Last week, Conservative MPs were ordered to back the creation of a Tory-led committee to look at disciplinary case involving former cabinet minister Owen Paterson.
Mr Paterson was in October found to have broken lobbying rules during his £110,000-a-year private sector work.
But after a backlash over the Tories’ plan to override the standards committee’s initial findings, the government performed a U-turn an Mr Paterson subsequently quit as an MP.
The matter has brought up a wider discussion about what MPs should and should not be allowed to do in their spare time while in office – and an emergency Commons debate on standards at Westminster will take place on Monday afternoon.
Speaking to Sky News on Monday morning, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan admitted that the issue of MPs having other “jobs that involve lobbying” should be “looked at again”.
What is lobbying?
Put in the simplest terms, lobbying is when somebody or a group tries to persuade an MP to back a particular policy or campaign.
The theory is that if an individual can persuade an MP to back their idea, the concept may be talked about more and could even be the subject of a committee or Commons debate.
Industry representatives, pressure groups, charities and unions are among those groups who may use the tactic.
What are the rules?
An MP can discuss an issue which they have been persuaded is important with other MPs or ministers, but they are not permitted to receive a payment for doing so.
They can also work as consultants but are not allowed to lobby ministers directly on behalf of the organisations they are working for.
The MPs’ Code of Conduct states that it is “strictly forbidden” to receive a financial reward for approaching ministers or initiating parliamentary proceedings on a particular issue.
The code says MPs should not enter into any “contractual arrangement” which jeopardises their “complete independence” in Parliament.
However, the rules do not at present prevent MPs from approaching ministers on issues “where they themselves may have a financial interest” – but any member doing so must record it in the register of financial interests and decide whether there is a potential conflict of interest.
MPs should not, however, lobby ministers on a matter which would exclusively benefit a party which they have a financial interest in – as Mr Paterson was found to have done.
Mr Paterson was found to have broken the lobbying rules after he contacted and met with officials at the Food Standards Agency and relevant ministers a number of times over issues involving two separate companies he was a paid consultant for.
In the report into the matter, the Standards Commissioner said Mr Paterson’s contact with officials and ministers were “serious breaches” of the rules. The commissioner also found that he failed to declare his interests in some meetings.
Who enforces the rules?
The Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, currently Kathryn Stone, considers any allegations that an MP has breached the Code of Conduct.
Ms Stone has the power to launch an inquiry into a matter if she believes there is sufficient evidence to do so – as was the case with Mr Paterson.
If the commission finds an MP has beached the rules, this information is then passed on to the Committee on Standards – made up of MPs from all parties – who will come to their own conclusions and make recommendations to the House of Commons on what should happen next.
If the cross-party committee agrees with the commissioner that there has been a breach – which was what happened in Mr Paterson’s case – the committee can then suggest a penalty.
The committee recommended that Mr Paterson be suspended from the House of Commons for 30 days, but other penalties can include forcing an MP to make a written apology or to apologise in the Commons on the record.
A specific punishment is recommended to the House of Commons and MPs then decide whether to implement them.
Which MPs work for/receive income from private companies?
Data compiled by openDemocracy suggests that MPs have earned at least £6m from second jobs since the start of the pandemic.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid stood down from his £150,000 a year consultancy role at JP Morgan when he took up his new cabinet position, a sum he was paid for 80 to 96 hours of work a year – an average hourly rate of between £1,562.50 and £1,875.
But some MPs continue to earn six figures from their second jobs.
One of the MPs who have recently earned the most aside from their set salary is former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox, who according to the members’ register of interests, has trousered more than £900,000 since the beginning of 2020.
Sir Geoffrey has declared work as a barrister, including receiving £400,000 annually for “up to 41 hours a month” of work as a “consultant global counsel” for the legal firm Withers LLP.
The sum was declared on the day of the Commons emergency debate on standards and equates to £813 per hour based on 41 hours of work completed.
Sir Geoffrey has been an MP since 2005, but a barrister since 1982, and has continued to provide legal services throughout his time in Parliament.
Many other MPs’ – mostly Conservatives – register of financial interest entries suggest they also earn large sums through completing consultancy work. There is no suggestion of wrongdoing. These members include:
• Andrew Mitchell: When added up, Conservative MP and former international development secretary Mr Mitchell earns over £180,000 per year working for firms including investment companies Investec, SouthBridge and Kingsley Capital Partners, along with accountants Ernst & Young and consultants Montrose Associates. The work totals 32.5 days. Averaged, the rate works out at in the region of £5,500 per day.
• Julian Smith: Conservative MP and former Northern Ireland secretary earns £144,000 per year from three companies including a hydrogen distributions company. The workload totals up to 84 hours. If all 84 hours were used, Mr Smith worked at an average rate of £1,714.28 an hour. If the fewest number of 64 hours’ work were completed, Mr Smith earned at an average rate of £2,250 an hour.
• Chris Grayling: Conservative MP and former transport secretary Mr Grayling earns £100,000 a year from Hutchison Ports Europe – which operates ports and terminals in over 26 countries – for 336 hours work. The rate works out at £297.62 an hour.
• Conor Burns: The Conservative MP for Bournemouth West received £120,000 for 40 hours of consultancy work for Trant Engineering Ltd. The rate works out at £3,000 per hour.
Those earning less than £100,000 per year from second jobs include:
• Sir Graham Brady – Conservative MP and chairman of the 1922 group of backbench Tory MPs Sir Graham declared £10,000 per annum for “about 3 hours a quarter” of work for Snowshill Allied Holdings Ltd. The rate works out at £833.33 an hour.
• Andrew Bridgen – The Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire earned £12,000 per annum for “an expected monthly commitment of 8 hours” of work as an adviser to Mere Plantations Ltd – totalling 96 hours at a rate of £125 an hour.
• Steve Brine – The Conservative MP for Winchester earned a total of £58,392 for 288 hours of work as an adviser to healthcare recruitment company Remedium Partners (£19,200 per annum for 96 hours), Microlink PC (UK)(£19,200 per annum for 96 hours) and pharmaceuticals company Sigma (£19,992 per annum for 96 hours). Averaged, it works out at a rate of £202.75 per hour of work.
• Alun Cairns – Conservative MP for Vale of Glamorgan and former minister Mr Cairns earned a total of £60,000 for up to 224 hours of work advising global life science and diagnostic company BBI Group (£15,000 per annum for up to 70 hours), private hire transport company Veezu Holdings (£15,000 per annum for up to 70 hours) and global property investment firm Elite Partners Capital Pte (30,000 per annum for up to 84 hours). The average rate works out at £267.86 per hour.
• Sir Ed Davey – According to the register of members’ financial interests, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed earned £60,000 for 72 hours of work as a “consultant on political issues and policy analysis” for Herbert Smith Freehills and £18,000 per annum for 48 hours of work as a member of the advisory board of Next Capital Energy – a firm in the international solar sector. It works out at £78,000 for 120 hours of work, an average rate of £650 per hour.
• Philip Davies – Conservative MP for Shipley earned £12,000 per annum for between 60 and 120 hours of work as a parliamentary adviser on pawnbroking to the National Pawnbroking Association. If 120 hours were worked, Mr Davies worked at a rate of £100 an hour. If the fewest number of 60 hours were worked, Mr Davies worked at a rate of £200 an hour.
• David Davis – Former cabinet minister Mr Davis earned £33,900 per annum for 16 hours of work for German investment company THI Holdings GMbH and £16,948 per annum for 168 hours of chairing the supervisory board of German property company 15 Verwaltungs AG. It totals £50,848 for 184 hours of per work at an average rate of £276.35 per hour.
• Sir Iain Duncan Smith – The former Conservative Party leader earned £20,000 per annum for 30 hours of work on the international advisory board of Tunstall Health Group and £25,000 per annum for 144 hours work at Byotrol Technology Ltd. It works out as a total of £45,000 for 174 hours of work in a year, an average rate of £258.62 per hour.
• Ruth Edwards – The Conservative MP for Rushcliffe earned £60,000 per annum for 192 hours of work for HR software company MHR International Ltd. It works out at a rate of £312.50 per hour.
• Ben Everitt – The Conservative MP for Milton Keynes North earned £15,000 per annum for 60 to 80 hours of advisory work to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales. This works out at a rate of £187.50 per hour if 80 hours were worked, or £250 if 60 hours were worked.
• Richard Fuller – Conservative MP for North East Bedfordshire Mr Fuller earned £20,000 per annum for 48 hours of work as an advisory director of venture capital company Investcorp Securities. The rate works out at £416.66 an hour. Mr Fuller has also received an additional £29,900 for 19 hours of work in 2021 so far.
• Mark Garnier – The Conservative MP for Wyre Forest earned £60,000 per annum for 120 hours of work as a member of the advisory board of start-up satellite company Laser Light Communications and £30,000 per hour for 120 hours of work chairing the advisory board of the Shetland Space Centre. It totals £90,000 for 240 hours of work, at an average rate of £375 an hour.
• Damian Green – The Conservative MP for Ashford earned £40,000 per annum for 288 hours of work as a consultant on rail policy to Abellio Transport Holdings. It works out at a rate of £138.89 per hour.
• Stephen Hammond – The Conservative MP for Wimbledon earned £60,000 per annum for 50 to 100 hours of work acting as a strategic adviser to investment company Darwin Alternative Investments. If 100 hours of work were completed, Mr Hammond earned at a rate of £600 per hour. If the fewest number of 50 hours were worked, Mr Hammond’s hourly rate works out at £1,200.
• Sir John Hayes – The Conservative MP for South Holland and The Deepings earned £50,000 per annum for between 80 and 90 hours work as a strategic adviser to international energy company BB Energy Trading. It works out at an average hourly rate of between £555 and £625.
• Daniel Kawczynski – The Conservative MP for Shrewsbury and Atcham earned £36,000 per annum for 360 hours of consultancy work for US mining company The Electrum – at a rate of £100 per hour.
• Sir Greg Knight – The Conservative MP for East Yorkshire earned £16,000 per annum for 108 hours of work for Cambridge and Counties Bank Ltd at a rate of £148.15 per hour.
• Andrew Lewer – The Conservative MP for Northampton South earned £4,800 per annum for 48 hours of work as a consultant providing public policy advice to Drakelow Development Holdings Ltd. The sum works out at a rate of £100 per hour.
• Tim Loughton – The Conservative MP for East Worthing and Shoreham earned £37,000 per annum for 144 hours of work as an adviser to the board of the Outcomes First Group – which provides care for vulnerable young people. The sum equates to £256.95 per hour.
• Paul Maynard – The Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys earned £6,250 per annum for 32 hours of work for cash machines company Link Scheme Ltd. His register of interests states the sum was paid directly to charity.
• Sir Bob Neill – Conservative MP and chairman of the Justice Select Committee Sir Bob earned £12,000 per annum for 72 hours consultancy work to property and business firm the Substantia Group and £7,500 per annum for 10 hours work advising the Mason Charitable Foundation. It works out at a total of £19,500 for 82 hours work – an average hourly rate of £237.80.
• Andrew Percy – Conservative MP for Brigg and Goole Mr Percy earned £36,000 per annum for 72 hours of work as a member of Canadian clean energy company Iogen Corporation’s advisory board. Mr Percy worked at an hourly rate of £500.
• John Redwood – The Conservative MP for Wokingham earned £5,000 per annum for 12 hours work as a member of the advisory board of Epic Private Equity – an hourly rate of £416.66.
• Laurence Robertson – The Conservative MP for Tewkesbury earned £24,000 per annum for 120 hours of work as a parliamentary adviser on sport and safer gambling to the Betting and Gaming Council – an hourly rate of £200.
• Dean Russell – The Conservative MP for Watford earned £2,100 for 30 hours of work providing consultancy on marketing and training content for business provider EPIFNY Consulting – an hourly rate of £70.
• Chris Skidmore – Conservative MP for Kingswood and former universities minister Mr Skidmore earns £10,000 per annum for 48 to 96 hours of work on the advisory board for Oxford International Education Group. His hourly rate is between £104 and £208.
• Royston Smith – The Conservative MP for Southampton, Itchen earned £18,000 for 90 hours of consultancy work for Barker Mill Estates – an hourly rate of £200.
Could the rules change?
Some politicians and campaigners are calling for MPs to face tougher lobbying rules which could mean that they are not allowed to receive a secondary income.
At present, MPs are paid a basic salary of £81,932 – but can earn more if they are ministers, the chair of a committee or the Speaker.
Another point of contention is how second jobs could be assessed. For example, being a minister counts as a second job – so could work funded by the state be accepted?
Other options could include MPs facing a cap on how much they can earn outside of their role as an MP or being limited to a certain range of industries that they can lawfully accept payment for completing work within – such as writing a book, for example.
And some have raised concerns that prohibiting any member to have a second stream of income could affect those sitting MPs who also work as medical professionals in order to keep their licenses – such as Labour’s Rosena Allin-Khan and the Conservatives’ Maria Caulfield. Likewise, Tory MP Sir Paul Beresford is a dentist and has his own practice.
Meanwhile, others worry that a total ban on outside work could severely diminish the quality of candidates wanting to become MPs.
Chris Bryant, the Labour MP who chairs the cross-party Commons Standards Committee which found Mr Paterson guilty of an “egregious” breach of the ban on paid lobbying by MPs, cautioned against a rush to change.
“I don’t think we should leap into making sudden changes. One of my principles is that the government should stay clear of independent disciplinary processes,” he told Sky News.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has called on Boris Johnson to clean up politics.
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