Former Environment Secretary Theresa Villiers Fails to Declare £70,000 in Shell Shares
Posted 11/08/2023 11:25
Theresa Villiers, a former Conservative minister who served as environment secretary in Boris Johnson's cabinet from July 2019 to February 2020, has come under scrutiny for failing to disclose her ownership of Shell shares valued at over £70,000 while holding her position.
In her most recent update to the register of members' financial interests, Villiers admitted her shareholding in the oil and gas giant. The entry under "other shareholdings, valued at more than £70,000, reads: "From 23 February 2018, Shell PLC; energy. (Registered 17 July 2023)."
The omission of these shares from her list of ministerial interests in November 2019 has raised questions about transparency and compliance with disclosure requirements for Members of Parliament.
In addition to the Shell shares, Villiers' updated declaration includes newly disclosed shares exceeding the threshold for reporting in Diageo, starting from February 23, 2018, and Experian PLC, commencing from July 29, 2019.
A spokesperson for Villiers expressed regret over the oversight and extended sincere apologies, emphasizing that the shares are part of a professionally managed investment portfolio. The spokesperson clarified that Villiers had not actively made investment decisions regarding this portfolio and did not anticipate any single shareholding reaching the declaration threshold. An inherited legacy in 2018 led to the inadvertent breach of the reporting threshold.
Once the situation was recognized, Villiers promptly notified the Registrar of Members' Interests and the Standards Commissioner, demonstrating her commitment to rectifying the oversight.
The spokesperson further clarified that Villiers had fulfilled ministerial code requirements. Upon her appointment as environment secretary, she disclosed her share portfolio to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and offered to place it in a blind trust. However, the prime minister's ethics adviser deemed this step unnecessary as the portfolio was professionally managed and Villiers did not actively engage in investment decisions. Thus, the spokesperson emphasized that Villiers had met the standards outlined in the ministerial code, asserting that her actions and decisions as DEFRA Secretary remained uninfluenced by her shareholdings.
Villiers has taken full responsibility for the oversight, acknowledging the importance of tracking changes in her investment portfolio and ensuring that such incidents do not recur.