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MP bizarrely claims ‘second jobs’ ban would stop them seeing their kids

Several MPs objected to plans to cap their outside earnings, with one suggesting it would make HGV driver shortages worse

Adam Bychawski
18 March 2022, 6.09pm
A number of MPs have objected to the proposal to set limits on second jobs and ban paid consultancy work
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Mike Ford / Alamy Stock Photo

MPs have given a litany of bizarre excuses for keeping their high-value second jobs, with one claiming a ban on work would stop them seeing their children.

Several MPs submitted written evidence as part of the parliamentary standards committee’s consultation over changes to the MPs’ Code of Conduct, launched in the wake of the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal in November.

The former Tory MP broke parliamentary rules by lobbying on behalf of two companies from whom he received at least £500,000 in payments. In response, Boris Johnson proposed setting limits on MPs' second jobs and banning paid consultancy work, which Tory MPs unanimously voted in favour of.

But this week, the government rowed back on its plan, writing in a submission to the standards committee that a cap on how much time MPs spend on second jobs, and how much they earn, would be “impractical”.

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A number of MPs also objected to the proposal, despite having backed it just four months ago in their submissions to the committee. Below are a few of the reasons they gave.

(1) The public should find it “reassuring” that MPs are being paid high sums for second jobs

One anonymous MP said it was “irrelevant what remuneration [MPs] receive” from second jobs as long as it is disclosed. They added that if an MP is well remunerated that “it should be a reassuring sign that they are highly valued in their field”.

Half of voters already think that MPs are paid too much according to a YouGov poll carried out in November.

(2) It would make the HGV drivers shortage worse

Another anonymous MP said the cap was “utterly unacceptable” because it “would be wholly wrong to determine what type of external role is acceptable or not”. They gave the example of a lorry driver as one second job that is “absolutely essential”.

At the time of writing, there are no MPs who moonlight as lorry drivers, as far as openDemocracy is aware. Nor is a part-time lorry driver likely to make the sort of money that triggers a ban on excessive six-figure earnings.

(3) MPs need multiple jobs to make ends meet

A third anonymous MPs appeared to suggest that MPs needed second jobs to get by.

“We all have to choose our work life balance, and many of our constituents juggle multiple jobs to make ends meet, and I do not see us as [sic] MPs as any different,” they wrote.

MPs receive an annual basic salary of £81,932, which is set to rise to £84,144 in April. This is just under three times more than the UK median annual salary of approximately £31,772 in 2021, according to the Office of National Statistics.

(4) It would stop them seeing their children

The government’s initial recommendations proposed that “reasonable limits” are set on all “outside activities”. Most interpreted the wording to refer to paid work, but some MPs have taken an unhelpfully wide view of what could fall under this definition.

The Tory MP Dan Poulter suggested that charitable work, sporting activity, and even spending time with his own children might constitute an “outside activity”.

“Setting an arbitrary time limit on paid and unpaid outside interests would involve the commissioner policing an MP’s personal life and free time,” he added.

(5) Mo Rules Mo Training

The Tory MP Bill Wiggin told the committee that he supports “a system that stops abuse of our political processes”.

But he argued that “limiting time or limiting income does not improve the honesty and integrity of the system – it just creates more opportunity for errors”.

He added: “More rules mean more training, and thus creates more opportunities to make a mistake.”

The Herefordshire MP was one of the ten highest earning MPs last year, receiving more than £80,000 from outside work.

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