Tory MPs rake in over £1.7m in consultancy fees as Sunak admits Gov 'needs to do better'

10 November 2021, 22:31 | Updated: 11 November 2021, 13:57

Conservatives have come in for heavy criticism for earnings made outside of Parliament
Conservatives have come in for heavy criticism for earnings made outside of Parliament. Picture: Alamy

By Sophie Barnett

Boris Johnson has been accused of having something "rotten at the heart" of his party as opposition analysis showed Tory MPs have received more than £1.7 million in consultancy fees this year.

Listen to this article

Loading audio...

The Labour party's analysis, which looks at the Register of Members Financial Interests, showed that since the start of this year Tory MPs have taken £1,712,357 in consultancy fees.

The figure is the latest blow to the Prime Minister and his Conservative colleagues, who are facing ongoing accusations of "Tory sleaze" and government "corruption" in the wake of the Owen Paterson scandal.

Rishi Sunak admitted the Government needed to "do better" as allegations against Tory MPs continued to roll in.

"On the broader point and just reflecting over recent events, I think for us as a government, it's fair to say that we need to do better than we did last week and we know that," Mr Sunak told Sky News.

Anneliese Dodds, Labour Party chairwoman, said one in seven Conservative MPs had been taking money from outside interests.

She said in the last year, 50 Tory backbenchers and former ministers had been paid by management or consultancy firms.

Read more: Boris Johnson: MPs 'should be punished' if they break rules on second jobs

Read more: Analysis: PM finds himself embroiled in sleazegate scandal in front of world leaders

Ms Dodds said there is something "rotten at the heart" of Mr Johnson's Conservative party.

"Every day Conservative MPs act as if there's one rule for them and another for everyone else," she said.

“The Prime Minister needs to show leadership, heed Labour's call to ban MPs from having paid directorships and consultancy roles and put an end to Tory sleaze.”

The embattled prime minister is under major scrutiny over MPs having second jobs in the wake of his attempt to support Owen Paterson, who has announced his resignation.

Mr Paterson was found to have committed an "egregious" breach of lobbying rules by a parliamentary standards committee.

A backlash over the decision forced the Government into a U-turn over its support for him - but anger has swelled as more focus is applied to MPs' second jobs.

Labour has referred Sir Geoffrey to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone after video emerged of him apparently taking part in legal proceedings in the British Virgin Islands remotely from his office in Westminster.

Read more: 'Stupid question': Iain Duncan Smith shrugs off concerns of Tory sleaze

The opposition's most recent analysis showed Sir John Redwood, the MP for Wokingham, had earned the most in fees in 2021, at £194,810.

This was followed by Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell (£115,833), Wyre Forest MP Mark Garnier (£82,500), Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond (£81,666) and North East Bedfordshire MP Richard Fuller (£79,899).

The analysis does not include income from other outside work but calculates that £1,712,357 has been paid to Conservative MPs in consultancy fees alone.

Downing Street has continued to defend MPs having second jobs, saying the House of Commons "can and historically has" benefitted.

Addressing world leaders at the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow on Wednesday, Mr Johnson said it is "crucial" that MPs follow the rules, but he refused to comment - or apologise - on any individual cases.

"On second jobs, I would say that for hundreds of years MPs have gone to Parliament and also done work as doctors, lawyers or soldiers or firefighters or writers, or all sorts of other trades and callings," he said.

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

"And on the whole, the UK population has understood that that has actually strengthened our democracy, because people basically feel that parliamentarians do need to have some experience of the world.

"But, if that system is going to continue today, then it is crucial that MPs follow the rules.

"And the rules say two crucial things: you must put your job as an MP first and you must devote yourself primarily and above all to your constituents and the people who send you to Westminster, to Parliament."

Mr Johnson said MPs "should be punished" if they break rules on second jobs as he attempted to assure world leaders at the event that the UK government is "not corrupt".

"Since we are in an international context and speaking before international colleagues, I want to say one thing which I hope is not taken in any chauvinistic spirit," he told the press conference.

"I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country nor do I believe our institution is corrupt.

"We have a very, very tough system of parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, not least by the media.

"I think what you have got is cases where, sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, may be guilty of breaking the rules today. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions."