Politics

MPs back second jobs ban but Tories ‘gut’ plan for immediate sleaze crackdown


Commons’ leader Thangam Debbonaire said the government plan, is full of holes and “weakens”, “waters down” and delays a clean-up of politics

Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees-Mogg

Tory MPs have backed a ban on lucrative second jobs for MPs but rejected plans for an immediate sleaze crackdown.

The Commons vote follows a “bruising” fortnight for Boris Johnson after his government faced widespread public fury for trying to rip up standards rules and get senior Tory Owen Paterson off the hook for lobbying.

The Prime Minister finally tabled plans to end paid political consultancy work for MPs on Tuesday. He was forced into the humiliating U-turn after Keir Starmer put forward plans to end some MPs hundreds of thousands on top of their salary.

Ministers will now aim to strike a cross-party plan that updates MPs’ code of conduct and ban second consultancy jobs “by January 2022”.

But Commons’ leader Thangam Debbonaire said the Conservatives’ plan, is full of holes and “weakens”, “waters down” and delays a clean-up of politics.

“All the Government’s done is try to gut our motion, that would put in train the recommendation of the Committee on Standards in Public Life that was made three years ago that the Government could have done any time… that there should be no MP taking money to be a political strategist, an assistant or some sort of corporate adviser, that should not happen,” she said.








Boris Johnson in the Commons
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Image:

UK PARLIAMENT/AFP via Getty Imag)



“Today, if the party opposite wants to make sure that that goes, they should be voting with us to get rid of that because it’s our motion that does that.”

She added: “It feels to me the Government’s actions are too little, too late.”

Boris Johnson admitted on Wednesday that it had been a “total mistake” to defend Mr Paterson, who the standards commissioner said made repeated and ‘”egregious” breaches of rules around lobbying.

“Yes, I think it was a total mistake not to see that the former member for North Shropshire’s breach of the rules made any discussion about anything else impossible. And I totally accept that,” he told MPs on the Commons’ liaison committee.

During the debate in the Commons, Conservative Sir Charles Walker noted “it’s been a very bruising two weeks”.

MPs from all parties also warned that the public debate over standards had damaged the politicians’ reputations, and could continue to do so.








Owen Paterson resigned in the wake of the row
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Image:

PA)



Labour’s Justin Madders said ministers were “kicking the can down the road”, adding: “If we cannot get our own House in order, how can we effectively challenge other countries, companies or individuals?.

He added: “Kicking the can down the road, as the Government would have us do, simply leaves too much room for doubt that we are not really serious about stamping out egregious use of this office that we hold so dearly.”

But Conservative Mark Fletcher, a member of the Committee on Standards, said MPs are “all tarred with the same broad strokes of being corrupt liars on the take, useless and lazy” as he accused Labour of “not showing leadership or principle” but “opportunism”.

He said: “If they seriously want to help improve trust in our politics they would be working across this House, they would be working with the Standards Committee rather than instructing it, and looking for substantial improvements.

“They would dial down the mud-slinging because some of the things that I have heard both in this House and elsewhere in recent days are unsubstantiated.”


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