Boris quietly drops sleaze plans to limit MPs' earnings from second jobs

17 March 2022, 11:07 | Updated: 17 March 2022, 13:18

second job
Government drops "impractical" plans to limit the earnings of MPs from second jobs. Picture: Alamy

By Liam Gould

A cap to MPs' earnings from second jobs has been quietly scrapped by Boris Johnson over concerns it would be too "impractical" to follow through.

The proposal to limit the earnings of MPs from second jobs with either a cap on hours or pay has been dropped, according to ministers in a report to the Commons standards committee.

This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged to address the issue of MPs holding and earning significant amounts of money from second jobs.

He said that there should be "reasonable limits" on the amount MPs can earn.

The Guardian reports that a submission to the current consultation by the Commons standards committee shows the government's decision to drop the proposal.

Read More: Minister claims Boris Johnson's comments 'made no difference' to release of Nazanin

The debate comes after a number of high-profile scandals that impacted the current Conservative party.

Owen Paterson, previously an MP for North Shropshire, was found to have used his parliamentary office for paid consultancy work with Randox Laboratories and Lynn's Country Foods, and failed to declare his interests in meetings - opening a widespread sleaze scandal in the Conservative party.

Mr Paterson resigned from the House of Commons last year after a report found that he had broken paid advocacy rules. Mr Johnson was widely criticised by some for his reaction to the scandal.

Sir Geoffrey Cox was also paid almost £6m as a lawyer since becoming an MP.

Mr Cox was found to have spent four weeks of lockdown working a second job as a legal consultant in the Caribbean.

During this time, he continued to vote in parliament by proxy - a system put into place to keep parliament functioning over lockdown.

He was also accused of spending many hours on legal work unrelated to the Commons and the £150,000 he was paid for giving legal advice to the BVI in relation to corruption charges brought by the UK Foreign Office.

Should MPs be allowed to take on a second job?

Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab previously said that MPs holding second jobs would be addressed with "reasonable" limits.

“You could do it in one of two ways, you could do it by the amount or you could do it by the number of hours.

"We’ve asked the committee on standards to work up the detail by January.”

Read More: 'Is that mummy?' Nazanin's tearful reunion with family after 6 year hell in Iranian jail

But the report, obtained by The Guardian, says the government no longer backs the plans to limit the pay or hours an MP could work in a second job.

Steve Barclay, the chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and Mark Spencer, the leader of the House of Commons said in the report: "It is the government’s initial view that the imposition of fixed constraints such as time limits on the amount of time that Members can spend on outside work would be impractical.

Minister: It's right that MPs can have second jobs

“The imposition of time limits would not necessarily serve to address recent concerns over paid advocacy and the primary duty of MPs to serve their constituents.

"In respect of a cap on earnings from outside work to impose such a limit could serve to prohibit activities which do not bring undue influence to bear on the political system. Earnings from activities such as writing books for example, would not preclude Members from meeting their principal duty to their constituents.”

Lord Jonathan Evans, Chair of the Committee for Standards in Public Life, said: “We believe the Standards Committee and the House should set an indicative limit of hours and remuneration, with a rebuttable presumption that paid outside employment exceeding those limits would be considered unreasonable.”

Read More: P&O Ferries suspend all sailings ahead of major company announcement

This comes as MPs, including the Prime Minister, will see a pay rise of £2,200 next month. The Prime Minister also took £88,000 as an advance for a book “as yet unwritten” in 2015 with publisher Hodder & Stoughton.

The government maintains it still backs a reform to the type of work MPs can undertake as a second job.

A decision will be made once the final report is published.