Geoffrey Cox: 'It's up to voters to decide if my job outside Parliament is reasonable'

10 November 2021, 11:25 | Updated: 10 November 2021, 15:38

Sir Geoffrey Cox has said it is up to his electors to decide if he is right to take on his work outside Parliament
Sir Geoffrey Cox has said it is up to his electors to decide if he is right to take on his work outside Parliament. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Sir Geoffrey Cox believes it is up to his constituency's voters to decide if they are comfortable with his second job.

The MP has come under major scrutiny for earning hundreds of thousands of pounds outside of Parliament while advising the British Virgin Islands in a corruption probe by the Foreign Office.

A huge backlash against MPs earning outside their job as a representative is under way in the wake of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.

A statement on his constituency website said Sir Geoffrey had been practising as a barrister in court "well before his election in 2005", and described him as a "leading barrister in England (who) makes no secret of his professional activities".

It confirmed he was asked to advise the government of the British Virgin Islands in a public inquiry into "whether corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty may have taken place in recent years in the Virgin Islands and to carry out a review of its systems of government in preparation for that inquiry".

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This was approved by the Attorney General of England and Wales, and was not designed to "defend a tax haven or, as has been inaccurately reported, to defend any wrongdoing but to assist the public inquiry in getting to the truth", the text said.

"Sir Geoffrey's view is that it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon [his constituency] whether or not they vote for someone who is a senior and distinguished professional in his field and who still practices that profession.

"That has been the consistent view of the local Conservative Association and although at every election his political opponents have sought to make a prominent issue of his professional practice, it has so far been the consistent view of the voters of Torridge and West Devon.

"Sir Geoffrey is very content to abide by their decision."

The statement added that Sir Geoffrey "always ensures that his casework on behalf of his constituents is given primary importance and fully carried out", and it made "no difference where he was for that purpose" because of Covid restrictions at the time limiting face-to-face contact.

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He was told by the Tory chief whip that he was advised it was "appropriate" to use proxy voting during his visit to the British Virgin Islands, amid criticism that he used the mechanism - introduced during the Covid lockdown - while in the Caribbean.

Sir Geoffrey could face an investigation by the Commons standards chief over claims he used his parliamentary office for a second job.

Angela Rayner, Labour's deputy leader, said the allegations would be an "egregious, brazen breach of the rules" and she had written to standards commissioner Kathryn Stone asking for "guidance" on launching an investigation.

The outrage follows the backlash over Owen Paterson's lobbying, which was found to be an "egregious" breach of rules by the Commons standards committee.

The Government had stepped in to try and stop him being suspended, railing against the way standards are investigated in Parliament, before anger at that decision forced them into a U-turn.

Mr Paterson, who earned £110,000 a year for his private sector work, has announced his resignation as an MP.