Liz Truss is embroiled in fresh controversy after a leaked email left her facing questions over why she did not declare thousands of pounds spent on schmoozing Tory MPs in the run up to her bid to succeed Boris Johnson.
Around a dozen Conservative MPs attended a so-called “Fizz with Liz” champagne dinner hosted by the foreign secretary at Mayfair members club 5 Hertford St last year.
The event was paid for by club owner, multimillionaire aristocrat Robin Birley.
When The Independent asked why Ms Truss has not declared the function – worth an estimated £3,000 – in the Commons register, where MPs are obliged to disclose hospitality worth more than £300, her spokesperson denied she had organised it.
It had “nothing to do with her,” they said. Ms Truss was merely one of a number of Conservative MP guests invited by “organiser and host” Mr Birley, the spokesperson said.
However, this account is disputed by other MPs present who told The Independent that she was the host and not Mr Birley, who “turned up briefly to say hello”.
Moreover, they said they were invited by Ms Truss. Their version of events appears to be borne out by a copy of the invitation obtained by this newspaper.
Sent from her Commons email address, it said: “Liz Truss MP is delighted to invite you to attend a dinner at 5 Hertford Street on 26 October at 7.30pm. Most grateful if you could confirm attendance by 10 October. Best wishes, Office of Liz Truss.”
A source close to Boris Johnson told The Independent that he was informed that at the time that Ms Truss had met a group of Tory MPs at 5 Hertford St in October last year and that she appeared to be “on manoeuvres”.
Former cabinet minister David Davis, who is supporting Mr Sunak, said: “We have just lost one prime minister after he broke the rules and couldn’t bring himself to tell the whole truth to the House of Commons. It would be a tragedy if a would-be prime minister did the same before they even got into Downing Street.”
Parliament’s code of conduct says MPs must declare in the Commons register of financial interests any gifts, benefits or hospitality with a value over £300.
This includes “‘any benefits which relate in any way to their membership of the House or political activities… hospitality, including receptions and meals”.
In addition, donations worth more than £1,500 must be declared to the Electoral Commission watchdog.
Declarations to the Commons register and the Electoral Commission must be made within a month.
The “Fizz With Liz” row comes hours after Ms Truss was forced to scrap plans to save up to £11bn per year from civil service pay reforms after claims that it would mean cutting the wages of nurses and teachers.
She said there had been “wilful misrepresentation” of her initiative but critics said she should “stop blaming others” for the muddle.
The 5 Hertford St club is popular with wealthy Tory donors and Brexit backers, showbusiness celebrities and royals.
It is not the first time Ms Truss’s links to the club, where membership costs £2,850 a year, have attracted attention.
She clashed with Foreign Office after insisting on hosting an official £3,000 lunch there last year for a US trade envoy. She spent hundreds of pounds on wine and gin alone, according to a Sunday Times report in January.