The government is protesting plans to limit MPs’ earnings from other jobs after Boris Johnson vowed to crack down on politicians who “disregard their duties to their constituents”.
Ministers told the Commons Standards Committee that limits on either the amount of time MPs could spend on outside work or the amount they could earn from other jobs would be “impractical”. The committee is consulting on tougher rules after a bitter row last year in which Owen Paterson left the Commons amid a lobbying scandal.
Downing Street’s attempts to change the rules of standards to help Patterson have resulted in a close scrutiny of the conduct of his colleagues, including Sir Geoffrey Cox, who has been paid nearly £6 million for legal work since becoming MP. has gone.
The government said “fixed constraints” on time or earnings were not necessary to address recent concerns over paid advocacy and the primary duty of lawmakers to serve their constituents. For example, it may be possible for a member to act within an approved time limit, but that does not mean that such work is ‘appropriate’, even if it is not ‘paid advocacy’.”
The Prime Minister’s Chief of Staff Steve Barkley and House of Commons Leader Mark Spencer wrote in a joint presentation to the committee: “With respect to a cap on earnings from outside work, the imposition of such a limit may work. Prohibit activities that do not have an undue influence on the political system. Income from activities such as writing books, for example, will not prevent members from fulfilling their principal duty to their constituents.”
As the external earnings row overwhelmed the government in November, Boris Johnson called for rules to “ensure that lawmakers who are disregarding their duties to their constituents and prioritizing external interests” He was “appropriately punished”. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab suggested that the government support a time limit or earnings limit, saying: “You can do it in one of two ways, you can do it by the amount or you can do it by the numbers.” Can do for hours.”
The international trade secretary, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, called for a limit of 10 to 15 hours a week on outdoor work.
Lord Evans, chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, urged MPs to “set an indicative limit on hours and remuneration, with a refutable presumption that payment of employment outside those limits would be considered unfair”.
But the government’s submission to the Standards Committee, first reported by The Guardian, rejects the idea, which the committee said could only be offered if there was “widespread cross-party support”.
Barkley and Spencer said they still support reforms to “restrict the type of outside work that lawmakers are able to do”. He opposed the committee’s suggestion that MPs be referred to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards on their Behavior in the House of Commons, and urged MPs to “prevent by any means an unfair and highly personal assault”. The idea was also questioned.
Such a provision, the government said, would “inadvertently serve to exert a chilling effect on debate outside Parliament, whether in person or online”.
Dozens of lawmakers, mostly conservatives, responded to the committee’s consultation with criticisms of the proposed rule changes, particularly a proposal to forbid “unfair and overly personal attack”.
Conservative MP Aaron Bell said the suggestion “amounts to a land grab for standards by the Parliamentary Commissioner, who envisions a jurisdictional role as judge on all aspects of MPs’ public life”.
Alex Burgert, another Conservative MP, said the motion would result in “a real danger that members would refrain from making statements about other people for fear that judges would think they were ‘inappropriate’ or ‘excessive’.”