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U.K. Energy Committee Chairman Steps Aside Amid Lobbying Probe

Tim Yeo, chairman of the U.K. Parliament’s Energy Committee, said he’ll step aside from the role while an investigation looks at whether he broke rules governing the conduct of Members of Parliament.

Yeo on June 9 denied he’d coached a witness who was preparing to give evidence at one of Yeo’s own hearings, after undercover journalists recorded him saying he had. Secret video shot by the Sunday Times showed the 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.

In an e-mailed statement today, Yeo said he will tell the committee tomorrow morning that he wishes to “temporarily stand aside” from the chairmanship while the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards investigates.

“I firmly believe that I have not breached the MPs Code of Conduct in any respect and therefore await the outcome of the Commissioner’s investigation with confidence,” Yeo said. “In particular I absolutely and unreservedly deny the allegation that I coached a witness with whom I have a business connection before that person gave evidence to the committee.”

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.

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.

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