Northern Ireland

Theresa Villiers failed to declare over £70,000 shares in Shell while environment secretary

Theresa Villiers. Picture by Ann McManus
Theresa Villiers. Picture by Ann McManus Theresa Villiers. Picture by Ann McManus

FORMER secretary of state Theresa Villiers has been criticised after failing to declare she had over £70,000 in shares with Shell while serving as environment secretary.

Last month, Ms Villiers declared her interest with the oil and gas company in an update to the register of members’ financial interests.

For shareholdings value at over £70,000, she wrote: “From February 23, 2018, Shell PLC; energy”.

Shortly after this, she was serving as Boris Johnson’s environment secretary, from July 2019 to February 2020.

This has raised questions as MPs are supposed to declare their interests within 28 days.

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It’s reported that this was not included in a list of ministers’ interests in November 2019.

Ms Villier’s update of interests last month has also declared for the first time other shares above the £70,000 threshold in the drinks company Diageo from February 2018 and Experian PLC from July 2019.

Responding, a spokesperson for Ms Villiers told the Daily Mirror she did not realise the extent of her investments.

“Ms Villiers deeply regrets her failure to monitor the value of shareholdings and has offered her sincere apologies,” she said.

"These shares are part of portfolio which is professionally managed for Ms Villiers and for which she has never taken day-to-day investment decisions.

"It did not occur to her that any single shareholding would reach the threshold for declaration, but a legacy received in 2018 caused that to happen.”

They added that as soon as Ms Villiers realised this, she alerted the registrar of members’ interests and the standards commissioner, and that she “takes full responsibility for the mistake”.

"She accepts that it should never have happened, and that she should have kept track of the additions to her investment portfolio. She is taking steps to ensure that this never happens again."

The Conservative MP for Chipping Barnet, Ms Villiers had served as Northern Ireland Secretary between 2012-16.

As a leading Brexiteer, she came under repeated scrutiny over her claim that Brexit would not cause any issues with the Irish border.

Seven years later, the continued absence of Stormont has suggests otherwise as disagreement on how to manage trade through both the Northern Ireland Protocol and most recently the Windsor Framework has left Northern Ireland in a state of political drift.