Sunday 28 November 2021
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Nottingham

County Council leader: ‘It wouldn’t be right’ to stop MPs having second jobs

The leader of Nottinghamshire County Council – who is also Mansfield’s MP – says it “wouldn’t be right” to prevent MPs having second jobs but work is needed to monitor private-sector influence in Parliament.

Councillor Ben Bradley (Con) was already an MP when he took on the leader role following local elections in May.

His comments come amid calls for a review into MPs’ side jobs after former Conservative MP Owen Paterson resigned from the Commons.

The Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found the former North Shropshire MP used his role to try to help two companies for which he received paid work.

The companies in question are clinical diagnostics firm Randox and meat distributor Lynn’s Country Foods.

There is nothing wrong with MPs taking on paid work outside of politics, but it is against lobbying rules for them to act in that company’s interest in Parliament.

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The watchdog found Mr Paterson breached these rules by approaching both companies multiple times and failing to declare his personal interests in communications.

Last week, MPs approved an amendment from former Commons leader Andrea Leadsom, which called for an overhaul of the disciplinary process.

It was passed with a three-line whip effectively mandating many Tory MPs to support it, with Mr Paterson’s suspension effectively blocked.

The decision was met with outrage, with opposition parties launching accusations of sleaze.

The Government eventually U-turned on the decision and Mr Paterson resigned from his seat.

Commenting on the case, Mr Bradley says Owen Paterson “did wrong and should have been punished for it”, believing his resignation from the Commons was the right thing.

He adds the former MP “clearly crossed a line” by giving companies “privileged access” to Parliament, but he believes there is still scope for MPs to take on second jobs for public service.

Mr Bradley, who voted for the Leadsom Amendment, said: “Most MPs have additional jobs in some shape or form, but it’s pretty difficult to define ‘job’.

“Some are on non-executive boards, some are trustees for charities and others are doctors and nurses.

“I think you’d lose a lot from the variety and experience within the House of Commons – which is important when you’re making legislation – if you said MPs can’t do other things.

“Most MPs do other things for public service and all of this adds to our experience, it gives people a unique viewpoint that helps to build good legislation.

“I would argue I can do that for local government. When people are asking about children’s services or funding for councils, I can give a level of insight my colleagues can’t.

“It wouldn’t be right to say MPs can’t have other roles or jobs, but I do think there is work to be done looking at private sector roles and making sure the line is very clear on right and wrong.”

On Tuesday (November 9), Boris Johnson rejected the idea of a blanket ban on second jobs for MPs, but the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said “he thinks an MP’s primary job is to serve their constituents”.

The comments came after Geoffrey Cox MP, a former Tory attorney general, was criticised for being paid £150,000 for legal work in the British Virgin Isles while voting in the Commons by proxy 4,000 miles away.

But the Prime Minister’s spokesperson said it is “up to constituents” to decide whether MPs’ second jobs act on behalf of them.

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