Investigation: Secretary of State for Culture Jeremy Hunt failed to declare £7,000 of donationsJeremy Hunt is facing the prospect of a new sleaze probe after it emerged that he failed to declare more than £7,000 in donations from companies in sectors for which he has ministerial responsibility.
The Culture Secretary attended at least three networking events shortly before the 2010 election which were paid for by firms in the creative industries, including advertising giant M&C Saatchi.
But he broke House of Commons rules by failing to declare the donations in the Register of Members Interests.
Mr Hunt is also facing fresh questions about the nature of his relationship with the Murdoch empire, amid claims that he also failed to declare a donation from broadcaster BSkyB.
Labour MP Steve McCabe has demanded an investigation by John Lyon, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards amid claims that there is a potential conflict of interest.
Mr Hunt is already under fire after it emerged that his special adviser passed secret information to the Murdochs on their bid to takeover BSkyB while he was responsible for ruling on the bid.
Ed Vaizey, Mr Hunt’s deputy, stated in his entry in the register of interests that they both attended eight separate events sponsored by private companies between July 2009 and March 2010 – a total of more than £27,000 in donations.
At the time they were both shadow culture spokesman and have both served as culture ministers since the general election in May 2010.
Mr Vaizey stated each of these donations was for a ‘networking event to enable the Conservative frontbench team (Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt) to meet sector leaders from the arts and creative industries’.
Mr Vaizey declared that Mr Hunt was present all eight events, including one hosted by BSkyB on 7 October 2009, which cost £3,800.
The Culture Secretary is now planning to amend his entry in the Register of Interests to show that he took £1,435 from London media hangout the Groucho Club, based in Dean Street, London
Conflicting reports: Minister for Culture Ed Vaizey, left, stated that he attended eight separate events with Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt, right, between July 2009 and March 2010 in the register of interests
The Culture Secretary is now planning to amend his entry in the Register of Interests to show that he took a donation worth £1,473.81 from advertising agency DDB UK in September 2009, another worth £1,435 from London media hangout the Groucho Club and a third in July that year from M&C Saatchi, the advertising firm set up by Tory donor and Conservative peer Lord Saatchi. That event cost £4,563.50 – a total of £7472.31.
The five meetings he claims not to have attended were sponsored by magazine publisher Conde Nast, the Creative Coalition, Bonhams auctioneers, the British Fashion Council and the Digital Radio Development Bureau.
Mr Vaizey will also alter the wording of his entry, though it was not clear why he claimed Mr Hunt had attended meetings which he now says he did not.
A spokesman for Ed Vaizey said: ‘A joint declaration should only be made when both parties attended the event. We will write to the registrar to correct the record appropriately.’
A source close to Mr Hunt said: ‘He didn’t go to the BSkyB event. There has been some miscommunication. He is now going to declare the three meetings.’
The Parliamentary Code of Conduct states that ‘it is the responsibility of Members to notify changes in their registrable interests within four weeks of each change occurring’.
Jeremy Hunt's Special Adviser Adam Smith, left, resigned over his close links with Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation
He has repeatedly claimed that he has been transparent in his dealings with private companies.
But Labour demanded that the Parliamentary sleaze watchdog investigate the details of the case.
MP Steve McCabe has written to John Lyon, the Commissioner for Standards.
He says: ‘I would be grateful if you could investigate whether Mr Hunt made a false or misleading registration of his financial interests, and whether a breach of the Parliamentary rules has occurred.
‘Mr Hunt has spoken frequently in the House on matters of interest to the various organisations from the arts and creative industries from which he and Mr Vaizey received these donations, and yet he has never declared them in the Register.’
Mr McCabe told the Mail: ‘No one would be asking these questions if Ed Vaizey hadn’t made that declaration himself. These are areas where there is a potential conflict of interest.
‘Since there is clearly confusion in their own minds about who went to which events, this is just the sort of thing where the Commissioner should seek to establish the facts.’
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