The Sunday Express recently reported that I have broken one of the rules of the House of Commons. These things have a way of getting out of proportion, so I wanted to be very clear with everyone about what has happened.
All MPs have to register any outside interests, including shares they own in private companies.
Last year I failed to register my shareholding in a company called the Scottish Comedy Agency Limited. It wasn’t intentional - indeed, I thought I had included it in my registered interests. I certainly haven’t been quiet about my involvement in the company which I helped set up 12 years ago - its biggest activity is the Glasgow International Comedy Festival.
As soon as I found out my mistake I immediately contacted the registrar and registered my interests in the company and it’s now a matter of public record here. I also wrote to the Commissioner for Parliamentary Standards apologising for the mistake and referring myself to her for investigation. She will decide if any further action needs to be taken.
I would stress that as soon as I was elected as an MP I stood down from my work for the SCA and the Stand Comedy Clubs and I have not received any fees or salary from either company. I also was not trying to hide anything. After all, my background in live comedy is fairly widely known – indeed, often commented upon in the press.
I am a member of the Standards Committee which oversees the rules. I have discussed my mistake with the Chair of that Committee and agreed with him that I will step aside until the Commissioner reports on the matter.
This is a breach of the rules which I take very seriously but there was no intention to deceive anyone. I think we need to distinguish between genuine mistakes and major conflicts of interest which may arise if MPs have other interests, particularly financial interests, outside of parliament.