Tory MP Andrew Bridgen Set To Be Suspended From Parliament For Five Days Over Paid Lobbying
The Commons standards committee has recommended that Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen be suspended for five sitting days over his “careless and cavalier attitude" towards rules on lobbying.
The damning report found that Bridgen had failed to declare his relevant interests in the companies Mere Plantations “during eight emails to ministers and in five meetings with ministers or public officials”, despite having "received registrable financial benefits" from the company.
"Mr Bridgen has breached the rules of the House on registration, declaration and paid lobbying on multiple occasions and in multiple ways," the report found.
"Each of these breaches could have led us to recommend a suspension from the service of the House.
"Mr Bridgen has demonstrated a very cavalier attitude to the House’s rules on registration and declaration of interests, including repeatedly saying that he did not check his own entry in the register."
According to the report, Bridgen was approached by a constituent acting on behalf of Mere Plantations, which provides reforestation services.
The company paid for a trip for Bridgen to Ghana, and gave a £5,000 donation to his local Conservative Party association.
He also accepted an offer to act as an adviser for the company with a salary of £12,000 a year, but the role was later updated in the register as an unpaid position.
The committee found that Bridgen breached paragraph 14 of the Code of Conduct by failing to correctly register his interests in Mere Plantations, holding meetings with ministers on their behalf, and failing to declare his interests in emails to ministers and officials.
According to the report, Bridgen "accepts that his register entry was inaccurate" and insists it is "self-evident that he had not in fact accepted payment" from the company for the adviser role.
He argued that "his interests did not meet the test of relevance and did not therefore need to be declared", and that his approaches by the company were not relevant as they constituted constituency work.
But the commissioner said his handling of the status of his adviser role with the company constituted "a mishandling of the conflict of interest of which he was aware".
They also said his failure to declare his interests in multiple emails to ministers and officials was "a significant litany of errors".
"The fact that Mr Bridgen had received a donation and a funded visit from Mere Plantations, and had a contract to be an adviser, was clearly relevant to his approaches on their behalf. He should have drawn those interests to Ministers’ and officials’ attention," the report read.
Bridgen was also criticised for making "wholly unsubstantiated and false allegations" against the standards commissioner Kathryn Stone OBE by claiming she was set to be offered a peerage by Boris Johnson.
In an email to the committee on 8 September 2022, he said he was "distressed to hear on a number of occasions an unsubstantiated rumour" that Stone was in line for a peerage, and asked them to provide "reassurance" that the rumours were untrue.
The committee said the email "appears to be an attempt to place wholly inappropriate pressure on the Commissioner" and called it "completely unacceptable behaviour".
It has been recommended that he be suspended from the House for five days. MPs will be given a chance to vote on the findings before confirming his suspension.
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