MPs three times more likely to own second home than public, research reveals

Widespread property-related interests in Parliament raise questions over desire to tackle housing crisis. MPs are three times more likely to own more than one residential property than the general public, new research from anti-corruption organisation Transparency International UK reveals.

Published today, Parliamentary Estates calls for greater transparency over parliamentarians’ financial interests plus greater scrutiny over conflicts of interest and how they may influence important issues facing Britain, such as the housing crisis.

Analysis of a snapshot of parliamentary disclosures from September 2021 shows at least 312 residential properties owned by 177 MPs (27 per cent of all MPs), in addition to the homes that they, or close family members, live in. These properties are likely to be worth substantially more than £31 million.

This contrasts sharply with the general population, with only nine per cent of households in England having reported they own at least one additional home.

Further analysis reveals 43 per cent of Conservative Lords and MPs had declared property interests (269 out of a total of 619). This compares to 42 per cent of Liberal Democrat parliamentarians (40 out of a total 96) and 23 per cent of Labour Lords and MPs (86 out of a total 366).

For all MPs and peers, these property-related financial relationships ranged from owning a flat and renting it out to holding shares in a property finance company.

The report highlights areas where the current rules do not go far enough to address potential conflicts of interests. It recommends a series of changes that would place tighter controls on parliamentarians’ second jobs, greater transparency over financial disclosures, and provide better training to ensure MPs and peers comply with the rules.

Daniel Bruce, Chief Executive of Transparency International UK, said:

“This research is further evidence of the disproportionate presence of property interests in our political system. With parliamentarians far more likely to own second homes than the general population, it’s reasonable to question how representative their experience is of the housing crisis and whether this has some bearing on the political appetite for change.

“Collecting such details of MPs’ and peers’ financial interests is extremely time-consuming and highlights the need for greater transparency. Understanding parliamentarians’ financial affairs should be possible with the click of a button, but the way this information is currently published is almost stuck in the Victorian era. Despite calls from the Commons Standards Committee and others to make these records more digitally accessible, there has been little progress to date.”

Key findings

  • Almost 40 per cent of UK parliamentarians (212 MPs and 321 Lords) had a registered interest in property. Together, these parliamentarians registered 1,325 property interests in the UK, including at least 820 physical residential and commercial assets.
  • We identified 113 MPs (17 per cent) holding a total of 261 properties generating ‘significant’ rental income, defined by parliamentary rules as £10,000 or more annually. Using conservative estimates, we calculate that these MPs were receiving a collective rental income of £2.6 million per year, although the number could be much higher in reality.
  • Forty-three MPs (7 per cent) have some form of interest in property companies or businesses, such as shareholdings or directorships, with 19 of these MPs directly employed by a property-related business. One MP worked as an advisor for a construction company, receiving £5,000 for 1.6 hours of advisory work.

Recommendations

Tighter controls on conduct to limit potential conflicts of interest, including a tougher ban on parliamentarians providing paid lobbying services, as recommended by the House of Commons Standards Committee.

More in-depth training for MPs and Lords to ensure they are aware of the rules on reporting financial interests. We found at least 60 instances in the last five years where parliamentarians had failed to report their financial interests on time or at all. At least ten of these breaches were in connection to interests in property held by MPs.

Greater transparency over financial interests, including measures to bring the way in which this data is published into the 21st century. This information is currently provided in individual PDF files and webpages, meaning historical analysis takes days and not seconds.

4 July 2022

Notes for Editors

About Transparency International UK

Transparency International UK is the UK’s leading independent anti-corruption organisation.

This report used a snapshot of parliamentary financial disclosures from September 2021 for its analysis. The statistics in the report reflects the total MPs and Lords at the time of the research and are subject to change due to by-elections and suspensions from parties.

We define ‘property interest’ as a direct or indirect interest in property. This could include the owning of land assets or working for, or owning, a property-related company. Parliamentarians are required to report these interests to the relevant authorities for publication. Lords in particular are required to report a description of any companies they have an interest in. If it is not self-evident, we have used these descriptions to help identify property related companies.

A 2018/19 English Housing Survey on second homes by the then Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government found that 2.4 million English households have at least one additional property that is either a holiday home or that they rent out in the private rental market. The same survey found that 772,000 households was equal to 3% of the total in England when the research was carried out. When comparing the rates of second residential property ownership between the public and MPs, we have extrapolated this 772,000 to determine that 2.4 million households is roughly equal to 9% of the total.

Parliamentary rules state that MPs must declare any land or property in the UK or elsewhere which provides a rental income of more than £10,000 per year.

Previous research by Transparency International UK revealed that between 2010 and 2020 property industry related contributions accounted for more than one in five pounds of the Conservative party’s reportable donations, worth £60.8 million.

Contact:

Harvey Gavin

harvey.gavin@transparency.org.uk

+44 (0)20 3096 7695
+44 (0)79 6456 0340 (out of hours)