Plan to rein in MPs’ second jobs is ‘for the birds’, says Labour MP

No 10’s plan for tackling MPs’ second jobs has been dismissed as “for the birds” and “not very well thought through” by the head of a cross-party committee looking into the issue.

Chris Bryant, the Labour chair of the standards committee, challenged the deputy prime minister Dominic Raab’s suggestion that there should be a limit on the amount of hours or money an MP makes.

Raab refused to criticise his fellow Tory MP Geoffrey Cox for earning more than £6m as a lawyer since joining parliament, but said the government supported the principle of ensuring politicians do not neglect their constituents.

sin embargo, Bryant said a proposal passed by the Commons on Wednesday night was a “kneejerk reaction to a crisis created by the prime minister himself”.

After weeks of Tory fury at his handling of sleaze allegations, Boris Johnson had sought to draw a line under the issue by finally apologising privately to backbenchers and bowing to pressure to support some form of new rules on MPs’ second jobs.

He U-turned after trying to block the suspension of Owen Paterson for an egregious breach of paid lobbying rules. This prompted attention to turn to other MPs with outside financial interests.

Cox was found to have received nearly £1m for recent legal work representing the British Virgin Islands over allegations of misgovernance and corruption, and to have taken advantage of Covid rules to cast Commons votes by proxy from the Caribbean.

After a public backlash and a dip for the Conservatives in the polls, Johnson backed the Labour leader Keir Starmer’s call for tougher rules on MPs’ second jobs.

Starmer said MPs should be barred from taking up any paid work as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, and put forward a motion proposing this to parliament during an opposition day debate on Wednesday.

Johnson tabled an amendment that said MPs should also not take on jobs that prevented them from fulfilling their role serving constituents. Many Tories were privately sceptical of the idea, and Bryant voiced his concern on Thursday morning.

“I don’t know what counts as a non-parliamentary duty," él dijo, asking whether that would include knocking on doors in an election, or travelling between a constituency and London.

He asked “how on earth” the parliamentary standards commissioner would be able to tell if someone had spent too long in another job, suggesting it would be impossible to police.

“Every MP should throw themself heart and soul into the business of being an MP,” Bryant said, but he added: “The whole idea that … it’s going to be very easy to come up with some plan in the next few days which says ‘you can do so many hours doing this and so many hours doing that’ is just for the birds, frankly.”

Raab, when pressed for details about what limits should be put on the hours worked or money paid for outside jobs, said only that the government had “set out the principles” and that it was up to Bryant’s committee to “firm up the detail”.

Bryant’s committee was already nearing the end of a regular review of the rules around second jobs, which are contained in the MPs’ code of conduct. Bryant said an initial report on what changes he and the cross-party committee – which includes Tory MPs and independent lay members – recommend would be produced by the end of November.

The draft proposals will then be scrutinised and feedback sought before a final report is produced at the start of next year.





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