We Need To Crack Down On MPs' Second Jobs. Sajid Javid's Latest Appointment Proves That

It's no wonder public trust in our representatives is dwindling when so many take high profile, lucrative appointments, Maighna Nanu writes.
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid leaves his home in London, Britain February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Former Chancellor of the Exchequer Sajid Javid leaves his home in London, Britain February 14, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
Simon Dawson / reuters

When Sajid Javid resigned from his position as chancellor in February, the move was unexpected to say the least.

Six months on, in another surprising twist, he has returned to the company where he first began his career as an investment banker: JPMorgan.

Alongside his full-time job as an MP for Bromsgrove, Javid will now also serve as a senior advisor to the US bank’s advisory council for Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The bank has not disclosed Javid’s salary but when JPMorgan appointed former prime minister Tony Blair as an adviser in 2008, his salary was reportedly £2million a year.

Though Javid’s may not be on the same scale, it is safe to say he will be earning more than the £77,000 he does as an MP.

MPs are forbidden from being “paid advocates” but there are no rules prohibiting MPs from seeking other forms of employment as long as they declare their paid employment outside Parliament in the Register of Members Financial Interests.

The appointment was approved by an advisory committee who cautioned that Javid’s “privileged access to information” as former chancellor means the move does carry risks, but there are certain rules to attempt to limit these. The contentious issue of MPs working second jobs is not new; a study in 2018 found that one in five MPs have regular paid work outside of Parliament.The issue is even less new for former chancellors.

After George Osborne was sacked as chancellor in 2017 he was appointed as as advisor to Blackrock, the world’s biggest fund management firm, on a salary of £650,000 a year. This was in addition to his role as the editor of the Evening Standard, his position as a full-time MP for Tatton, and three other jobs.

The public outcry over the clear potential conflict of interests prompted an inquiry from the Committee on Standards in Public Life into MPs’ outside interests, which concluded there was a “significant concern...that MPs are breaching the principle of selflessness by using their public role for personal benefit by utilising their skills, contacts, influence and experience in Parliament for their personal financial gain.”

“The public need to trust their elected representatives – now more than ever. Changing the rules to prevent them having high profile second jobs is just one place to start.”

There is a clear confluence between the realms of politics, finance, and media and it is high time to change the rules for MPs working second jobs in these sectors where their position as MPs can clearly inform their other roles. An LSE study looking at the value of political-corporate connections found that 46% of the top 50 public corporations have connections with a serving MP, and connected companies form 39% of market capitalisation.

Therefore, it seems beyond parody to believe that the man who was in charge of Britain’s finances six months ago is now a senior advisor at the world’s most powerful investment bank and will not use any information he acquired in his former position to inform his role. It flies in the face of the democratic role an MP should have and one can’t help but speculate that his interest in in his own wealth and wellbeing rather than that of the public.

There is a distinction between politicians being able to benefit from their outside knowledge in careers outside parliament and these helping inform their perspectives as MPs for the better, broadening their horizons beyond the Westminster bubble.

Take Rosena Allin-Khan for example, the MP for Tooting who undertook a few shifts as an A&E doctor at the height of the pandemic. Clearly, this gives her more firsthand insight to speak about the working conditions in the NHS and inadequacies with testing as she did earlier this year. For those in professional occupations who are required to practice a certain number of hours to maintain registration, it is a different situation.

Given the chaotic and hectic nature of government at present it seems shocking to believe that a full-time MP would have the time to take on another full-time job on top of his constituency duties. Or rather, be able to pay due diligence to their role as an MP in addition to their advisory duties.

Further, at a time when we are in the worst recession in history, a Tory MP taking a role at one of the world’s largest investment bank to proffer his salary as an MP while unemployment is rife doesn’t sit well and correlates exactly with the concerns of the report.

In Javid’s own constituency of Bromsgrove, where he was elected as an MP, the latest figures show youth unemployment claims increased by 159% since the beginning of lockdown. Surely any spare time he has accrued since leaving his post as xhancellor should be concentrated on helping his constituents at this pressing time not on his own additional remuneration.

MPs should not be allowed to work in realms such as finance or the media where their parliamentary knowledge can so unfairly inform them.

This does not bode well for the public’s dwindling trust in politicians either. An Ipsos MORI survey from June found that only 19% of Britons think MPs in general tell the truth most or all of the time; is it any wonder when such a high percentage accept highly paid second jobs?

It feels more as if MPs use their high status jobs paid by the taxpayer to benefit themselves rather than their constituents, which should be their main priority.

When the now Prime Minister Boris Johnson wrote a column for The Daily Telegraph he earned £275,000 in addition to his MPs salary.

In giving evidence to the committee in 2018 Lord Blunkett encapsulated the issue perfectly: “How can it be right for a public servant, paid £74,000 – nearly three times the average UK wage – to sideline their duty to their constituents in order to take on other work?”

The public need to trust their elected representatives – now more than ever. Changing the rules to prevent them having high profile second jobs is just one place to start.

Maighna Nanu is a freelance writer.

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