MPs waive restrictions on second jobs

MPs have withdrawn from calls to limit the time they can spend on second jobs due to a lack of political consensus on changing the current system.

The House of Commons standards committee asked for opinions on whether to impose restrictions on MPs’ outside income during a review of the code of conduct for MPs last November.

It followed outcry over revelations that Tory Owen Paterson breached a ban on paid lobbying by MPs while Sir Geoffrey Cox earned more than £950,000 last year, almost thanks to his work as a lawyer.

Owen Paterson
Owen Paterson broke a ban on paid lobbying by MPs (Victoria Jones/PA)

In its final report, the committee said that without cross-party agreement on reform, the system should remain as it is.

“We concluded in our November 2021 report that a ‘meaningful change’ in the ability of MPs to hold outside interests ‘should only be implemented with broad, all-party support,'” he said. -he declares.

“We detected no such support in the evidence received during our consultation.”

The committee’s final report includes a number of recommendations aimed at strengthening the rules at Westminster, including outright banning MPs from providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy.

Chris Bryant
Chris Bryant said the proposed changes will ‘bring light’ to wrongdoing (Jacob King/PA)

Ministers should declare all benefits and hospitality they receive as part of their ministerial duties in the Members’ Register of Interests and not just in government “transparency” declarations.

At the same time, a new ‘safe harbour’ provision for MPs would mean they could not be held liable for unintentional breaches of the rules if they followed the advice of the relevant authorities.

However, a proposal to ban MPs from making ‘unreasonable and excessive personal attacks in any medium’ has been shelved.

The proposal – which mainly targeted the “misuse” of social media – could have led to MPs accused of breaching it being investigated by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards leading to possible sanctions.

In its final report, the committee said a number of MPs had expressed concern about the “chilling effect” this could have on freedom of expression.

“While we are confident that the members do not intend to encourage or authorize unreasonable and excessive personal attacks, we believe that more thought should be given to the implications of introducing such a new rule,” he said.

Committee chairman Chris Bryant urged MPs to read the report in full and support the recommendations when they come to the Commons for a final decision.

“The last year has shown that the public cares passionately about standards in parliament – and so do MPs,” he said.

“These proposals, if accepted, will not only improve checks and balances for MPs and bring any wrongdoing to light, but will also provide new clarity and support for MPs to avoid inadvertent breaches of the rules.

“Each generation of MPs holds membership in the House in trust for the next generation. This can either restore the reputation of the House or tarnish it.

A government spokesperson said it would “carefully consider” the committee’s recommendations.

“The government supports proposals to strengthen and clarify the rules on lobbying and to ban MPs from undertaking paid parliamentary services, to ensure that parliamentary duties always take priority,” the spokesperson said.

“Any changes must be implemented on a cross-party basis, to ensure a standards system that is robust, fair and has the support of the public and MPs.”

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