Question Time: Second jobs are ‘cross-party problem’ says expert
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Sir Geoffrey recently denied he “breached the rules” after a video emerged purporting to show him using his Parliamentary office for his job as a barrister. The alleged breach came a week after Owen Paterson, another Tory MP, resigned following a botched attempt from the Government to overturn findings from the Commons standards committee. The committee reported he made several “egregious” breaches of standards rules, and it could come down to others in a similar position to theirs to clean up the current mess.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, Dr Steve McCabe, Associate Professor at Birmingham City University, said the current situation facing the Commons is nothing new.
The last time Parliament had a chance to consider MPs second jobs was back in 2018.
Dr McCabe said the Committee on Standards in Public Life, then chaired by ex-MI5 chief Lord Jonathan Evans, “frustratingly” recommended no MP should “accept paid work providing services that would create ‘tension’ with their role as Parliamentarians”.
If Parliament had followed this recommendation, he said, it would have “outlawed the behaviour which has so preoccupied the press for the last week”.
Dr McCabe also drew a “crucial” distinction in the current debate, however, outlining types of second jobs.
The professor said people should keep in mind while some MPs have taken the “equivalent of a lottery win” over the years, others use their professions to contribute to their communities.
He said: “In considering the issue of secondary earnings, it’s crucial to be cognisant of overreaction.
“Banning all additional earning may seem a reasonable way to solve the current problem.”
“That an MP’s basic salary is £81,932 plus what are generous expenses, putting them in the top five percent of the country’s earners, make them appear to be already well-rewarded for what is widely acknowledged to be a privilege.
“What’s worth remembering is that some MPs carry out work on a range of activities providing them with extremely valuable connections to the constituencies they represent.
“Lest we lose such expertise, this is not something outlawed without careful consideration.
“Indeed, a number of MPs maintain links to professions, such as medicine and law, essential should they lose their seat and wish to recommence.”
Those who work doubly for their constituencies in other vital roles include MPs such as Dr Rosena Allin-Khan.
The Labour MP has received payments from St George’s Hospital Trust – at the heart of her constituency – several times this year for her work as a doctor, getting between £300 and £700 for working six to 10-hour shifts.
Her job is undeniably vital to her constituents, so Dr McCabe states the issue falls to those who have “done well ‘riding the gravy train’” to resolve.
He questioned whether they could “find the gumption to deal with the issue of second jobs”.
He also questioned whether they would have the “willpower” to “outlaw” those jobs associated with “greed and contempt”.
Dr McCabe concluded: “Not for the first time, our elected representatives have an opportunity to sort out the issue of sleaze.
“MPs are elected to create laws governing our behaviour.
“Will they have the willpower to outlaw practices regarded by the vast majority as motivated by greed and contempt for their voters?“
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