Bryant: MPs should not use taxpayer-funded offices or 'magic' job title for commercial interests

10 November 2021, 18:19

Chris Bryant, Chair of the Standards Committee, has clearly laid out the rules
Chris Bryant, Chair of the Standards Committee, has clearly laid out the rules. Picture: Alamy/LBC

By Daisy Stephens

The Chair of the Standards Committee has told LBC MPs must not use their taxpayer-funded offices for things outside of their parliamentary duties.

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Speaking to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Chris Bryant said MPs were forbidden from using their offices "to run a commercial enterprise".

"You cannot use your parliamentary office - or, for that matter, your constituency office, both of which are paid for by the taxpayer - to run a commercial enterprise," he said.

The Labour MP said the use of parliamentary offices for other things was something that the Committee looked into during the Owen Paterson investigation, and many MPs were unaware of the rules surrounding it.

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"We found [Owen Paterson] guilty of paid lobbying because he was taking £112,000 a year and lobbying Government ministers and officials on behalf of his paying clients, all of which is a corrupt practise and not on," said Mr Bryant.

"But we also investigated his use of his parliamentary office because he was holding a series of meetings - 25 meetings we thought initially but he sort of persuaded us that it was just 16, that's still quite a lot - 16 meetings for his paying clients in parliament."

Mr Bryant recalled that some MPs wrote to the Committee saying they did not think there was "any rule about how you used your parliamentary office or not".

He said that, whilst the Committee interpreted the rule "with a sense of proportion", the ban on the use of offices for those purposes was clear.

When asked how big the problem of MPs having second jobs was, Mr Bryant said nuance was important, highlighting Labour MP for Tooting Dr Rosena Allin-Khan who is also an A&E doctor.

Mr Bryant also said he understood that having a second job means some MPs can carry on working in that profession when they leave politics.

"It's for people to make their own judgement as to whether they want to take on major commercial interests of another kind," he said.

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"What you can't have is MPs using their privileged position to pursue commercial interests and to peddle interests with ministers and officials, which is what Owen Paterson was doing."

He added: "You can't use the system, you can't use those magic letters 'MP'... you shouldn't be using them for anything inappropriate, that's the simple bit."