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Labour urges investigation into ex-housing minister Shapps

by: Emma Lunn
  • 17/03/2015
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Labour urges investigation into ex-housing minister Shapps
Labour is calling for an investigation into allegations Conservative party chairman Grant Shapps used a pseudonym to work as an internet marketer after being elected as an MP.

Shapps (pictured) set up How To Corp in 2000 with his wife Belinda. The company was fronted by his alter-ego “multimillion-dollar web marketer” Michael Green.

Shapps, now Conservative party chairman, has repeatedly denied he had a second job and used another name while he was an MP – but The Guardian found evidence he had lied.

The newspaper discovered a recording from 2006 in which Shapps or “Green” boasted his products could make listeners a “ton of cash by Christmas”. Shapps was elected as an MP in May 2005.

Labour MP Lucy Powell has written to David Cameron demanding an investigation into whether Shapps broke the ministerial code.

The letter said: “Repeatedly misleading the public over the truth behind Mr Shapps’ business activity may be a breach of the ministerial code, which states: ‘Ministers should be as open as possible with Parliament and the public’.

It added: “This may also constitute a breach of MPs’ code of conduct, as he has not acted with “probity and integrity.

“Such serious allegations cannot be allowed to hang over a man who has serious and wide-ranging ministerial responsibilities and who will be running your election campaign and so it is essential that this matter is immediately investigated.”

The issue of Shapps’ alter-ego first came up in 2012 and he has spent nearly three years denying any wrongdoing.

Speaking to LBC’s Shelagh Fogarty on a radio show last month he said: “I thought the discussion here was second jobs whilst people are MPs. To be absolutely clear. I don’t have a second job. And I have never had a second job whilst being an MP. End of story.”

But on Monday he was forced to admit to the BBC he had “over-firmly denied” holding a second job and admitted he “screwed up” the dates in relation to How To Corp.

A Conservative party spokesman said: “This was properly declared at the time on the register of members interests. Like many authors and journalists, Grant wrote books with a pen name. This was completely transparent: his full name and biographical details were permanently published on the company’s main website. Given that this was a decade ago, and was mentioned during the cut and thrust of an interview, he referenced that his writing career had ended when he became an MP: in fact it ended shortly afterwards.”

It’s also come to light in that Shapps sought to sue a constituent over a post on Facebook revealing Shapps’ use of the name Michael Green.

Shapps is the Conservative MP for Welwyn Hatfield and co-chairman of the Conservative Party. Currently a minister without portfolio, he was housing Minister from May 2010 to September 2012.

MPs are allowed to have other sources of employment, but they do have to declare any paid employment outside Parliament.

Shapps and his wife Belinda launched How to Corp Ltd in 2000 and the business was incorporated in May 2005. Shapps transferred his shareholding to Belinda in 2008 and the company was reportedly dissolved in 2013.

Through its website, How To Corp sold a $297 (£187) software package called TrafficPaymaster which was an autoblogging programme that created instant cashflow by allegedly plagiarising information.

The company also charged aspiring internet marketers $297 (£201) for an hour of advice on the phone.

In September 2012 there were accusations that the company violated the Google code. Mortgage Solutions covered the story which explained how the program creates web pages by ‘spinning and scraping’ content from other sites, something which contravenes Google’s code.

 

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