Being an MP is a huge privilege and a full time job

July 10, 2013 6:28 pm

Ed Miliband is right to crack down on the MPs with highly paid second- and all too often third and fourth- jobs.

In his speech yesterday, Ed Miliband called for an end to MPs having lucrative second jobs for third party commercial operators. As a first step, Labour has challenged the other party leaders on the matter, but let’s be clear, whatever happens, we are committed to regulating second jobs in our manifesto at the next General Election.

In my view we should say that some commercial activities should not only be declared on the register of interests but ought also to be regulated after the next election. For example, no MP ought to be a lobbyist after 2015.  We should say we will not permit MP’s who are elected in 2015 to arrange any remunerated contracts to be directors of commercial companies or consultancies.

There may be some cases where earned income does not come into the same category.  An obvious case could be where an MP is remunerated for a piece of journalism (although I personally have never accepted any such payment). But in such examples there should be a clear cap on the amount which you can receive as an MP.  In America for example you can’t earn more than 15% of your salary if you are a member of Congress.

The British people rightly expect their MPs to be representing them and the country not anyone else. That is what we are here for and that should be the purpose of all MPs elected to this place. Constituents deserve our full attention.

MPs are public servants, a position that comes with an unparalleled level of faith and trust which must not be misused and abused. It is therefore essential that MPs must not seek to gain financially from such this position of trust.

From the current Members’ Register of Interest, it is clear that in just the last year over 60 Conservative MPs were being paid for work for third party commercial interests. More than 50 MPs had directorships of at least one company. Of course they are not breaking any rules at the moment.  But it is clear that we must change the rules.

We are facing a crisis of democracy in Britain. People are not at all comfortable with the way things are going; already far too many are disaffected and increasingly disengaged. The current situation does not just risk damaging public perceptions of MPs and Parliament, it risks adding to the growing gulf between the political elite- what Ed Miliband has described as the ‘closed circle’- and the vast majority of people.

This is highly dangerous to our democracy and feeds the right wing demagogues in UKIP and elsewhere.

For those wanting to find information on MPs’ current declared interests, the information available in the Register of Members’ Interests is difficult to interpret and even harder to compare. It is not released in a structured format and contains no restrictions on how much can be earned by an MP through second, third and even fourth jobs (or how many additional jobs they can squeeze in). Clearly our current system is under-regulated.

A recent YouGov poll for the Sunday Times showed that of those polled here in Britain, 57% support a ban on MPs from holding second jobs. Just 25% oppose a ban. I would be interested to hear the views of LabourList readers on the subject.

Ed Miliband has instructed the Policy Review to draw up new rules. If the Government fails to introduce political reform of this type, we ought in my view to have such proposals in our manifesto at the next General Election.

The Tories cannot tackle this crisis – they are part of the problem, not the solution. One Tory MP currently earns over £700,000 a year as a barrister on top of his MPs salary- a salary three times the national average. And at least two Tory MPs also currently sit as highly paid Judges, their additional earnings paid for out of the public purse.

The Tories represent a narrow section of vested interests often at odds with the concerns of the vast majority of Britain. Their policies have simply reinforced the perception of ‘us and them’, excluding the many to the advantage of the few. And the Lib Dems are no better- Nick Clegg has already rejected Ed Miliband’s call for new restrictions on what MPs can earn from second jobs.

At a time when the Coalition Government is viewed by an overwhelming majority as the “party of the rich”, the importance of One Nation Britain has never been greater. We must defend the principle that public service supersedes other paid roles; otherwise we will struggle to rebuild public confidence in the integrity of our elected representatives.

Working as an MP is the highest honour in a democracy and there should be no doubt in the public’s mind that we are here to serve the common good and not be diverted into defending private interests. But it is more than this; it is a public service that must not be misused. Imposing limits on paid second jobs will prevent conflict of interests and abuse of privilege and go some way to restoring public trust in our political representatives.

Jon Trickett is Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office

  • DaveAboard

    I would go further and say that no MP should be allowed to work for any company which benefitted from taxpayer funded contracts whilst that MP’s party was in government for a period of 10 years.

    • Alex Otley

      Simon Danczuk klaxon!

      • DaveAboard

        Yes, the man is an absolute disgrace and the type of character who the right wing media will focus on as an example of “typical Labour”. It doesn’t matter what the party leadership says, all the time there are people like Danczuk holding seats Cameron will be presented with open goal after open goal and the press will lap it up.

  • MonkeyBot5000

    You allow them one salary. If they don’t like it, they can bugger off and find another job.

  • JC

    Why should there be any other income at all? No “sponsorship” either as it could easily be abused by lobbyists.

  • ColinAdkins

    I agree Jon. Funny those who support the idea that democracy benefits from people maintaining outside interests are always non-exec directors, legal professionals, journalists etc but never anyone doing a shift on a ward, in a call-centre or on an assembly line.

Latest

  • Comment Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Labour could lose out by not making it’s stance on Trident clear

    Cutting Trident will be the price of support in a hung parliament. That’s the news reported from a meeting of the SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green leaders this week. With Labour’s slim lead and the SNP and Green vote threatening to impact on its share, this is a serious issue. Labour’s policy clearly states, ‘Labour has said that we are committed to a minimum, credible independent nuclear deterrent, delivered through a Continuous At-Sea Deterrent. It would require a clear body […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Is Cameron “frit” of TV debates? Let’s try the empty chair threat

    Lord Ashcroft has told him he shouldn’t have done it in 2010. Lynton Crosby has told him not to do it in 2015. It’s no surprise that David Cameron is trying to wriggle out of televised leader debates during the General Election – even though he has said he is willing to take part “in principle”. Time perhaps to dust off one of Margaret Thatcher’s favourite barbs “He’s frit.” Neil Kinnock tried it in 1992 to try to goad John Major into […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    Flexibility makes for good work, strong families and thriving communities

    By Stephen Timms MP and Ian Murray MP The Christmas period reminds us that modern life can be busy, hurried and demanding. The pressures of work, demands of family life and hectic Christmas schedules can prove stretching as we juggle competing demands. Increasingly the need for flexible work is driven by the complex shape of people’s lives; as parents go to work, struggle to make ends meet, perform career roles, take their children to school and activities and try and carve […]

    Read more →
  • News Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    Labour MP questions campaigning roles of publicly funded advisers

    As the start of the long campaign begins today, curbing the amount of money parties can spend between now and May 7th, Labour MP Jon Ashworth has sought to clarify what precautions are being taken to ensure publicly-funded government advisers are not using their time campaigning. Ashworth has sent a letter to senior civil servant Jeremy Heywood, asking him to answer a number of questions about what kind of campaigning activity was permitted and undertaken by special advisers (SpAds) in […]

    Read more →
  • News Berger asks Twitter to do more to stop use of racist words

    Berger asks Twitter to do more to stop use of racist words

    Luciana Berger, Shadow Minister for Public Health, has called on Twitter to do more the stop racist terms being used on the site. Berger has herself faced a large amount of anti-semitic abuse on the site, and in October Garron Helm  was jailed for sending her a torrent of anti-semitic messages. Berger told the Telegraph (£): “At the height of the abuse, the police said I was the subject of 2,500 hate messages in the space of three days using […]

    Read more →