Parliamentary estates - analysing parliamentarians' financial interest in the property sector

What you need to know:

  • Almost 40% of UK parliamentarians (212 MPs and 321 Lords) had a registered interest in property
  • These parliamentarians registered 1,325 property interests in the UK, including at least 820 physical residential and commercial assets
  • 113 MPs (17%) identified as holding a total of 261 properties generating ‘significant’ rental income, defined by parliamentary rules as £10,000 or more annually
  • Using conservative estimates, the report calculates 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

This report, from Transparency International UK, produced with funding from Trust for London, looks at the extent to which property interests permeate Parliament. This comes at a time during which the UK is suffering a chronic housing crisis. Despite the size and severity of the issue, and its impact on the population, successive governments have failed to deliver effective solutions. Previous research found that between 2010 and 2020 property industry related contributions accounted for more than one in five pounds of Conservative party reportable donations, worth £60.8 million.

Key findings

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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