Boris Johnson rejects the idea of a blanket ban on lucrative second jobs for MPs, but believes they must be ‘visible’ to their constituents, No 10 said.
In what appeared to be an implicit critique of Conservative MP Geoffrey Cox, a Prime Minister spokesman said he “thinks a MP’s main job is to serve his constituents”.
The intervention came as Cox, who is a former Attorney General, was criticized for being paid £ 150,000 for working for a month in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) during the lockdown.
In his second job as a lawyer, the MP for Torridge and West Devon advised the Caribbean tax haven on corruption charges brought by the Foreign Office.
The Daily Mail reported that Cox had spent up to a month in BVI working for international law firm Withers. At the time, while working 4,000 miles from his constituency of Devon, Cox voted in the Commons by proxy.
Cox’s interest register shows he is paid £ 400,000 a year by the law firm Withers, and Labor has asked Johnson to disown his extra work which he says takes time to represent voters .
Johnson’s spokesman said Tuesday it was up to MPs to be visible: to show voters that they are active on their behalf. When asked if Cox had not acted in this way, he replied, “It is up to the voters to make that judgment.”
When asked if there should be any changes to the rules on the additional income MPs can earn from work outside Parliament, he said it would be a Parliament business, but “the Prime Minister does not support not an outright ban on second jobs ”.
In a further shift in stance in the parliamentary standards crisis, the government will table a motion that will be voted on next week rescinding measures taken last week to protect Owen Paterson.
“This will overrule the committee that was part of the amendment and allow the House to vote on the report,” Johnson spokesman said, referring to the standards committee report on Paterson’s conduct.
The spokesperson has repeatedly declined to say whether the Prime Minister is sorry about last week’s attempt to shield Paterson from censorship on paid lobbying. He said: “We fully recognize the strong feelings on this issue on both sides of the house; the government has listened carefully to the concerns raised and expressed regret for the mistakes made last week.
Steve Barclay, the Cabinet Office minister sent to defend the government over its handling of the sleaze row, also avoided apologizing, saying only that it was “regrets”.
Meanwhile, Chris Bryant, chairman of the standards committee, announced he had appointed a “senior judicial figure” to advise on potential reforms to the system that investigates alleged rule violations against MPs. He said he was confident that the current practice “guarantees a fair hearing”, but that the committee “will consider suggestions for improvement”.
Anneliese Dodds, president of Labor, wrote to Johnson about the latest revelations about Cox, and said his “behavior raises serious questions about conflicts of interest between MPs with second jobs that involve them lobbying or engage directly with the government ”.
“It’s time to show some leadership,” she said. “In fact, it is high time – you should have come to the House of Commons yesterday to answer questions, apologize and act to clean up the dirt that is drowning your party and toxic public life. “
Johnson dodged an emergency debate in Parliament over his botched attempt to save Paterson by tearing up existing anti-sleaze rules, instead claiming he had a long-standing engagement at a Northumberland hospital – where he was seen not to wear a mask while meeting with medical personnel.
Dodds said it was incredible that Cox had voted ‘by proxy across the Atlantic’ and added: ‘The irony is not lost on me that he arrived in the Caribbean on the day. where those MPs who really feel obligated by their constituents debated global anti-corruption standards. The people of Torridge and West Devon must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean lawyer or a Tory MP.
Cox’s office has been contacted for comment.