Why Boris Johnson’s ban on MPs working as paid consultants doesn’t go far enough

A kneejerk reaction that doesn't actually solve the problem

Boris Johnson

In a bid to outflank the Labour opposition and get on top of a sleaze and corruption row that has seen the Tories lose their poll lead, Boris Johnson has embraced a ban on MPs having second consultancy jobs.

It may seem like a proposal that will help solve the problem of MPs using their positions to rake in thousands of pounds in second jobs which at times pose a conflict of interest, yet the proposals don’t go far enough.

Johnson’s plan is vague and leaves many unanswered questions. Johnson wants to make two key changes. First, a ban on MPs accepting paid work as parliamentary advisers, strategists or consultants. Second, a new rule that MPs’ outside work should be “within reasonable limits and should not prevent them from fully carrying out their range of duties.”

It’s important to note that the government’s amendment is not binding and does not include a date by which a binding vote on the new rules will happen. Questions still remain on just how long MPs will continue to be able to work consultancy jobs before the rules are eventually changed.

There’s also the issue of exactly what types of second jobs will actually be banned. In his letter to Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle, Johnson refers to the 2018 committee on standards in public life report which mentioned “any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant.” It would appear then that the prime minister is suggesting a ban on consultancy or advisory roles that specifically relate to parliament only. It’s difficult to see how this would actually cover the consultancy work that has made the headlines in recent weeks, meaning the proposed reform is quite weak.

Johnson’s intervention is an attempt to draw a line under the sleaze and corruption scandal that has made headlines in recent weeks but it doesn’t go far enough. It’s another example of an opportunist prime minister more interested in slogans than having any real substance.

Basit Mahmood is editor of Left Foot Forward

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