommon for the chair to be a political appointment and that this is “nothing new”.

Mr Sharp told BBC News last week he was “comfortable” with the way the process had been carried out.

The paper also reports that Mr Blyth had appeared on a Foreign Office list of four recommended candidates during the search for the chief executive of the British Council, with his family ties to Mr Johnson not revealed to senior figures at the council.

Mr Blyth told the paper he ruled himself out on 7 December 2020 and did not formally apply.

“I believe my name may have been suggested by civil servants who were trying to identify potential candidates at the search stage of the appointment process,” he said.

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Johnson: Loan claims ‘complete nonsense’

Liberal Democrat chief whip Wendy Chamberlain called on the government to publish Mr Johnson’s internal register of interests.

She said: “How can Johnson claim that Richard Sharp knew nothing of his personal finances when he was explicitly told by officials to stop asking for his financial advice?

“The public are sick of these endless lies and Conservative cover-ups. This government must come clean and publish all relevant documents, including Boris Johnson’s internal register of interests, so we can get to the bottom of this.”

Mr Sharp said last week that “having had a discussion with the cabinet secretary about avoiding conflict, and the perception of conflict, I felt comfortable and I still feel there was no conflict because at that stage what I was seeking to do was ensure that the process was followed exactly by the book, and that the process hadn’t started, of any kind, in terms of any support that Sam (Blyth) was going to provide to the prime minister”.

“I had clarified and agreed with the cabinet secretary, both of us had the judgment that I’d avoided a conflict or a perception of conflict.”

A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “We do not comment on leaks.”

Faction of Tory members feel ‘disconnected’ after being ‘denied a vote’ when Rishi Sunak became PM, ex-party chair says | Politics News

A proportion of Conservative members feel “disconnected” from the party as they were “denied a vote” when Rishi Sunak became prime minister, a former Tory chairman said.

Sir Jake Berry, who was chair under Liz Truss, said Mr Sunak should have held an “endorsement vote” to show he had the support of the membership.

Instead, Mr Sunak automatically became PM after Boris Johnson and Penny Mordaunt dropped out of the contest to replace Liz Truss and Mr Sunak passed the 100-nomination threshold, leaving him as the only remaining candidate.

As a result, there is a “perception”, Sir Jake said, that Tory MPs are “disconnected from our membership”.

Mr Sunak entered Downing Street just weeks after coming second to Ms Truss in the summer leadership contest after Tory members voted for her over him – despite MPs being in favour of him.

“I actually think it’s a great pity for Rishi Sunak that we didn’t have a vote of members,” Sir Jake told GB News.

“Because in the summer, fine Conservative that he is, he struggled actually to get the support of Conservative Party members – as, funnily enough, did Jeremy Hunt in the previous leadership election.

Minister without portfolio in the Cabinet Office Jake Berry during day three of the Conservative Party annual conference at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham. Picture date: Tuesday October 4, 2022.
Image:
Sir Jake Berry was party chairman under Liz Truss

“And I think even though he absolutely got the majority of the Conservative members of parliament – and I support him as prime minister in everything he does – the challenge he has is, even if it’s not true, there’s a perception of the Conservative Parliamentary Party now being disconnected from our membership.”

Read more:
Hunt dismisses economic ‘gloom’ as he dashes hopes of tax cuts
Sir Rod Stewart ‘reflected country’s mood’ when he called for Labour government

Sir Jake added that he thinks Mr Sunak “would have won it well” if a vote had gone to the membership.

But, he said a narrative has been allowed to develop about members being “denied that vote”.

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‘War room’ in the dying days of Truss leadership

The former Northern Powerhouse minister revealed what the last days of the Truss premiership were like.

He was part of a “war room” in Number 10, with Ms Truss, ex-chief whip Wendy Morton and former deputy PM Therese Coffey who were all trying to stabilise her leadership after the now-infamous mini-budget.

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Sunak becomes prime minister

Just before Ms Truss resigned, Sir Jake said “two of the most senior civil servants in the Treasury” tried to press him on “why there could be no long, protracted leadership election in the Conservative Party”.

“They asked me at the end of it, ‘Do you agree?’,” he said.

“And I said, ‘Well, I hope you don’t mind me saying, I don’t really think it’s any of your business, as civil servants, about how political parties choose their leader’.”

Labour calls for investigation into appointment process for BBC chair after Boris Johnson ‘sleaze’ allegations | Politics News

Labour is calling for an investigation into the BBC appointment process for its chair following “sleaze” claims.

The man currently in the top role, Richard Sharp, allegedly helped Boris Johnson secure a loan guarantee before being recommended for the job.

Shadow culture secretary Lucy Powell has written to the Commissioner for Public Appointments, William Shawcross CVO, asking him to investigate the appointment process.

Labour has already reported Mr Johnson to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards following the report in the Sunday Times, which his spokesperson described as “rubbish”.

Mr Sharp has also denied a conflict of interest, but calls for clarity are growing after Foreign Secretary James Cleverly evaded answers on the story during media rounds this morning.

Ms Powell said the BBC is meant to be impartial and “it is vital that the public and parliament can have trust in the process and it is free from any real or perceived conflict of interest”.

“Accordingly, I urge you to investigate this process, and satisfy the public and parliament of its integrity,” she said in her letter.

The Sunday Times reported Mr Sharp, a Tory donor, was involved in arranging a guarantor on a loan of up to £800,000 for Mr Johnson in late 2020.

Mr Sharp told the newspaper he had “simply connected” people and there was no conflict of interest, while Mr Johnson’s spokesman insisted his financial arrangements “have been properly declared”.

The Cabinet Office has also issued a statement insisting Mr Sharp was appointed “following a rigorous appointments process”.

BBC chairman Richard Sharp
Image:
BBC chairman Richard Sharp

However Lord Kerslake, the former head of the Civil Service, told Sky News there should be an independent investigation into the claims – either through a parliamentary select committee or by the prime minister’s new ethics adviser – so the facts can be “completely established”.

“The position of the chairman of the BBC is an enormously important one for the country and you want the process for appointing a new person to be absolutely squeaky clean,” he said.

Read More:
Former Tory leader urges Nadhim Zahawi to ‘clear up’ questions over tax affairs

“The problem we have got here is we have only got half the information, it’s a set of stories that aren’t fully validated and that’s why I agree it needs independent investigation.

“There’s plenty of routes where this could be examined, and the facts completely established, including to what extent the prime minister himself was aware of and involved in the discussions that went on here.”

Boris Johnson in Ukraine
Image:
Boris Johnson in Ukraine

Earlier, cabinet minister James Cleverly defended Mr Sharp’s appointment, saying he had “no doubt” the chairman was given the job based “on merit”.

But he admitted he had not tried to contact Mr Johnson, who made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Sunday, telling Sky’s Sophy Ridge: “You’re the journalist not me.”

This was criticised by several Labour MPs, with Louise Haigh, the shadow transport secretary, tweeting: “We’re all briefed before going on the media. Either he deliberately didn’t ask the questions or deliberately wasn’t told the answers.”

Timeline

November 2020:
According to the Sunday Times the loan guarantee was first suggested by Canadian millionaire Sam Blyth during a dinner with Richard Sharp.

Early December 2020:
In early December, Richard Sharp put Sam Blyth in contact with the Cabinet Secretary, Simon Case.

Late 2020:
Before the end of the year, Richard Sharp and Sam Blyth met with Boris Johnson for dinner at his country residence, Chequers. They insist the Prime Minister’s finances were not discussed.

January 2021:
At the start of January, the government announced Richard Sharp as the preferred candidate to be BBC Chairman.

‘Quagmire of sleaze’

According to The Sunday Times, Mr Sharp introduced multimillionaire Canadian businessman Sam Blyth, who had proposed to act as Mr Johnson’s guarantor for a credit facility, to Cabinet Secretary Simon Case.

The newspaper said Mr Johnson, Mr Sharp and Mr Blyth then had dinner at Chequers before the loan was finalised, though they denied the then PM’s finances were discussed.

Labour have questioned why the loan was never declared, saying the former prime minister’s financial affairs are “dragging the Conservative Party deeper into yet another quagmire of sleaze”.

The Cabinet Office statement said Mr Sharp was appointed “following a rigorous appointments process including assessment by a panel of experts”.

“There was additional pre-appointment scrutiny by a House of Commons Select Committee which confirmed Mr Sharp’s appointment. All the correct recruitment processes were followed,” the statement added.

Westminster Accounts: Chair of ethics watchdog says MPs should exercise more ‘due diligence’ over donations | Politics News

The chair of parliament’s ethics watchdog has said MPs should be forced to exercise more “due diligence” over donations, in response to Sky News’ Westminster Accounts project.

Sky News and Tortoise Media have launched a new database of MPs’ second jobs and donations – the first time they have all been collated in one place.

MPs have been accused of failing to provide “sufficient” transparency after our investigation struggled to uncover basic details about who is behind major donations.

Among the top donors to individual politicians are companies where little detail was provided in the MPs’ declarations about who they are, who is in charge and where they are based.

Search for your MP using the Westminster Accounts tool

Speaking to Sky’s deputy political editor Sam Coates, Lord Pickles said MPs should have to know and declare a named individual as the originator of a donation, even if the funds come from a company.

“It wouldn’t take very much to just to sort this out,” said Lord Pickles, who is the chair of the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments.

More on Westminster Accounts

The Westminster Accounts

“There is a degree of due diligence that members of Parliament are not required currently to do under the rules, but basically should be, which is pretty straightforward, which is ‘why is this organisation giving me money and do they expect anything in return’?”

Lord Pickles said it “wouldn’t be unreasonable to put together some guidelines for MPs to be able to answer some just very basic questions”.

“It doesn’t mean to say they have to do a line-by-line scrutiny of the company or employ expensive accountants to do so, but to be able to answer just one or two questions like who has given this money and who is the controlling thought behind that company and why they’re doing it.

“And just to simply say this money is to be used for this, there are no restrictions. Or this is to conduct research in a particular area. This isn’t actually going to put an enormous burden on members of parliament, and I think it will remove an awful lot of worry.”

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MPs lacking ‘sufficient’ transparency

Sky’s Westminster Accounts investigation has discovered that nobody had heard of a company donating hundreds of thousands to Labour MPs on a visit to its registered address, while the office of another company that donates to 24 Tory MPs was shut and apparently out of action.

Read More:
Westminster Accounts: 14 MPs given over £250,000 each in campaign donations since the last election
Rishi Sunak says ‘transparency really important’ as focus turns to MPs’ second jobs

When asked for comment, some of the MPs concerned were reluctant to discuss the details until after the stories were published.

Lord Pickles said there “isn’t enough transparency” and it “wouldn’t take a big effort” to improve this.

Praising the Westminster Accounts project he said: “I’ve loved what you’ve been doing.

“I’ve played around with the toolkit that you’ve provided. I would have thought from even the casual observer that you’ve not demonstrated or attempted to suggest there’s something sleazy about this.

“All you’ve suggested is that there should be a degree of transparency as to why the money is needed.”