Tory party co-chairman Oliver Dowden
David Cliff/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
  • Oliver Dowden became Tory party chairman in the cabinet reshuffle on September 15.
  • Senior Treasurer and Tory peer Howard Leigh treated him to £440 (around R8,896) of hospitality three days later.
  • Dowden declared the gift - and his new job - after more than 28 days, breaching Commons rules.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

Oliver Dowden, co-chairman of the UK Conservative Party, failed to properly declare a £440 (around R8,896) trip to the Henley Festival given to him by a Tory party treasurer.

Dowden received the gift days after taking the role of chairman in a wider government reshuffled, but did not declare it within the 28 days stipulated by Parliamentary rules.

Dowden, former secretary of state of digital, culture, media and sport, became party chairman in a cabinet reshuffle on September 15.

Three days later, he accepted two tickets with hospitality for the Henley Festival worth £220 (around R4,448) each, paid for by Lord Howard Leigh, who describes himself as the party's "Senior Treasurer". Party treasurers are responsible for fundraising.

As per the rules, Dowden ought to have declared his new job by October 13, and the trip to Henley by October 16. He did not declare these changes to his interests until October 19 and October 26 respectively.

Oliver Dowden's entry in the Register of Members' Financial Interests as of November 1
House of Commons

House of Commons rules require MPs to "register within 28 days any change in those registrable interests."

The Prime Minister's spokesperson previously insisted: "There are clear rules set out for MPs and he expects them to abide by them.

"All members of the government abide by the rules at all times.

"The Prime Minister expects and of course all ministers do abide by the rules of conduct as set out. That is only right and that's what the public would expect."

Downing Street declined to comment on Dowden's breach.

Leigh has never previously given any gifts to Dowden, and there is no rule against him giving them to Dowden.

The declarations came amid wider scrutiny of how the Conservative Party treats its most prolific donors.

An investigation by openDemocracy and The Sunday Times found that Tory party treasurers who donate £3 million (around R60 million) to the party are almost guaranteed peerages.

Leigh, who entered the House of Lords in 2013, has given a total of around £380,000 (R7,6 million) to the party and was not one of the treasurers mentioned in the openDemocracy and Sunday Times investigation.

Dowden is not the only minister to fail to register interests within the required time, despite Downing Street's insistence all ministers follow the rules at all times.

Mims Davies, a junior minister in the Department of Work and Pensions, was late in declaring a £699 (around R14,133)  ticket with hospitality to a cricket Test match.

Mims Davies' entry in Register of Members' Financial Interests
House of Commons

A spokesperson for Davies told Insider the late submission was due to an "admin error".

Tom Brake, director of the campaign group Unlock Democracy and a former Liberal Democrat MP, told Insider: "The rules on deadlines for reporting are there for a reason. Timely reporting is an essential part of any transparency regime.

"It means people have clarity as soon as is reasonably possible on benefits and hospitality MPs are receiving, and whether there is any possibility that these might be influencing their judgement."

Dowden and Conservative Campaign Headquarters did not respond to Insider's request for comment.

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