ANNA MIKHAILOVA: Own goal! Rule of law champion Sir Bob Neill MP breaches Commons rules by failing to declare financial interest while lobbying for football stadiums
No politician has emerged from relative obscurity to champion the rule of law more than barrister MP Sir Bob Neill who, as Remainer-in-chief, has noisily led the charge against the Government’s Brexit Bill.
However, he’s been noticeably less forthcoming while under investigation by Parliament’s watchdog over some rather whiffy advocacy.
I can reveal the Tory knight has been found to have breached Commons rules by the Standards Commissioner for failing to declare a financial interest while lobbying for multi-million-pound planning applications in his constituency.
No politician has emerged from relative obscurity to champion the rule of law more than barrister MP Sir Bob Neill, pictured
As well as trousering an extra salary for chairing the Commons Justice Select Committee, Sir Bob is also on the payroll of the Substantia Group, a one-stop shop for developers.
The firm is run by Terry Pullen – boss of Essex nightclub the Sugar Hut – better known as the club of choice in TV’s The Only Way Is Essex.
Since 2016, Pullen has paid Sir Bob, 68, £50,000 for ‘strategic consultancy advice’.
The MP for Bromley and Chislehurst wrote glowing letters of support on Commons notepaper to London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Bromley Council for planning applications from Substantia clients without declaring his paid role.
These included a luxury hotel and football stadium for Cray Wanderers FC, which got the green light last summer despite concerns about Sir Bob’s links to Substantia raised by blogger Dr Alex May.
On top of a monthly stipend from Substantia, Sir Bob received a £10,000 bonus after Khan dropped his opposition to the stadium and its £2.5 million sale went through.
The MP wrote glowing letters of support on Commons notepaper for planning applications from Substantia clients without declaring his paid role, including a football stadium for Cray Wanderers FC, pictured
He declared this in the Register of Interests as a fee for ‘additional strategic and corporate advice’.
Last night the former Planning Minister said he has formally apologised for breaking the Code of Conduct.
No doubt he’ll now consider which housing charity to donate his £10,000 bonus to.
Firebrand Momentum MP Zarah Sultana raised eyebrows by using her maiden Commons speech to denounce the past ‘40 years of Thatcherism’ – in which she included 13 years of Blair and Brown.
Of the 140 MPs first elected in December, the 26-year-old was the only one to rip up the convention for maiden speeches to be ‘uncontroversial’ – and to throw some innovative expenses claims in the mix.
Rather than accept available help from Commons staff, Sultana hired a private consultancy firm for ‘editing’ videos of her speech and claimed back the cost on parliamentary expenses. One to watch.
Brand Rishi was in full flow last week – leaving tough-guy Defence Minister Johnny Mercer feeling a little battered. In a WhatsApp group, Mercer grumbled about Chancellor Sunak’s jobs scheme announcement: ‘Is it possible to have these graphics with the Conservative logo on, instead of Rishi’s signature? Clearly he is doing a good job, but we are all in this together.’
Once a den of bohemian bad behaviour, London’s Soho has cleaned up its act – symbolised by the area now being newly-favoured by Downing Street advisers.
They can be found letting off steam over negronis in Frith Street’s many watering holes – thus conveniently avoiding the spies Dominic Cummings has installed in Westminster restaurants.
Peston’s a flop as Nilsen’s twin
ITV murdered its rivals by grabbing ten million viewers for its drama about serial-killer civil servant Dennis Nilsen.
Robert Peston, pictured left, and David Tennant’s Dennis Nilsen, pictured right
Meanwhile, the broadcaster’s ‘slayer of politicians’, Robert Peston, tells me the portrayal of shaggy-haired Nilsen by David Tennant made him rush to the barber to get his floppy locks tamed and hankering for a makeover.
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