Sir Keir Starmer has been found to have breached the MPs’ code of conduct by failing to register eight separate interests on time, including gifts from football teams, the sale of a plot of land, and a five-figure book advance.
The Labour leader has apologised to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone for what the party said was an “inadvertent error”.
Ms Stone opened an inquiry into the Labour leader in June relating to claims about late declaration of earnings and gifts, benefits or hospitality from UK sources, prompting Sir Keir to insist at the time that he was “absolutely confident” he had not broken the code, saying: “There’s no problem here”.
But the commissioner has now found that he failed to register eight interests – five more than alleged in the original complaint.
However, Ms Stone noted that the “breaches were minor and/or inadvertent, and that there was no deliberate attempt to mislead”.
The watchdog has therefore decided that the inquiry can be concluded by way of the “rectification” procedure, which entails publishing the details and an apology on the Commons website, without requiring a referral to the Committee on Standards, which happens in more serious cases.
Nevertheless, the decision will come as a significant blow to the former director of public prosecutions, who has frequently sought to position himself as the antithesis of a Tory Party mired in scandal under outgoing prime minister Boris Johnson.
In 2019, Mr Johnson was reprimanded by the standards committee for “an over-casual attitude towards obeying the rules of the House”, after he was found to have breached the rules by failing to declare within the time limit a 20 per cent share of the ownership of a property in Somerset.
Four months earlier he had apologised to the House after an earlier report by Ms Stone found he was late registering financial interests on four previous occasions involving nine separate payments.
Following the verdict on Thursday, a Labour Party spokesperson said that Sir Keir takes his responsibilities to the register of interests “very seriously and has apologised to the commissioner for this inadvertent error”.
“He has assured the commissioner that his office processes have been reviewed to ensure this doesn’t happen again,” they added.
The complaint was made to the commissioner earlier this year, as Sir Keir faced a police probe into whether he broke lockdown rules in Durham – of which he was ultimately cleared – and as continued Partygate revelations eventually forced a damaging vote of confidence in Mr Johnson’s premiership.
In the complaint, it was alleged that Sir Keir had failed on three occasions between 6 March and 13 May to register income and hospitality that he had accepted, within the 28-day deadline.
The watchdog undertook a review of Sir Keir’s register entry over the last 12 months and noted four additional late entries. During the investigation, Sir Keir also informed Ms Stone he was in the process of selling a plot of land for a sum that exceeded the £100,000 threshold for registration.
The commissioner decided to include the matter in her inquiry, but noted in her report that “Sir Keir said he had been communicating with the Registrar of Members’ Financial Interests on this matter, and, having had the land valued in January 2022, and put the land on the market in March 2022, he was waiting for the sale to complete so that he could register the correct value”.
Among the seven other breaches were an £18,450 advance the Labour leader received from publisher HarperCollins in April for a book in which he is expected to set out his vision for Britain.
The sum, which he has pledged to donate to charitable causes, was declared a day late, while royalties for two legal books published before the lawyer became an MP were also delayed.
Sir Keir also took 31 days to register having received a directors’ box for two people at Crystal Palace worth £720, when they beat his club Arsenal 3-0 on 4 April.
He also received four tickets for Watford vs Arsenal, worth a total of £1,416, for their match on 6 March. This gift was registered on 6 May.
Just Eat also gave tickets to staff for the Taste of London festival and the British Kebab awards. The donations from the company exceeded the £300 limit for registration on 29 October but were not declared until 23 December.
In a letter to the commissioner dated 21 June, Sir Keir wrote that the late declarations were “a result of an administrative error within my office”, adding: “I take full responsibility for my register, and I apologise.”
“My office and I have carried out a review of the process to ensure that this does not happen again”, he wrote.
Additional reporting by PA