A recent investigation by The Guardian has revealed that several Members of Parliament (MPs) in the UK own stakes in publicly listed companies, raising concerns about potential conflicts of interest. Parliamentary rules currently allow MPs to hold shareholdings without publicly disclosing them in parliamentary registers. This lack of transparency leaves voters unaware of their elected representatives’ financial interests. The MPs hold shares in banks, housebuilders, defense companies, energy suppliers, and supermarkets, all of which could be affected by legislation or policies introduced by Parliament. While most of these holdings are not required to be publicly declared, transparency campaigners argue that the findings raise significant questions about vested interests in democracy and call for a review of the rules. The investigation also identified instances where MPs failed to declare their shares while meeting lobbyists or voting on issues that could impact their undisclosed holdings. The report highlights the need for greater transparency, accessibility to shareholder registers, and stricter disclosure requirements for MPs’ financial interests.
This situation of potential conflicts of interest does not only affect the UK, but seems to afflict all Western democracies. Recently, the “Qatargate” scandal that shook the European Parliament brought to light how conflicts of interest and corrupt activities are intimately connected in the political world. For comments see the program "How far-reaching is the European Parliament corruption scandal?" at the following link: https://www.corporatecrime.co.uk/post/eu-corruption-scandal-trt
In response to the scandal, a 14-point reform plan was proposed, including the establishment of a new body to create common ethics standards for EU institutions. However, many critics argue that the proposed measures are insufficient, highlighting the lack of appetite for change.
Recent research activities have emphasized the need to introduce legislative changes aimed at preventing and combating complex corrupt activities such as asymmetric and unreciprocated exchanges of favors, which despite being an extremely widespread phenomenon and causing marked social alarm are not adequately criminalized in the anti-corruption laws.
On that matter see the recently published article titled "Beyond Bribery: Exploring the Intimate Interconnections between Corruption and Tax Crimes" authored by Prof. Diane Ring and Dr. Costantino Grasso within the Special Issue "Tax Evasion, Corruption and the Distortion of Justice", which demonstrate how the interconnections between corruption and tax buses highlight how the current legal definitions of corruption and tax crime can be insufficient to capture the most severe cases of corrupt activities and tax abuses. For a synopsis of the article see: www.corporatecrime.co.uk/post/beyond-bribery-overview
THE GUARDIAN INVESTIGATION:
Henry Dyer, "Revealed: shares held ‘in secret’ by scores of MPs raise questions about vested interests," The Guardian, July 9, 2023: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/jul/09/revealed-shares-held-in-secret-by-scores-of-mps-raise-questions-about-vested-interests