MPs must be transparent over second jobs amid public doubt, warns watchdog chair
MPs should be more transparent with voters about any jobs they have away from politics, according to parliament’s standards watchdog.
Lord Bew, who chairs the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said candidates should lay out any intention to take up outside posts when running for election.
His intervention comes ahead of the publication of a report on MPs' outside interests next week by the committee.
He highlighted the “explosion of public interest and relatively negative comment” surrounding George Osborne’s host of publicised jobs as an “obvious indication” that a change was needed.
The inquiry was launched in light of the former Chancellor’s decision to take up the post of editor at the Evening Standard, alongside other roles, while remaining MP for Tatton.
"The fundamental job of an MP is to actually be an MP. That is the defining point, to carry out the duties of being an MP,” Lord Bew told the BBC’s Westminster Hour.
He added: “A certain amount of rust and war-weariness has descended in this area,”
“The intensity of commitment to transparency has faded somewhat. I think this is an area which does have to be revisited because transparency does act as a deterrent to bad behaviour.
“We still need more transparency in and around Parliament.”
The peer said it would not necessarily be beneficial to ban second jobs but added that the electorate had a “nuanced view” around second jobs and often did not oppose MPs working as doctors, nurses and armed forces reservists.
He added that those holding down private sector posts as directors or consultants prompted concerns around “a genuine issue about undue influence”.
“It is the Committee’s long-held view that candidates should make clear to the electorate during an election campaign if they intend to carry on work in a certain area outside Parliament…” he went on.
“The public thinks that you have chosen this life – you weren’t forced into it – and they expect things from you that actually they don’t expect from public service in a whole number of other areas of life. This is slightly unfair but this is the reality.”