Starmer claims win as PM proposes banning MPs from paid consultancy jobs

Elliot Chappell

Keir Starmer has claimed a victory after Boris Johnson proposed that MPs should be banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists alongside their role as elected representatives.

Tweeting this afternoon, following weeks of public pressures sparked over allegations of corruption sparked by the Owen Paterson scandal, the Prime Minister declared that he has written to the Commons Speaker with a package of proposals.

He tweeted: “I have written to the Commons Speaker to propose: 1) The code of conduct for MPs is updated; 2) MPs who are prioritising outside interests over their constituents are investigated and appropriately punished; 3) MPs are banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists.”

Keir Starmer confirmed earlier this week that his party would be bringing opposition day motions relating to the sleaze row, one of which called for ban on MPs taking roles as paid consultants or directors, on Wednesday.

Commenting at a Labour press conference this afternoon, following the release of the letter on social media by the Prime Minister, the Labour leader said his party had “won the vote tomorrow already”.

“We’ve had two weeks of Tory sleaze and corruption. And be under no illusion, the Prime Minister’s only done this U-turn because his back was against the wall, because we, the Labour Party, have put down a binding vote for tomorrow. So this is a significant victory for the Labour Party. This is a Prime Minister has shown no leadership on this whatsoever. It’s a step forward for standards in public life. And I rather hope that all my press conferences are this successful, that whilst I’m making a demand of the Prime Minister, he concedes, caves in. And that’s a very significant victory for the Labour Party,” he added later.

“What I want to see from the Prime Minister now is him following through and ensuring that his MPs vote for this tomorrow so we can have that binding decision of the House and move forward. We’ve had two weeks of corruption and sleaze. Let’s follow through and let’s see that vote go through tomorrow.”

In his letter, Johnson wrote that the code of conduct for MPs should be updated so that it “continues to command the confidence of the public” and said his government is backing two proposals in the report published by the committee on standards in public Life three years ago, which are:

  • “The code of conduct for MPs should be updated to state that: ‘Any outside activity undertaken by a MP, whether remunerated or unremunerated, should be within reasonable limits and should not prevent them from fully carrying out their range of duties”; and
  • “The code of conduct for MPs and guide to the rules should be updated to state: ‘MPs should not accept any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, for example, advising on parliamentary affairs or on how to influence parliament and its members. MPs should never accept any payment or offers of employment to act as political or parliamentary consultants or advisers.'”

Starmer used the press conference today to outline a series of his own proposals on MPs jobs. The Labour leader said he wanted to ban “all second jobs for MPs”, with very limited exceptions, and proposed a five-year ban on former ministers taking jobs in the sectors they used to regulate.

He argued there should be tighter rules on foreign money coming into politics and that there should be a new ‘Office of Value for Money’, as announced at conference, to stop the waste of taxpayers’ money and reform the procurement system.

Polls show a downward turn in support for the Conservatives since the Paterson row kicked off. Savanta Comres, Opinium and YouGov have shown over the past few days, respectively, a six-point lead for Labour, a one-point lead and the opposition party now being tied with the Conservatives.

Paterson was found by the Commons standards committee to have broken rules by making approaches to officials and ministers on behalf of Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods, which paid the MP almost £112,000 a year combined.

The government whipped its MPs to back an amendment rejecting a 30-day suspension of Paterson, but following a public backlash ministers U-turned, Paterson resigned and the government passed a motion rescinding the amendment.

Polls revealed recently that 60% of people think the Conservatives give the impression of being “very sleazy”. The majority of public opinion is also against MPs holding second jobs, 68% of whom think they should be banned.

50 Tory MPs have earned more than £1.7m in consultancy fees since the beginning of 2021 alone. The register of interests shows that 90 out of 360 Conservative MPs have extra jobs compared with three from the Labour Party.

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