POLITICS

Tim Yeo, Tory MP, Filmed By Undercover Sunday Times Reporters Boasting Of Government Links

09/06/2013 12:20 BST | Updated 09/06/2013 12:25 BST

The chairman of a powerful Commons committee cancelled planned interviews on Sunday morning as he faced lobbying allegations.

Tim Yeo, who heads the Energy and Climate Change Committee, was filmed telling undercover journalists he was close to "really all the key players in the UK in government".

He apparently said he could not speak out publicly for the green energy firm they claimed to represent because "people will say he's saying this because of his commercial interest".

However, he reportedly assured them: "What I say to people in private is another matter altogether."

Yeo, the latest in a line of politicians caught up in lobbying stings, was not responding to phone calls or text messages this weekend.

He pulled out of broadcast interviews with Sky News and the BBC in which he had been expected to deny breaking parliamentary rules.

tim yeo

The Sunday Times footage (£) showed him seemingly suggesting that he had coached a paying client on how to influence the committee.

"I was able to tell him in advance what he should say," he said.

Yeo apparently excused himself from asking questions at the committee hearing because of the conflict of interest.

The reporters approached the MP posing as representatives of a solar energy company offering to hire him as a paid advocate to push for new laws to boost its business for a fee of £7,000 a day.

He told them he could commit to at least one day a month, despite the fact that he already held four private jobs and was in negotiations to take a further two.

Yeo said: "If you want to meet the right people, I can facilitate all those introductions and I can use the knowledge I get from what is quite an active network of connections."

Asked if that extended to government figures, Yeo replied: "Yes."

The House of Commons code of conduct forbids members from acting as paid advocates, including by lobbying ministers.

Responding to the allegations, the MP told the Sunday Times he denied offering to provide Parliamentary advice or advocacy, because that would be a breach of the code of conduct.

He also denied tutoring a client on what he should say to the select committee.

Yeo is said to have referred himself to the Commons standards commissioner for the allegations to be investigated.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles defended the press over the lobbying stings.

He told Sky News' Murnaghan programme: "If you become paranoid about the press, but they're just doing their job, that's all they're doing. If you're obeying the rules, you've got nothing much to fear."