Boris Johnson Denies UK Politics Is 'Corrupt' Amid Fury Over Lobbying And Second Jobs

Prime minister on the defensive while making plea to international leaders on climate change.
Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow.
Boris Johnson speaks during a press conference at the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow.
picture alliance via Getty Images

Boris Johnson has been forced to dismiss suggestions Britain’s political system is corrupt at a crunch international climate change summit.

Speaking at the Cop26 conference in Glasgow, the prime minister’s efforts to encourage world leaders to take action on saving the planet were overshadowed by questions over the conduct of some MPs.

His return to the summit comes amid a row over second jobs in the wake of a the controversy about Owen Paterson being found to have broken the centuries-old ban on paid lobbying by MPs.

The latest outrage involves claims former Cabinet minister Sir Geoffrey Cox breached parliamentary rules by undertaking external work from his Westminster office.

Speaking at the Cop26 summit in Glasgow, the PM said: “I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country, nor do I believe that our institutions are corrupt.

“We have a very, very tough system of parliamentary democracy and scrutiny, not least by the media.

“I think what you have got is cases where, sadly, MPs have broken the rules in the past, may be guilty of breaking the rules today. What I want to see is them facing appropriate sanctions.”

Taking a tough line on sleaze, Johnson said MPs found to have broken conduct rules “should be punished”.

He said: “On the issue of MPs and second jobs and all that, I just want to say that the most important thing is that those who break the rules must be investigated and should be punished.”

Labour has referred Sir Geoffrey to the Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone after video emerged of him apparently taking part in legal proceedings in the British Virgin Islands remotely from his office in Westminster.

Johnson, who has seen the Tories’ poll ratings fall after the row over standards erupted last week, said he was not going to comment on individual cases.

He said that while in the past MPs doing second jobs such as doctors, lawyers or soldiers had strengthened democracy, it was essential they put their constituents first if that was to continue.

“If that system is going to continue today, then it is crucial that MPs follow the rules,” he said.

“And the rules say two crucial things: you must put your job as an MP first and you must devote yourself primarily and above all to your constituents and the people who send you to Westminster, to Parliament.

“And they also say that you should not use your position as an MP to lobby or otherwise intervene on behalf of any outside commercial interest.

“It is not only that you have to register those interests – you can’t lobby or make representation while an MP on behalf of those interests.

“Those are the rules and they must be enforced and those who don’t obey them should of course face sanctions.”


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