The Government has backed MPs’ plans that would tighten the rules around second jobs and consulting.
Earlier this year, the Commons Standards Committee published a report that included a number of recommendations for tightening the rules at Westminster, including an outright ban on MPs providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy services.
The committee had sought views on whether restrictions should be placed on MPs’ outside earnings in a review of the MPs’ Code of Conduct last year.
It followed the outcry over the disclosures that Tory Owen Paterson broke the ban on paid lobbying by MPs while Conservative backbencher Sir Geoffrey Cox earned more than £900,000 last year from his work as a lawyer.
In a response, published on Tuesday, the Government gave its backing to a proposed ban on MPs working as parliamentary advisers or consultants.
“The Government firmly believes that an MP’s primary job is and must be to serve their constituents and represent their interests in Parliament,” the response says.
“Members have a duty to their constituents and any outside work should be within reasonable limits, in order for an MP’s parliamentary duties to take priority.”
The Government was more lukewarm on a proposal that would see MPs who take on outside work required to have a written contract which explicitly states that their duties cannot include lobbying ministers or officials or providing advice on how to influence Parliament.
Citing “reservations” about “whether it is appropriate to regulate the terms of employment contracts between individual MPs and outside employer”, the Government said it did not agree with such a call.
“As soon as possible”
The overall committee proposals should come before the Commons “as soon as possible”, the Government concluded.
The chairman of the Committee on Standards, Chris Bryant, said that the “ultimate decision” to introduce the changes to rules on MPs’ conduct lies with the Commons.
“For this reason, it is imperative that the House is able to consider the proposals as soon as possible.
“I urge the Government to bring forward the relevant motions to the House as soon as possible when the House returns in October so Members can debate and decide on these important changes.”