Sir Keir Starmer has claimed to be the politician that will hold up to the values of honesty and integrity, yet when it comes to putting words into action the Labour leader seems to fail on the very basics.
Sir Keir Starmer has been found to have breached the MPs’ code of conduct by failing to register eight separate interests on time, including gifts from football teams, the sale of a plot of land, and a five-figure book advance.
Although the Labour leader has apologised to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone for what the party said was an “inadvertent error”. It doesn’t look good or efficient when a politician that has now staked his reputation on honesty and integrity can’t carry out the basics.
There is a very good reason we have the register of interest, it is there to give some accountability and oversight.
The main purpose of the Register is to provide information about any financial interest which a Member has, or any benefit which he or she receives, which others might reasonably consider to influence his or her actions or words as a Member of Parliament. The register documents interests which may potentially unethically or unlawfully influence members’ official duties.
Climing these are just minor breaches really does not hold water.
The register of interest is there to give some accountability and oversight. The rules require MPs to document benefit which he or she receives, it's the basics.— Labour Heartlands (@Labourheartland) August 5, 2022
The register documents interests which may potentially unethically or unlawfully influence members’ official duties. pic.twitter.com/3nlP8IlcrV
Nothing going on here governor!
The Labour leader previously said he was “absolutely confident” he had not broken the MPs’ code of conduct.
However, irrespective of Starmer’s confidence the inquiry found he had not only broken the rules in declaring earnings, gifts, benefits and hospitality but went on to find five more breaches had been made.
The decision will come as a significant blow to the former director of public prosecutions, who has frequently sought to position himself as the opposite of a Tory Party mired in scandal under outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson.
An inquiry was opened into the Labour leader in June relating to claims about late declaration of earnings and gifts, benefits or hospitality from UK sources, prompting Sir Keir to insist at the time that he was “absolutely confident” he had not broken the code, saying: “There’s no problem here”.
The commissioner has now found that he failed to register eight interests – five more than alleged in the original complaint.
In the original complaint made to the commissioner, it was alleged that between March 6, 2022 and May 13 2022, Sir Keir had failed, on three occasions to register income and hospitality that he had accepted, within the 28-day deadline set by the House.
The watchdog undertook a review of Sir Keir Starmer’s register entry over the last 12 months and noted four additional late entries.
During the investigation, the Labour leader also informed Ms Stone he was in the process of selling a plot of land for a sum that exceeded the £100,000 threshold for registration set by the House.
Its the basics
The commissioner wrote in her report: “Sir Keir said he had been communicating with the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests on this matter, and, having had the land valued in January 2022, and put the land on the market in March 2022, he was waiting for the sale to complete so that he could register the correct value.
Starmer stated: “I decided to include this matter as part of my inquiry.”
Of course, it should not be part of an inquiry it should have just been registered correctly.
Ms Stone found Sir Keir Starmer had failed to register the eight interests outlined above, including the plot of land, and “had breached paragraph 14 of the House of Commons’ Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament”.
Ms Stone noted that the “breaches were minor and/or inadvertent and that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead”.
The watchdog has therefore decided that the inquiry can be concluded by way of the “rectification” procedure, which entails publishing the details and an apology on the Commons website, without requiring a referral to the Committee on Standards, which happens in more serious cases.
“I decided therefore, the inquiry could be concluded by way of the rectification 35 procedure available to me under Standing Order No. 150.”
In a letter to the commissioner dated June 21, Starmer reiterated the late declarations were “a result of an administrative error within my office”, adding: “I take full responsibility for my register, and I apologise.”
Following the verdict on Thursday, a Labour Party spokesperson said that Sir Keir takes his responsibilities to the register of interests “very seriously and has apologised to the commissioner for this inadvertent error”.
“My office and I have carried out a review of the process to ensure that this does not happen again”, he noted.
“He has assured the commissioner that his office processes have been reviewed to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” they added.