Why Are MPs Allowed To Have Second Jobs? Here’s An Explanation That Won’t Boil Your Brain

Tory MPs such as Iain Duncan Smith and Geoffrey Cox are in hot water after taking lucrative second jobs.
Iain Duncan Smith and Geoffrey Cox both have second jobs outside of being MPs
Iain Duncan Smith and Geoffrey Cox both have second jobs outside of being MPs

MPs have been under further pressure this week after it emerged several Conservatives have lucrative second jobs which could pose a conflict of interest to their jobs in Parliament.

The debate began after Tory MP Owen Paterson – who resigned last week – was found guilty of breaching Parliamentary lobbying rules, by using his position to benefit two companies which paid him as a consultant.

Further investigations have revealed that former attorney-general and current Tory MP Geoffrey Cox travelled to the British Virgin Islands to advise on a corruption inquiry – and has earned almost £900,000 outside Parliament.

Iain Duncan Smith, former leader of the Conservatives, has been accused of a “brazen conflict of interest” over his £25,000 job at a hand sanitiser firm as well.

This has all prompted accusations of ‘sleaze’ particularly in the Tory Party, although MPs from both sides of the House have secondary jobs.

Owen Paterson resigned after the government U-turned over his suspension
Owen Paterson resigned after the government U-turned over his suspension
ISABEL INFANTES via Getty Images

So just what are the rules surrounding MPs taking second jobs?

They can’t be a minister

If someone works in cabinet and is an MP, this is considered a second job already.

Being a minister would also give MPs the power to enact executive orders to benefit private companies.

Any additional income must be declared

Gifts, donations and shareholdings over 15% must be declared on the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

This is includes any income from consultancy work.

MPs have to declare individual payments of more than £100 or collective payments that add up to more than £300 from the same source in the space of one year.

Strictly forbidden from getting paid for lobbying

Getting paid “in return for advocating a particular matter” is against Parliamentary rules, and that is why the MPs’ watchdog advised the Commons to suspend Paterson for 30 days after he was found guilty.

While MPs can lobby ministers or other MPs and officials to support various causes, it becomes a problem when that particular Parliamentarian is getting financial gain from that campaign.

These restrictions ease six months after the reward was received – meaning after that time period, an MP can campaign on behalf of a cause as long as they do not get paid for it for a second time.

So – why do MPs need a secondary income?

MPs are paid £81,932, a sum set in April last year by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

They also receive expenses to cover the costs of their office, commuting to London and their constituency and employing staff.

While it’s clear MPs don’t need the role financially, having another job was considered a positive move as it gave Parliament more diversity and professional insight.

But secondary jobs became unfavourable after the 1994 “cash for questions” scandal saw MPs lobbying for the companies which paid them. Rules surrounding secondary incomes were then tightened up.

How many hours do MPs work?

MPs attend Parliamentary debates and run clinics with their constituents. Sessions in the Commons last around eight hours per day on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.

However, they don’t have to attend every debate.

On Mondays and Fridays, MPs usually work for their constituents.

What kind of secondary jobs do they take up?

The most lucrative work seems to be as consultants or lawyers, but some MPs – such as Dr Caroline Johnson or Sarah Atherton – do work as nurses or doctors.

The full list of MPs who have secondary jobs is broken down on the UK Parliament website here.

What has the government said?

The official No.10 spokesperson said the prime minister “doesn’t back an outright ban on second jobs”.

They explained: “A ban on second jobs will catch those who still work in roles such as doctors and nurses.”

Sajid Javid also said no MP should be using their parliamentary offices for outside work.

He told Sky News: “Whether it’s your parliamentary office or any other parliamentary stationery or anything that’s funded or supported by the taxpayer, of course, that should not be used.

“I think the rules are clear and of course all MPs would be expected to observe that at all times.”

However, he refused to comment any individual cases.

International trade secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said it would be “wise” to look into the rules around second jobs following the backlash.


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