Tim Yeo, chairman of the U.K. Parliament’s Energy Committee, denied he’d coached a witness who was preparing to give evidence at one of his own hearings, after undercover journalists recorded him saying he had.
Secret video shot by the Sunday Times showed Yeo, a Conservative lawmaker and former minister, offering his services to people claiming to be from a solar panel manufacturer. He said he would be able to introduce them to ministers and other contacts.
The video posted on the newspaper’s website showed Yeo telling the journalists that while he wouldn’t be able to speak publicly for them because of his position, he’d be able to give private advice. He described how that morning, his committee had heard from an employee of Groupe Eurotunnel SA, where he is a director. “I was able to tell him in advance what he should say,” Yeo said, before laughing.
In a statement today, Yeo said he was referring himself for investigation by the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner. “I want to make clear that I totally reject these allegations,” Yeo said. “The Sunday Times has chosen to quote very selectively from a recording obtained clandestinely during a conversation of nearly an hour and a half in a restaurant.”
He said it was “totally untrue” he had coached the witness, and that in fact he only “spoke briefly” to him “to explain that because of the business connection between us I would not take part in questioning him.”
Yeo is the latest lawmaker to be caught up in a lobbying sting by an undercover journalist. Another Tory, Patrick Mercer, has resigned from his party after offering his services to undercover reporters from the BBC and the Telegraph newspaper. The Labour Party has suspended two of its members in the upper House of Lords over a previous Sunday Times story.
Prime Minister David Cameron responded by pledging compulsory registration of political lobbyists.