Geoffrey Cox forced to apologise after failing to declare £400,000 | UK | News (Reports)


Boris Johnson’s former Attorney General said he will vote against the Government’s attempts to override the Brexit withdrawal agreement when it comes before Parliament tonight. In an intervention that will heighten unease among Conservative MPs, Mr Cox accused the Prime Minister of doing “unconscionable” damage to Britain’s international reputation. The Internal Market Bill would go against the agreement signed by the UK and European Union.

However, policing minister Kit Malthouse called it a “practical” step and echoed comments made by Justice Secretary Robert Buckland on Sunday, who said the bill was an “insurance policy”.

Mr Cox backed Brexit and was the Government’s top legal adviser when the withdrawal agreement was drawn up.

He was replaced by fellow Brexiteer Suella Braverman in February after the Prime Minister asked him to resign.

Mr Cox attracted particular criticism in 2016 – when he failed to declare more than £400,000 of outside earnings and the Parliament’s Standards Committee decided not to formally punish him for the breach.

The Standards Committee found that Mr Cox had committed a “serious” breach of rules.

However, it accepted he had not “intended to hide” the payments for hundreds of hours of legal work.

The Torridge and West Devon MP referred himself to the Parliamentary Commissioner and stepped down as a member of Parliament’s sleaze watchdog after it emerged he had repeatedly missed the 28-day deadline.

Sir Alistair Graham, the ex-chairman of the Committee, told the Telegraph there should have been a complete reform of the system.

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He said: “It seems they look after their own given this is such a minor ticking off.

“You would have thought he would have known the rules given that he sat on the committee.

“This highlights the case that the system by which MPs are held accountable needs reform.

“The best way of doing this is to get lay members of the public to be in control of the committee and represent the public interest.”

The cross-party committee said: “We accept that Mr Cox had no intention to hide these payments and that he has not breached the requirements of the House for declaration of relevant interests.

“Nevertheless, as the commissioner notes, the number of payments and the sums involved in the late registration are significant and Mr Cox was in a position which should have ensured that he was more familiar with the rules and the relevant principles of public life in this area than other Members might be.”

Earlier in 2015, it emerged that Mr Cox declared earnings of £820,000 from outside work and second jobs — 12 times the annual MP wage.

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According to the register of members’ financial interests, Mr Cox received £325,000 on June 15 and 16, 2016, for 500 hours of work carried out between June 2014 and March 2015.

Under Commons rules external income needs to be registered within 28 days, but the sum was not declared to the authorities until September 30.

Mr Cox said he had always intended to declare the income but recognised he had breached rules.

He said part of the reason he had not noticed the problem earlier was because he spent the summer recess launching “an entirely new international law chambers based in Mauritius and Dubai”.

He said: “I failed to give this matter the due thought and priority it required and, for that reason, it is difficult to isolate the exact point at which I became aware that my entry was incomplete.

“When the House rose for the summer, I was conscious, generally, of the matter as one I needed to get down to checking but my intense schedule at the time, which included the final planning and launch during recess of an entirely new international law chambers based in Mauritius and Dubai, meant that it was not until reviewing my records between September 20 and September 28 that, to my dismay, I became fully aware of the scale of my oversight. I fully acknowledge that this was not acceptable and I have taken all necessary steps to ensure that it does not happen again.”

Mr Cox said his head clerk was with him for 29 years, and “had full access to, and oversight of, the details of my professional practice including my personal bank accounts”.

He added: “He acted in many respects as my personal confidential secretary, including managing many of my financial affairs, even meeting the bank manager on my behalf, and he would draw the receipt of payments to my attention on an ad hoc basis, acting as my prompt for registration.

“He was also in direct and frequent contact with my parliamentary office as manager of my diary.”


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