Politics

MPs should be banned from giving paid parliamentary advice – report

MPs should be banned from giving paid parliamentary advice or consultancy services, a long-awaited report into MP standards has recommended.

It is understood up to 35 MPs would be impacted by a crackdown on second jobs. MPs must now have a written contract for any outside work, which makes explicit that their duties cannot include lobbying Ministers or MPs.

The MP’s Standards Committee are also calling for lobbying rules to be tightened so MPs can’t take part in proceedings that would benefit someone they are receiving money from. Currently MPs cannot start such proceedings (for example initiating a debate or presenting a bill) but they can usually take part in them.

The Chair of the committee Chris Bryant has called the new measures “robust” and says they will “uphold and strengthen” standards in parliament.

The report comes after the case of former MP Owen Paterson, which triggered a row over MPs second jobs.

Following the Paterson backlash the government initially voted to place a cap on MPs second jobs earnings, only to drop the plans arguing limits would be “impractical”.

The committee is also recommending removing the “ministerial exception”, which means ministers don’t have to register hospitality and benefits in the same way as other MPs.

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This would mean the prime minister’s holiday to Zac Goldsmith’s home in Marbella would have had to have been declared in the Register of Members’ Interests. The chair of the committee Chris Bryant says the recommendations will “shine a light on any wrongdoing” and “improve transparency”.

The report also recommends changes to what’s known as the “serious wrong” exemption, which Owen Paterson repeatedly claimed he was using, which permit an MP to approach a responsible Minister or public official with evidence of a “serious wrong or substantial injustice” which would otherwise breach the lobbying rules.

The recommendation would mean the exemption could only be used once in “exceptional circumstances”.

A new formal process of appeal for MPs, as recommended in an independent review earlier this year, is also being proposed.

It would mean MPs could appeal to the independent expert panel if they disagree with a decision taken by the Committee or the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards.

The committee’s recommendations are expected to be voted on before the summer recess, and could come into force by September.

Mr Bryant said he “strongly urges” colleagues to support the measures: “Every generation of MPs holds membership of the House in trust for the next generation. It can either burnish the House’s reputation or tarnish it.”

The committee also announced two further inquiries into the “tone of political debate, intimidation and misogyny” and how the code for MPs could be more effectively communicated to MPs.

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