Government backtracks on MPs second jobs plan

Government backtracks on MPs second jobs plan

The UK government has started to backtrack on plans surrounding how much time MPs can spend on second jobs.

Last year MPs came under intense pressure after the now-former MP Owen Paterson was found guilty of breaking lobbying rules.

Criticism only increased when the government attempted to overhaul the standards system, which would have stopped Mr Paterson from being suspended from the Commons. He later resigned as an MP.

This controversy led to heightened scrutiny of the work MPs do outside of Parliament, with an increased focus on former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox, who earned around £900,000 in 2020 through his work as a lawyer.

MPs later backed government plans to prevent them from taking on certain jobs, with No 10 saying any outside role, paid or unpaid, should be “within reasonable limits” and not stop MPs from fully serving their constituents.

Although a definition of what that meant was not given, International Trade Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan suggested 15 hours a week as a reasonable limit.

However, in the letter from Cabinet Office Minister Steve Barclay, the government now appears to have moved away from that pledge.

While he acknowledged a time limit was considered “necessary”, he said it would also be “impractical”.

In a submission to the Commons standards committee, first reported by the Guardian, Mr. Barclay wrote: “It is the government’s initial view that the imposition of fixed constraints such as time limits on the amount of time that members can spend on outside work would be impractical.

“The imposition of time limits would not necessarily serve to address recent concerns overpaid advocacy and the primary duty of MPs to serve their constituents.”

He added that a cap on earnings “could serve to prohibit activities which do not bring undue influence to bear on the political system.”

Labour’s Sir Keir criticised the Prime Minister for failing to deliver on his promise to tackle the issue.

“[Mr Johnson] said he was going to deal with second jobs and there was going to be this cap,” he told reporters.

“That was his proposal at the height of this scandal of his own making.

“Now, as soon as he gets the opportunity, he is breaking his promise yet again.”

He added: “It goes to the heart of the problem with this prime minister, which is this problem of trust and moral authority.”

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Ellie joined Gi Media in July 2021.