Government moves away from plans for limit on MPs’ second jobs and incomes

Published by Scott Challinor on March 18th 2022, 12:12am

Cabinet Office minister Steve Barclay has written to the House of Commons Standards Committee, warning that it would be an “impractical” measure to limit the number of hours that MPs can spend on second jobs and cap earnings from them.

Prime minister Boris Johnson has previously supported proposals to implement “reasonable limits” on the amount of time MPs spend on second jobs, with a condition that second roles should not impede MPs from fully serving their constituents.

This came after sleaze accusations emerged over the Owen Paterson controversy, and former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox faced scrutiny for his work as a barrister, late last year.

However, writing on behalf of the government this week, Barclay said that a limit would “not necessarily serve to address recent concerns over paid advocacy and the primary duty of MPs to serve their constituents” and questioned the justification of introducing a cap on MPs’ income outside of parliamentary duties.

The tone of Barclay’s letter suggests that the cabinet as a collective has taken the decision to move away from its previous view that a limit on time MPs spend carrying out second jobs would be reasonable.

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 over paid advocacy and the primary duty of MPs to serve their constituents.”

On a potential earnings cap, Barclay suggested that such a move “could serve to prohibit activities which do not bring undue influence to bear on the political system”, using authoring a book as an example.

He also raised the issue that longer-serving MPs could “inadvertently reach the ‘ceiling’ through earnings accrued over time”, which could see parliamentarians unexpectedly and needlessly subjected to standards proceedings and penalised.

“To avoid this issue would require a substantive earning threshold to be set such that it would not serve to prevent MPs from taking on outside work for which they were properly remunerated in line with salaries in that sector”, Barclay continued.

“The introduction of such an arbitrary cap therefore may not have the intended effect of ensuring that members prioritise their parliamentary duties and the needs of their constituents.”

Barclay did, however, emphasise that the government still wished to prevent MPs from providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy services.

Photo by tommao wang on Unsplash

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Scott Challinor
Business Editor
March 18th 2022, 12:12am

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