Tomorrow, amongst other tasks, I will be updating my 'Declaration of Interests'. In my case this is a pretty dull document from which you can glean where I live, where I work and that I own a load of shares in Barclay's Bank (I describe this as 'significant to me but insignificant to them'). Oh, and I'm a member of Cullingworth Conservative Club.
When I'm at a council meeting and one of these interests is touched on by the matters under discussion, I am obliged to declare that interest. And, if that interest is prejudicial I must withdraw from the meeting and take no part in any decision. This latter situation would cover significant pecuniary interests such as business dealings, ownerships and relationships. It applies to me and to those close to me. Failing to make a declaration is now an offence carrying criminal sanctions.
Which I guess brings me to Tim Yeo:
...it was then pointed out that a company of which he is chairman, TMO Renewables (which last year paid him £60,000, at up to £1,000 an hour), has just signed a memorandum of understanding with the largest farming corporation in China to supply it with feedstocks for biofuels. TMO’s latest annual report states that doing business with China has become a “key focus” of its activities.
Were Mr Yeo a local councillor there's a distinct possibility that the police would have arrived on his doorstep at 5am to arrest him for failing to make a declaration - indeed a declaration that may well be prejudicial.
Members of Parliament debated a law to apply to other elected people - local councillors - without at any point realising the double standard they were installing in law. Put pretty simply, were the Commons select committee on energy and climate change a local council committee, it is highly unlikely given his significant financial interests in its subject matter that Mr Yeo could be a member let alone chairman.
That a man who makes ten times his parliamentary salary from the business of renewable energy chairs a committee influencing government policy and decision-making in that area simply wouldn't happen were MPs subject to the same rules they applied to us local councillors.