Mon, 15 April 2024

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By Bishop of Leeds
Press releases

MPs Won't Have A Limit On Second Job Earnings Or Hours After Failure To Find Cross-Party Consensus

Proposals for a new code of conduct for MPs will not contain restrictions on the amount of time that can be spent on second jobs (Alamy)

3 min read

A new code of conduct for MPs will clamp down on paid consultancy roles but will not place a time limit on second jobs, or an upper limit on outside earnings.

A new report from the standards committee has concluded that without political consensus from across the parties in Westminster, they could not recommend such changes to the current system.

A review was launched into second jobs for MPs last November in response to allegations that former Tory MP Owen Paterson broke the rules on paid lobbying, and it was found that ex-Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox earned more than £950,000 last year from his work outside government as a lawyer.

But despite pressure to clamp down on the amount of time members of Parliament can spend on outside work, the government rejected moves to curtail second jobs, which the standards committee said prevented them proposing limits in its long-awaited final report.

"We concluded in our November 2021 report that a 'significant change' in the ability of Members to hold outside interests 'should only be implemented with broad cross-party support'," it said.

"We have detected no such support in evidence received to our consultation.”

The report does however include a number of other recommendations which will significantly tighten the type of jobs MPs can take while still serving in the Commons.

The committee is calling for an outright ban on MPs providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy services, something dozens of them currently do.

They said MPs must also have a written contract for any outside work, which makes explicit their “duties cannot include lobbying ministers, MPs or public officials, or providing advice about how to lobby or influence Parliament”.

The committee recommended that the Register of Members’ Interests should be made more transparent and searchable as a matter of urgency, so it is easier to find out what jobs or services MPs are being paid for.

But at the same time, a new "safe harbour" provision has been recommended so that MPs cannot be held responsible for inadvertent breaches of the rules if they were following advice from the relevant authorities.

The measures will now go to the House of Commons for debate and then a decision and a vote to draft the changes to standing orders and the code of conduct.

Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the Committee on Standards, said he strongly urges “all colleagues to read the detailed report in full and support these measures”. He said the proposals 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”.

He added: “The last year has shown that the public cares passionately about standards in parliament – and so do MPs.

“Our report sets out a package of robust new measures to uphold and strengthen standards in Parliament by improving transparency, tackling conflicts of interest, tightening the rules on improper lobbying and providing an enhanced means of appeal.”

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