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Sir Henry Bellingham breached Parliamentary conduct code over African mining firm role declaration

PUBLISHED: 12:30 31 October 2019 | UPDATED: 13:59 31 October 2019

North West Norfolk Conservative MP Sir Henry Bellingham Photo: UK Parliament

North West Norfolk Conservative MP Sir Henry Bellingham Photo: UK Parliament

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Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham must apologise to the House of Commons after he took too long to declare he was chairman of an African mining and construction company - breaching the Parliamentary code of conduct.

Kathryn Stone, Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards began an inquiry after a Times article about Sir Henry's chairmanship of Clifton Africa - and his failure to declare the £30,000 a year role on his register of interests.

Sir Henry, Conservative MP for North West Norfolk and a trade envoy to Libya, had become chairman of Clifton Africa on October 1 last year. But he did not register that interest until November 22 - beyond the 28 day limit within which MPs must declare interests.

Sir Henry also got the date of the start of his chairmanship wrong, saying it began on October 31. And on Companies House, he was listed as having started the Clifton Africa role 11 months earlier on January 1, 2008.

However, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards accepted Clifton Africa accountants had made a mistake in registering that before he had agreed to the role.

The commissioner said emails showed Sir Henry was open about his relationship with Clifton Africa when he asked British diplomats to ask them to arrange meetings with company representatives.

But he had breached the code of conduct in not registering his interest - along with that as an unpaid director of a subsidiary company - quickly enough.

He also breached the code in failing to register the receipt of 3,000 shares in Clifton Africa.

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The commissioner would have dealt with that by way of suitable changes to the registers - but Sir Henry took six months to do them all, which was deemed "far too long".

So, the issue ended up being referred to the Parliamentary Committee for Standards,

The committee said it did not consider Sir Henry's mistakes to "be at the most serious end of the spectrum" and "there is no suggestion that he has been deliberately trying to conceal any of his financial interests".

They acknowledged he had been unwell for part of the period in which he was meant to get changes made and that he had found it harder than expected to get the company's accountants to alter the Companies House registration.

Sir Henry said he "obviously should have kept a closer eye on the Companies House entries" and had apologised fulsomely and unreservedly to the committee.

He said: "Although I have always been incredibly conscientious over registering actual payments, this complaint stemmed from a delay in updating a Companies House entry to bring it into line with the register of members' interests.

"This took longer than I would have liked, although there were mitigating factors, not least because I was off sick for a period in the summer.

"However, I have apologised unreservedly for the delay and all my entries are now 100pc up to date.

"I am als0 pleased and relieved that both the commissioner and the committee concluded that this was at the lower end of the complaints spectrum."

The committee has ordered Sir Henry to apologise in writing to the House of Commons.

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