Villiers cleared over lobbying claim

Theresa Villiers with David CameronNo 10 has said David Cameron has confidence in Theresa Villiers

Northern Ireland Secretary Theresa Villiers did not breach the ministerial code over a meeting with a lobbyist, an internal No 10 report has found.

She had faced allegations that, as a transport minister, she failed to declare a meeting with a representative of a firm seeking to build a railway depot in the Hertfordshire green belt.

But a report by the Cabinet Secretary Sir Jeremy Heyward has cleared her.

No 10 earlier said the prime minister had confidence in Ms Villiers.

Ms Villiers was reported to have had a private lunch with a representative of a company campaigning for planning permission for a £400m international rail freight exchange on 300 acres of green belt between St Albans and London.

Rail row

The proposal for five warehouses served by railway sidings, first lodged by developers Helioslough in 2006, has faced opposition from people living in the Hertfordshire village of Radlett.

It was repeatedly blocked by ministers – most recently in 2010 – because of fears of damage to the green belt.

However, Helioslough later won a judicial review of the case and the government is reconsidering the matter.

Earlier this month, The Sunday Times claimed that, following FOI requests from Anne Main, the Tory MP for St Albans, Ms Villiers confirmed she had had lunch “in a private capacity” in August 2011 with Simon Hoare.

Mr Hoare is chief lobbyist for Helioslough and a Tory councillor in Mr Cameron’s Oxfordshire constituency.

The newspaper claimed that she had allegedly failed to declare the lunch on the official list of ministerial meetings.

Asked about the matter during prime minister’s questions, Mr Cameron said he had seen a copy of Sir Jeremy’s report into the matter and it would be sent to the parties involved shortly.

No 10 sources told the BBC Mr Cameron continued to have confidence in Ms Villiers, who was promoted to the cabinet last year, saying she was doing a “good job” in Northern Ireland.


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