Former attorney general, Sir Geoffrey Cox, will not face an investigation over the use of his Commons office to carry out legal work for the British Virgin Islands Inquiry.
Sir Geoffrey had been photographed taking part in a British Virgin Islands Inquiry virtual meeting, seemingly from his office in the House of Commons. A video clip of the meeting also appeared to show that Sir Geoffrey dismissed himself from the meeting and left his desk after a division bell sounded, which calls MPs into the chamber to vote.
MPs are banned from using public resources, including parliamentary offices, for any “personal or financial benefit”. The revelation that Sir Geoffrey had used his Commons office to connect with the British Virgin Islands Inquiry meeting therefore saw him face allegations of misconduct from opposition MPs.
However, Sir Geoffrey informed BBC Radio 4 this week that he would face no further action after standards commissioner Kathryn Stone opted not to pursue the matter further.
The BBC reports that the standards commissioner believed rules around parliamentary office use should be applied with “a sense of proportion” and that the evidence against Sir Geoffrey did not warrant a misconduct inquiry.
Prior to the outcome, Sir Geoffrey said that he did not believe his actions were in breach of parliamentary standards, but that he would wholly accept the judgement of the standards commissioner or the Standards Committee on the issue.
The debate over MPs and what second jobs should be allowed has recently intensified following the Owen Paterson controversy.
Earlier this week, the Standards Committee recommended that MPs are banned from providing paid parliamentary advice or consultancy services as part of a reform to the code of conduct.
Sir Geoffrey made almost £900,000 on top of his salary as an MP working a barrister in 2020 according to The Register of Members’ Interests. He also travelled to the British Virgin Islands in April and June of 2020 as part of his work on the inquiry, carrying out his duties as an MP remotely.
Elsewhere, Conservative MP and Commons leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg, is facing an investigation by the parliamentary standards watchdog, relating to £6 million of director's loans he received from his company, Saliston, to renovate his home in Westminster. Rees-Mogg claims that the loans were properly declared and said that he would comply with the standards commissioner's inquiry in full.
This follows news that Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, is also being investigated for misconduct, after failing to declare around £17,000 of his earnings from his salary as an MSP and his work as a football official.