Curbs on MPs’ second jobs ditched as sleaze watchdog demands consultancy ban
The Committee on Standards wants to ban MPs from moonlighting as paid political consultants and to tighten lobbying rules – but a push for a crackdown on second jobs has been dropped
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Calls for a crack down on MPs holding lucrative second jobs have been dropped under a shake-up of Parliament’s anti-sleaze rules.
The Committee on Standards wants to ban MPs from moonlighting as paid political consultants and to tighten lobbying rules to clean up politics.
But proposals to cap MPs’ hours or pay from second jobs have been dropped.
Boris Johnson was shamed into pledging to clamp down on MPs doing lucrative outside work last year as he tried to stem a row over sleaze engulfing the Tory party.
Former Cabinet Minister Owen Paterson was forced to resign in November for breaching Parliament’s rules by lobbying on behalf of two firms.
Mr Johnson tried to rip up sleaze rules to save his Tory colleague but the PM was forced to U-turn due to a major backlash.
The row also sparked wider scrutiny of MPs’ conduct, leading to a furore over second jobs.
Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox, who earned more than £1 million last year for his work as a lawyer, came under fire for working on a corruption inquiry in the British Virgin Islands from his Commons office.
However it later emerged that the Government had cooled on the idea of curbs for second jobs.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay and Leader of the Commons Mark Spencer told the Committee that it would be “impractical” and could unfairly ban MPs from doing things like writing books in their spare time.
The Committee has now proposed an outright ban on paid consultancy as part of shake up of the MPs’ code of conduct.
Lobbying rules would be tightened to remove a loophole that lets MPs make approaches to ministers if they don’t “initiate” the approach.
Ministers would also be forced to declare hospitality and interests in the same way as ordinary MPs, who have 28 days to provide information about benefits they receive.
Government ministers only have to do this as part of quarterly transparency publications.
Boris Johnson was able to use this loophole for his holiday at Tory peer Zac Goldsmith’s holiday home in Marbella last year.
He made a ministerial declaration but unlike the Commons register, he was not forced to give a cost estimate for the stay.
Chairman Chris Bryant urged MPs to accept the recommendations, with votes expected before the summer recess.
“The last year has shown that the public cares passionately about standards in Parliament – and so do MPs,” he said.
“These proposals, if accepted, will not only improve checks and balances on MPs, and shine a light on any wrongdoing, but will also provide new clarity and support to MPs to avoid inadvertent breaches of the rules.
“Every generation of MPs holds membership of the House in trust for the next generation. It can either burnish the House’s reputation or tarnish it.”
A Government spokesperson said: “We will carefully consider the Committee on Standards’ report.
“The Government is supportive of the proposals to strengthen and clarify the rules on lobbying and prohibit MPs from undertaking paid parliamentary services, to ensure that Parliamentary duties always take priority.
“Any changes must be taken forward on a cross party basis, in order to ensure a standards system that is robust, fair and has the backing of the public and MPs alike.”