Johnson’s proposals takes the wind out of Starmer’s sails but offers no substance.
Boris Johnson has set out plans to stop MPs from working as paid consultants, ahead of a Commons debate on banning some second jobs.
The surprise announcement came just moments before Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer briefed reporters on his party’s own plans to ban MPs’ outside employment.
Sir Keir Starmer announced his own proposals which would see all second jobs banned unless the roles were in “public service” or were for professions requiring registration.
For many, even that doesn’t go far enough, being an MP is a full-time job with a starting salary of £82k a year. That should guarantee that MPs donate all their working time to serving the needs of their constituents, parliamentary business and party.
MPs have accused the government of having failed to think through the plans which were announced in the wake of a lobbying scandal that has engulfed the Tories.
MPs have said the PMs proposals lack clarity, highlighting that the measures were taken from a 2018 report which concluded only a small number of MPs holding second jobs would be impacted.
The 2018 report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life concluded that “MPs should not undertake outside employment as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant” but said the measure would only cover a “handful” of MPs.
On the proposals around “reasonable time limits,” they said that a “majority of MPs do not have any outside interests, and a number of MPs hold outside interests many would consider to be within reasonable limits.”
“There are a small number of cases, however, where the public and media reaction to outside interests of MPs suggest that reasonable limits on MPs’ outside interests have been breached.
“The negative perception, that MPs are in office for their personal gain, is shaped by a small but very public minority of cases.”
But Johnson’s proposals have been welcomed by some Conservative MPs who have been inundated with complaints from constituents over the lobbying row.
One MP elected in 2019 said the proposals had “gone some way to deal with the issue” but that they “ideally should go further”. Tory MP Bob Seely tweeted: “Good. MPs should be banned from paid consultancy. It is a conflict of interest.”
I have written to the Commons Speaker to propose:— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 16, 2021
1) The Code of Conduct for MPs is updated
2) MPs who are prioritising outside interests over their constituents are investigated and appropriately punished
3) MPs are banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists pic.twitter.com/3SSQqrKRCG
It follows weeks of political pressure amid a row over former Tory MP Owen Paterson, who broke lobbying rules.
The PM botched an attempt to reform the standards regime to protect Mr Paterson – sparking an uproar over MPs’ outside interests.
This ignited accusations of sleaze which have dominated headlines over the past couple of weeks.
Johnson said a ban would stop MPs from “exploiting their positions”.
The debate over MPs’ jobs outside of Parliament has intensified since Mr Paterson was found to have used his position to lobby for two firms paying him.
Under the new proposal on second jobs offered by both Johnson and Starmer, it would not stop the likes of Sir Geffory Cox or even Starmer from being paid to do legal work or give advice, although Sir Keir Starmer has claimed he has given up his licence to practice law.
Investigations have shown the hundreds of thousands, MPs earn outside of their parliamentary duties. The public have been outraged to find that some MPs have like Sir Geoffery Cox has earned a reputed £900k while sunning it up in the British virgin islands giving the BVI advice. He was acting on behalf of the attorney general of the BVI, but his chief client is Andrew Fahie, the prime minister, who is defending himself and his government from allegations of misgovernance and corruption, at a commission of inquiry held on Tortola, the BVI’s largest island.
Ironically, one of the issues in play is the fate of the island’s Integrity in Public Life Act, as well as breaches of the BVI MPs Register of Interests Act. The BVI register is closed to the public and so is, arguably, ineffectual. Read more
There are plenty of other MPs breaking into their full-time job of representing their constituents and acting as parliamentarians including Sir Keir Starmer who has earned over 100k giving legal advice to clients over the last six years.
Starmer confirmed Labour would continue to push for a harsher change in a planned Commons vote tomorrow, saying the move would be “just the start”.
The Labour leader added that he wanted MPs to adopt a five-point plan which would see all commercial consultancy roles and paid directorships banned.
“The Prime Minister’s decisions led to this scandal,” Starmer added. “He has repeatedly failed to show leadership on this issue.
“He has a choice – support Labour’s plans to fix our politics or whip his MPs to vote against a ban on MPs being paid consultants.”
Starmer’s proposal is a Corbyn policy revamped and watered down.
Jeremy Corbyn proposed in his manifesto that MPs would be banned from holding second jobs under reforms of the rules governing political donations and lobbying that have been proposed by the Labour party.
Its stated Political donations from convicted tax evaders would be banned, while ministers would be prevented from becoming lobbyists for five years after leaving office under the proposals.
Legislation for the reforms would be enacted immediately upon entering office so as to prevent undue interference in a second referendum on Britain’s membership of the EU, the party said.
The proposed reforms included:
- A ban on MPs holding second jobs, with exemptions for professional registrations for careers such as nurses.
- Preventing political donations from “non-doms” – those who reside in the UK but claim their true home is overseas for tax purposes, exempting them paying tax on income received offshore – as well as those convicted of tax offences.
- Forcing political parties to name those who attend donors’ forums such as the Conservative party’s “Leader’s Group”, which give donors contributing more than £50,000 private audiences with senior party figures.
- Banning former ministers from working as lobbyists for a minimum of five years.
Labour under Corbyn also proposed abolishing the Lobbying Act, criticised as a “gagging law” by some for restricting charities from campaigning on policy issues in the run-up to elections, while exempting swaths of the public relations industry from registration.
Corbyn’s Labour instead proposed expanding the rules to require the registration of in-house lobbyists who work full time for a particular organisation, in addition to the specialist lobbying firms. It would also require disclosure of much more detail about the nature of lobbying work undertaken.
It also proposes expanding the register to cover thinktanks “that engage in lobbying activity”. Critics have accused thinktanks that write policy proposals but refuse to name their donors of harbouring potential conflicts of interest.
In view of that, it is also clear Starmer’s proposals don’t go far enough either.