Jacob Rees-Mogg has been placed under investigation by parliamentary standards commissioner Kathryn Stone following reports that the leader of the House of Commons failed to properly declare £6m in low-interest loans.
According to the commissioner’s website, updated this morning, the minister faces a sleaze probe over the “registration of an interest under category one of the guide to the rules” in relation to “employment and earnings”.
The commissioner does not detail specifics of the investigation, but the update followed a letter from Labour’s Angela Rayner to the government in which she said the failure of Rees-Mogg to declare director’s loans worth £2.9m a year allowed the minister to “borrow a large sum of money at a very low interest rate”.
The MPs’ code of conduct requires MPs to declare “taxable expenses, allowances and benefits”. Rees-Mogg had disclosed that he was an “unremunerated director” and shareholder of the firm but did not specify that he had taken out the loans.
Saliston Ltd, described previously as a “holding company” by Rees-Mogg, owns £8m in property assets and also holds a stake in asset management firm Somerset Capital Management LLP, which the Commons leader co-founded. Rees-Mogg paid just £48,945 interest to Saliston on £6m of loans over three years, a rate of 0.8%.
The news comes after Anneliese Dodds demanded on Tuesday that the government publish minutes of a meeting of Lord Bethell, Owen Paterson and Randox, which it has still not done despite parliament saying it should do so two weeks ago.
“They are still dragging their feet. They say that they cannot possibly make the minutes public for another two months. That seems like rather a long time in which to establish the facts,” Dodds told parliament.
“If those vital minutes simply do not exist, ministers should do the right thing and come clean about it here today, rather than pretending to spend the next two months looking for them. I offer the minister and indeed those sitting on his benches the chance to do that right now.
“I offer them the chance to intervene and let us know whether the minutes exist or not… No one is meeting my gaze, so it seems clear that we shall have to wait until the end of January to know what is happening about those minutes.”
Former Conservative MP Paterson resigned as a backbencher last month after he was found to have breached lobbying rules in favour of Randox, which paid him more than £100,000 a year, and which also secured contracts during the pandemic.
The government claims that the record of a meeting between the minister, the firm Randox and Paterson in April 2020 had been lost after the department failed for more than a year to respond to freedom of information requests.
During the debate on Tuesday, Matt Hancock interrupted Dodds to defend his own record over allegations that he, as the then Health Secretary, lobbied for a contract concerning medical supplies for a company with no experience owned by a pub landlord in his constituency at the height of the pandemic last year.
Alex Bourne made vials for testing through his firm Hinpack, which had no history of medical goods. The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) recently confirmed it is investigating the company over the £30m contract.
Hancock described the story as “a load of rubbish” and claimed that the allegation was a “fabrication” by the Labour Party, arguing: “The gentleman in question never got or applied for a contract from the government or the NHS at all.”
Hinpack did not win any contracts but was subcontracted by another company, Alpha Laboratories, which did. The contract between the government and Alpha Laboratories stipulated manufacturing of the goods had to be done by Hinpack.
Today Matt Hancock tried to lecture the House about ‘facts’.
Here's a fact for him: not one Tory MP could answer my question about whether the minutes of a meeting between Lord Bethell and Owen Paterson's Randox to discuss a multi-million pound Covid contract actually exist. pic.twitter.com/bkSCSBJjNd
— Anneliese Dodds 💙 (@AnnelieseDodds) November 30, 2021