THE BLOG

Why Are Members of Parliament Allowed to Earn Money on the Side?

10/06/2013 23:02 BST | Updated 09/08/2013 10:12 BST

The reputation of Parliament is once again under question - we had the expenses scandal a few years ago - now we have the return of cash for questions allegations. Wouldn't it help preserve the reputation of Parliament from suffering even more damage if MPs were not allowed to take any money other than their MPs wages?

When we go and vote for someone standing for election to Parliament it is likely we do so because we think they would represent us and our interests and that they would when not acting on our behalf would be acting on behalf of the nation as a whole - the former rather than the latter in most cases I daresay.

How many of us vote for prospective MPs thinking that they will be taking money to work for people other than their voters or the national interest? I suggest none of us do.

The following is an extract from the 'Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament'

By virtue of the oath, or affirmation, of allegiance taken by all Members when they are elected to the House, Members have a duty to be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty the Queen etc

Members have a duty to uphold the law, including the general law against discrimination.

Members have a general duty to act in the interests of the nation as a whole; and a special duty to their constituents.

Members should act on all occasions in accordance with the public trust placed in them. They should always behave with probity and integrity, including in their use of public resources.

So, no surprises here - there is nothing in this list of duties about taking money from groups, companies or individuals to act on behalf of others. The voters do not expect them to do it and it's not part of their duties so why do they do it - simple greed perhaps?

Earning money from other sources is not in itself dishonest of course - but clearly it does influence some MPs to act in an inappropriate way. I think most of us believe that there is a problem with MPs earning extra money and it is not doing the Country any good. We need a Parliamentary system we can have confidence in and after this and the expenses scandal we are entitled to worry that we can't trust our all of our MPs.

If they were paid more for their basic job would they then agree to not take any money from other sources? Many of us would be pleasantly surprised if this was the case.

Their basic salary of £65,738 is - to be fair - not a large amount in this day and age but by how much should it be increased so that no member of parliament feels the need to earn money from elsewhere.

Part of the argument for allowing other income is that some talented, potential MPs would be put off by earning less money as an MP than their previous jobs and we would forego the advantages their talents would bring. So if we doubled the pay to £130,000 would that then be enough not to put off these oh so talented people with high incomes - well presumably not for the wealthiest of them.

What about paying them say - £90,000 a year but with a condition that they do not have other incomes? Surely that would attract enough people who were clever enough to run parliament? Ministers would be paid more of course. Couldn't we survive without those few extra wealthy individuals who could not stand such a drop in wages to serve the voters or their Country?

Don't we expect them to work full time anyway at being an MP? If they find they have spare time enough for other work is this not a sign that they should be working harder to serve their constituents and the nation as a whole? With the complexity of a modern society and all the varied roles and interests of Parliament there must be enough work to do.

I bet most Members of Parliament are honest and hard-working but experience has persuaded us that in most walks of life there need to be rules to deal with the dishonest few.

There should be a rule that forbids MPs from earning money other than their salaries - it would increase our confidence in them and would better serve the interests of the Country.