Should MPs have second jobs?
Tory MP Sir Geoffrey Cox faced criticism when it was revealed that he earned hundreds of thousands of pounds defending a tax haven in a corruption case brought by the UK Government. It came after the Owen Paterson affair thrust parliamentary “sleaze” into the spotlight, and it has also highlighted the issue of second jobs.
Isabel Hardman, author of Why We Get the Wrong Politicians, argues that the “richness” argument does not hold because two classes of MPs exist: “Those in comfortable safe seats who have spare time for second jobs, versus those who represent marginals, spend their lives on the stump and incur much greater costs”. Many of these second jobs, she says, “are well-paid directorships helping companies navigate parliament”. The debate raises a deeper question about what it is to be an MP. Is it still a part-time public service role, to represent voters on top of a day job? Or is it a full-time occupation: legislator, social worker and community champion? If it’s the latter, it may be time to accept that the UK now has a professional political class, curtail most outside interests and duly up MP salaries, which lag behind comparable professions such as solicitors.
In 1995 the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), chaired by Lord Nolan, affirmed: "A Parliament composed entirely of full-time professional politicians would not serve the best interests of democracy. The House needs if possible to contain Members with a wide range of current experience which can contribute to its expertise."
No- second jobs should be banned
Not all second jobs are equal. And nor can it be plausibly said that a second job necessarily keeps an MP in touch with the ordinary person in the street. What valuable life experience was former transport minister Chris Grayling absorbing during his £100,000-a-year work as a “strategic adviser” to a port operator? Or Sutton Coldfield MP Andrew Mitchell in his work for firms including Ernst & Young and Investec, for which he was paid £182,600? And why is “valuable life experience” so often synonymous with lucrative consultancy work rather than stacking shelves at Tesco or working in a call centre
Second jobs tend to mean consulting- which involves little actual work and an expectation that the MP will represent the interest of their employer.
The work of an MP has expanded in recent decades to include more specialist committees, the oversight of more complex legislation- they should not have time for anything else.
Constituents are more active, more informed and more inclined to contact their MPs to redress grievances. This is vital time consuming work.
Second jobs undermine the principle of equal representation- an MP represents all of their constituents equally - how than this be true if they also represent an organisation which pays them.
Yes They should be able to have second jobs
A ban on second jobs might mean paying them a higher basic salary. To be sure, MPs are already paid relatively well: their basic annual salary is £81,932 (putting them in the top 5 per cent of earners) This would be unpopular and governments and MPs have hesitated to make the case for more pay.
Second jobs ensure that talented people are attracted to political career. MPs earn less than most comparable professions and many have poor job security. They also earn less than representatives in most other developed democracies.
Second jobs keep MPs in touch with the real world of work. They can experience the realities of commercial life and have contact with people outside the 'Westminster bubble'
If MPs only had their MPs salary they would be more open to temptation by offers of future employment. See Revolving-door syndrome
MPs with no other source of income would also be more open to promotion in the government and so inclined to be less independent and less satisfied with the work of a back bench MP.