Defence secretary Michael Portillo broke Parliamentary rules by failing to register a payment of between 3,000 and 5,000 from advertising agency McCann-Erickson.
The discovery will be embarrassing for the Government, which has introduced tighter guidelines for the disclosure of MPs’ interests in efforts to end allegations of sleaze.
Portillo spoke at a McCann-Erickson dinner in November 1995 attended by some of the agency’s senior staff and clients including AT&T, EMAP and Bacardi. According to sources, the money was either paid to Portillo’s constituency association or central Conservative funds, but not to him personally.
Under rules introduced as a result of the Nolan Committee inquiry into public life in November 1995, MPs must also register monies earned for their associations.
“When the member does the work but payment goes to the association then I would say it should be registered,” says Roger Willoughby, acting registrar for the House of Commons Standards Committee. “If a payment of some substance is made and the member asks for the money to be diverted that is still registerable.”
Portillo’s entry in the House of Commons register of MPs interests says “nil”. His special adviser Alison Broom says: “Mr Portillo believes he has declared everything that is declarable. And he is very scrupulous about such things.”