Boris Johnson quietly abandons sordid plan to cap MPs’ second job pay or hours

The PM claimed MPs’ second jobs should have ‘reasonable limits’ when he finally acted over Owen Paterson’s sleaze row – but it now appears that won’t mean a cap of hours or salary

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has quietly walked away from the plan

Boris Johnson has quietly dropped anti-sleaze plans to cap MPs’ hours or pay from their second jobs.

The Prime Minister claimed outside work should be kept within ‘reasonable limits’ when he finally acted last year.

At the time, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab suggested that ‘reasonable limits’ meant capping second job pay or hours.

But now Boris Johnson’s government has objected to both, in a review of the system run by the Commons Standards Committee.

The objections, obtained by the Guardian, said an hours cap would be ‘impractical’ and an income cap could unfairly ban MPs from writing books in their free time.

Boris Johnson himself gave an advance of £88,000 for an ‘unwritten’ book in 2015.

It came as curator Sir Geoffrey Cox saved an extra £54,354.50 from his second £1,500-an-hour job as a QC.

Sir Geoffrey – who insists he broke no rules – sparked outrage last year after working a corruption inquiry in the British Virgin Islands for 11 separate days as the House of communes sat.

Boris Johnson sparked fury in November when he tried to tear up the system to prevent Tory MP Owen Paterson from being suspended for breaching lobbying rules.

Mr Paterson then left the Commons to protest his innocence, but only after weeks of backlash from the public.

Boris Johnson finally tried to resolve the dispute by accepting two key recommendations in a 2018 report by the Committee for Standards in Public Life.

The first was to amend the Code of Conduct for Members to state: “Members should not accept any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, for example, advising on parliamentary business or how to influence parliament and its members. .

Sir Geoffrey Cox sparked outrage last year after working on an inquiry into corruption in the British Virgin Islands for 11 different days while the House of Commons sat


BVI Commission of Inquiry / YouTube)

“MPs should never accept payment or an offer of employment to act as political or parliamentary consultants or advisers.”

The second was to state: “Any outside activity undertaken by an MP, whether remunerated or unpaid, should be kept within reasonable limits and should not prevent him from fully exercising his range of duties.

Boris Johnson never explicitly promised ‘reasonable limits’ would be defined by hours or salary.

But his deputy Dominic Raab suggested that would be the case. He told BBC Radio 4: “You can do it in two ways.

“You can do it by amount or you can do it by number of hours.

“We have asked the standards committee to work out the details by January.”

Mr. Raab added at the time: “The amount [in terms of pay] is of course one thing — particularly from the point of view of perception — but I think the other thing, if you ask me personally, is the volume, the number of hours, because the principle is very clear.

“Your top priority is to serve your constituents and you should not take on any interests outside the House of Commons that get in the way of that.”

Government objections were raised by Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Steve Barclay and Commons Leader Mark Spencer.

They said: “The government is initially of the view that imposing fixed constraints such as time limits on the time MPs can devote to outside work would be impractical.

“Imposing time limits would not necessarily serve to address recent concerns about paid advocacy and the primary duty of MPs to serve their constituents. It might be possible, for example, for an MP to complete work within the agreed time frame, but this does not necessarily mean that this work is “appropriate” even if it did not constitute “paid defence”. »

They added, “With respect to caps on outside labor income, imposing such a cap could serve to prohibit activities that do not exert undue influence on the political system. Income from activities such as writing books, for example, would not prevent MPs from fulfilling their primary duty to their constituents. »

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Edward L. Robinett