The Italian Parliament has passed Silvio Berlusconi's controversial law on conflict of interest. Although the centre-left opposition stormed out of Parliament before the vote in a sign of protest, votes from Berlusconi's centre-right coalition were sufficient in number for the law to be passed.

The main points that the new law addresses are as follows:

* Government officials are not allowed private business activities. However, "mere ownership of a private company", as opposed to a direct role in running a company, is allowed. (Berlusconi is therefore allowed to retain ownership of Mediaset, Medusa Film and other business interests in his Fininvest holding company)

* There is conflict of interest if a government act is seen to benefit a company owned by a government official while being detrimental to the interest of the general public. There is no conflict of interest, however, if an act is seen to benefit a company owned by a government official while also benefitting other companies. (The Tremonti law, passed during Berlusconi's first term of government in 1994, is said to have benefitted Mediaset, although it has been argued it also benefitted other competitors and companies.)

* Government officials cannot have "honorary positions" in private companies. (Berlusconi will have to step down from his position as honorary president of the AC Milan football team)

* Italy's Antitrust Authority will monitor potential conflicts of interest and relate these to Parliament. In the case of a conflict of interest, the Authority does not have the power to apply sanctions itself, although it can suggest to appropriate measures to Parliament. Sanctions can only be of a political, rather than economic nature.

* The conflict of interest law does not apply to regional presidents and mayors of Italian cities with more than 300,000 inhabitants.