Keir Starmer responds to PM's comments over sleaze row
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In a press conference on Tuesday, leader of the opposition Sir Keir Starmer put forward a motion to ban “any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant”. The Prime Minister surprised the opposition by backing a ban on consultancy in an attempt to draw a line under a fortnight of damaging revelations that have seen the Conservative poll lead slip.
In a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Prime Minister said MPs should adopt a ban on consultancies “as a matter of urgency” and said it would stop MPs from “exploiting their positions.”
Mr Johnson backtracked from his previous decision to overturn a ruling made by the Commons Standards Committee against Owen Paterson for “erroneous” paid advocacy of over £100,000.
The Conservative Party voted through a motion to dismantle the Commons Standards Committee and allow MPs to appeal corruption punishments, a decision which the party has since backtracked on.
Sir Keir Starmer is pleased that the Prime Minister has changed his stance but feels the ban should encompass all second jobs with very few exceptions.
He added: “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.”
Sir Keir also said there should also be a five-year ban on former ministers taking jobs in the sectors they used to regulate, and that there should be tighter rules to stop foreign money coming into British politics.
Over the past two weeks MPs who are raking in cash on top of their £82,000 MP salary have been exposed.
Sir Geoffrey Cox, a Tory MP who was attorney general during the height of the Brexit negotiations, has registered a total of £970,000 income in the last year, for 705 hours of legal services.
That makes up almost half of the working hours a full-time person would work in a year – hours that many have argued should be spent listening to constituents’ issues.
Under Mr Johnson’s intended ban on consultancy roles, Sir Geoffrey will be unaffected.
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Labour is not in support of a full ban of second jobs as a number of MPs are employed as doctors and nurses and have continued to work on the NHS front line during the pandemic.
Labour MP for Tooting, Rosena Allin-Khan, who has represented her constituents since 2016 and continues to work for the NHS.
She argues that her work as a doctor brings her closer to her community and does not affect the hours she puts in as an MP because she works a couple of shifts per month, often on a Sunday.
She said: “It’s unacceptable that some MPs look at their parliamentary role as a cash cow for other ventures – there’s a world of difference between working on our NHS front line and lining your pockets in the private sector.
“The question for me is, what are you working for: the public good, or private gain?”
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Other MPs who have been exposed in the last two weeks include Tory MP Andrew Mitchell who holds six consultancy jobs, supporting investment banks and accountancy firms, earning £180,000 for 34.5 days’ work.
In comparison, the average person in the UK earns about £4,000 for 34.5 days’ work.
Another Tory MP, Julian Smith, is earning £144,000 for 62-84 hours’ work for three companies, including advising on energy and renewable fuels. These earnings tally up as high as £2,322 per hour.
A British person over 23 on minimum wage (£8.91 per hour) will earn £748.44 for 84 hours of work.
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