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BBC faces calls to publish a register of presenters' interests after Fiona Bruce cancels on legal firm

Laura FitzPatrick
Fiona Bruce - PA

The BBC is facing calls to publish a register of its presenters’ interests after two of its highly paid journalists pulled out from speaking at a controversial law firm.

Question Time presenter Fiona Bruce, and the BBC’s Business Editor Simon Jack had both been booked to speak at an Autumn conference for Henley & Partners, a leading player in the quite legitimate business of 'passports for sale'.

However, the practice has been criticised amid fears that it inadvertently can help criminals to escape justice through offering a golden ticket into other countries.  

The pair pulled out of the line up on Friday though, after hearing that they were potentially breaking BBC rules for speaking engagements. 

The BBC currently allows its employees to top-up their pay packets with work for external companies but t he corporation relies them to self-police.

It means stars like Lauren Laverne and Jeremy Vine have the opportunity to receive generous sums for their bookings and work with charities, at panel events and for hosting award ceremonies on their days off, without breaking any rules.

But the broadcaster has now said it plans to remind staff of the boundaries to ensure they don’t get caught short after Damian Collins, chairman of the Commons digital, culture, media and sport committee, said more needed to be done to make sure that BBC stars are aware of the guidelines.

It follows calls for a public register of all presenter’s interests so their involvement and top-up salaries can be closely monitored

BBC staff pay is already published by the BBC for transparency to license fee payers. In its most recent annual report, it disclosed that talent pay rose by £11 million last year.

“There should be a register of interests so the public can see what they are doing,” Tory MP Andrew Bridgen told the Daily Mail.

The firm in question, Henley & Partners is accused of inadvertently helping criminals to escape justice through offering a golden ticket into other countries.

It runs a number of “citizenship by investment” programmes through which the firm helps its wealthy clients to purchase citizenship in countries such as Malta and Austria.

The European Council warned in January this year that so-called “golden passport” schemes create risks to security. money laundering, corruption and tax-evasion for its member states.

Henley & Partners denies all allegations of lawbreaking and claims that all its applicants “undergo the strictest due diligence procedures”.

A spokesman: 'Over the past 20 years, Henley & Partners has invested significant time and capital in creating a corporate structure that is wedded to best practice governance and the highest levels of due diligence, even before passing a client over to the consideration of a sovereign state.'