THE BLOG
23/02/2015 07:53 GMT | Updated 25/04/2015 06:59 BST

Time to Change the Rules on Second Jobs for MPs

Two former cabinet ministers have been accused of selling influence and access. They both deny doing anything wrong and that everything they have done is "within the rules". Sound familiar? We've been here too many times before. Just like with the expenses scandal, we are caught up in a clash of cultures between some in Parliament who believe that MPs having second jobs is a right and those outside the Westminster village who think a salary of £67,000 should be more than enough.

Both Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind have vehemently denied any wrongdoing. No doubt there will be an investigation, and it may be proven that they didn't break the rules. So much for the rules. If accepting cash for questions - at a daily rate that politicians caught out in these scandals always have conveniently to hand - is not against the rules then quite frankly we need to rethink the rules.

There is a real risk to our democratic system when MPs' second jobs are perceived as another way of corporate interests buying access and influence. The public already feel that MPs listen to big business and party donors rather than their constituents and this is only reinforced by the plethora of corporate gifts and hospitality that some MPs receive. Ordinary people simply don't believe that tobacco companies are giving away expensive tickets to events and expecting nothing in return.

Should MPs be allowed second jobs at all? If we want a diverse Parliament that includes people from a wide range of backgrounds and people who have established careers before entering politics then there is a case for allowing second jobs. There is tremendous value in having a GP continue to keep a hand in their medical practice and thus maintain their expertise, for example. The same cannot be said for political consultancy work.

There is no job description for MPs. They can and do choose to do the job differently, but their priority must always remain representing their constituents. The majority of MPs who work very long hours probably can't even imagine doing their jobs whilst also raking in hundreds of thousands of pounds from other sources.

So far all this scandal has done is reinforce the perception that many politicians are more interested in making money that representing their constituents. There needs to be fundamental change. At the very least, if second jobs are to be allowed then the taxpayer should not be expected to subsidise them as well. If benefit claimants lose money on a pound by pound basis when their income is over a certain level why can't we have a similar system for MPs?