It’s Time to End the Gravy Train of MPs’ Second Jobs

Being an MP is not only a privilege but a well-paid job. MPs already earn more than 95% of people in our country.


Richard Burgon MP is the Member of Parliament for East Leeds

While millions face the deepest cost-of-living crisis in decades, some MPs have been busy lining their own pockets through second jobs.

We urgently need to put an end to this scandal of MPs chasing corporate cash. It short-changes the public and it undermines our democracy.

This week I secured a debate in Parliament on my Bill to ban MPs’ second jobs.

When Boris Johnson was Prime Minister, the Tories repeatedly blocked my Bill. Perhaps that should come as no surprise. Johnson has already raked in £5 million in outside earnings since leaving Downing Street. It would take a nurse around 150 years to earn such an amount.

The issue of MPs’ second jobs shot to prominence with the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal. That case became a lightning rod for public anger not only over corporate lobbying but the wider dodgy deals and crony contracts that the Government was mired in.

Yet almost 500 days on since Paterson resigned, this problem has got even worse.

The Observer found that one year after the Paterson scandal, MPs were earning more than ever from second jobs. In January, Sky News revealed that MPs have taken £17 million from second jobs since the last election – with 90% going to Conservative MPs.

Being an MP is not only a privilege but a well-paid job. MPs already earn more than 95% of people in our country. So, it should be our full-time focus and not be viewed as a springboard to chase corporate cash.

I have been campaigning for real action from the government for over a year since Paterson. I feared we would hear lots of warm words and then nothing much would change. Sadly, that’s exactly what has happened.

Every time I raise the issue of banning second jobs in the House of Commons there are truly laughable attempts to justify them from some MPs.

The most frequent is that these big money extra jobs enrich our democracy by ensuring MPs have ‘real world experience’.

Yet MPs never seem to take second jobs working for low wages in supermarkets, as bus drivers, or in care homes – the kind of jobs millions of people have.

Instead, we have examples like the former Chancellor Sajid Javid who got paid £1,500 an hour advising a US investment bank in his second job and a similar amount in his third job.

The reality is that lucrative outside jobs leave MPs even more out of touch with the people they’re meant to represent and who are experiencing an unprecedented cost-of-living crisis.

One case in point is the Tory MP who told the Financial Times, “There’s no way I could be an MP without my outside interests… My wife works full time, I’ve got kids and need the money for childcare.” How on earth do these people think the rest of the population earning way below £84,000 cope?

Of course, the same MPs defending second jobs as the only way they can keep their head above water are happy to vote through swingeing cuts to benefits and services and to suppress the wages of workers earning far less than they do.

Despite what many may tell themselves, the truth is that MPs aren’t being paid for what they know, but for who they know. They wouldn’t get these vast sums from big corporations if they weren’t MPs with political connections.

This creates obvious conflicts of interest. When people are getting paid many tens of thousands of pounds, can we then really claim that they are representing the public and not their external employer?

This is a serious problem because trust in politicians is at its lowest level on record. Two in three people now see politicians as ‘merely out for themselves’. Just 5% of the public think politicians are in the job primarily to serve the public good.

Banning second jobs, as the majority of the public support, could go a long way to helping restore trust in our politics.

My Bill would do just that. It is clear and bold: no paid second jobs for MPs at all, except in some very limited circumstances where they are about maintaining professional qualifications like in nursing or if they are working on the frontline in our NHS as doctors or in another emergency service.

Those roles are about genuine public service and public interest and have nothing to do with the scandal that has been shaking parliament.

The Labour Party has proposed a ban on second jobs for MPs with exemptions for public services similar to those within my Bill. I will be proud to join my colleagues in voting through that ban when we are hopefully voted into office at the next election.

But that election could be 18 months away. There is no justification for Rishi Sunak allowing this scandal to carry on a moment longer. It’s time he acted to end the gravy train of MP’s Second Jobs.

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