LBC Views: Will MPs need to keep timesheets of their outside work?

17 November 2021, 11:49

Political Editor Theo Usherwood gives his view
Political Editor Theo Usherwood gives his view. Picture: LBC
Theo Usherwood

By Theo Usherwood

There can be no doubt: the row about second jobs has been messy and damaging for Number 10.

This should be a Government that is able to sit back and enjoy relatively cordial relations with its backbenches, safe in the knowledge that with an 80-seat majority it can weather rebellions with ease.

But after enraging the 2019-intake by marching them through the voting lobbies to try and save Owen Paterson, the PM is now upsetting the old guard by potentially taking away their second jobs.

The proposals are vague: that any outside job should “not prevent (MPs) from fully carrying out their range of duties”.

The Prime Minister’s letter to Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle also states that MPs “should not accept paid work to provide work as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant”.

Both of these new rules are open to potentially large loopholes.

How does the arbiter of the rules – presumably the parliamentary commissioner for standards Kathryn Stone – decide that an MP had fallen short in their role of representing their constituents because they’d been too busy helping a company navigate its way around Whitehall? Will MPs need to keep timesheets of all their outside work to prove that they are not working more hours on their second job than they are as an elected Parliamentarian?

And if MPs are not allowed to work as a Parliamentary strategist, can they work as a strategist for a paying company providing that at no stage they trade their services off their position as an MP?

To make matters even more convoluted, these proposals will also need a cross-party consensus to be reached with Labour and the SNP before January 31st if they are to stand any chance of precipitating a change in the rules.

And that’s why many think that for all the debate and arguments, the row about MPs making money on the side is likely to amount to nothing.