The shake-up of sleaze rules signals a fresh crackdown on second jobs, following revelations former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox pocketed a million pounds a year as a QC, in addition to being an MP
Boris Johnson would be forced to declare the value of his freebie Spanish holiday under a planned shake-up of sleaze rules unveiled today.
The Prime Minister recorded the holiday at millionaire Tory pal Lord Zac Goldsmith’s Marbella retreat on a ministerial register – dodging the need to say how much it cost.
But the Standards Committee today proposed an overhaul of the system, meaning the sun-kissed break would need to be entered on the MPs’ register too – revealing how much it was worth.
One of the committee’s recommendations is “ending the exemption whereby ministers are not required to register gifts and hospitality they receive in their ministerial capacity with the Commons Register, so that all of a Member’s outside interests can be found in a single place”.
MPs would also be banned from giving “paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategy services” under the planned crackdown.
And MPs could face investigation for launching “excessive” personal attacks online under the new reforms.
The Commons Standards Committee published its proposals in the wake of the Owen Paterson affair.
The Tory former minister – who has since quit Parliament – misused his position to benefit two companies he worked for.
Boris Johnson’s botched attempt to defend him seriously dented the Prime Minister’s authority – and fuelled calls for a shake-up.
The proposals include “introducing a new requirement that a Member must have a written contract for any outside work which makes explicit that their duties cannot include lobbying ministers, Members or public officials, or providing advice about how to lobby or influence Parliament, and that their employer will give them an undertaking not to ask them to do so”.
It also signals a fresh crackdown on second jobs, following revelations former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox trousered a million pounds a year as a QC, in addition to being an MP.
“The committee fully supported in its report the principle that it would be wholly inappropriate for any Member to take on paid employment that prevents them from fully carrying out their range of duties,” it said.
“The committee raised questions about how this principle could be enforced and now seeks consultation responses on this.”
And it announced a “senior judicial figure” would be asked to review whether the House’s current system for dealing with alleged breaches of the MPs’ code of conduct is fair, following claims from former minister Owen Paterson that he was denied “natural justice” in the process.
Plans go out to public consultation before the committee completes a final report with recommendations in the New Year.
It came as Labour pledged to shut the “revolving door” which sees ministers cash in on their positions after they leave government.
Setting out how the party plans to smash Tory sleaze, deputy leader Angela Rayner told a Whitehall think tank an “independent Integrity and Ethics Commission” is needed to replace the current “alphabet soup of different committees and advisers”.
It would have powers to probe ministers, make decisions on sanctions for misconduct and ban former ministers from any job linked to their former role for at least five years after they leave office.
Ms Rayner told the Institute for Government: “The current system does not work and it has failed.
“It only works where there is respect for the rules and there are consequences for breaking them.”
Labour’s deputy leader hit out at Prime Minister Boris Johnson and said he had been investigated for rule breaches “in every office he has ever been elected to”.
She said Mr Johnson will “only ever act in his own self interest and never in the public interest”.
She added: “Boris Johnson’s corruption means that we must now urgently rebuild trust in our politics, in public office and in government as a force for good.
“That means rebuilding the regime that is not working.
“The British people deserve so much better than Boris Johnson’s corruption and failure.”
Ms Rayner said Labour’s call to overhaul the system regulating ministers’ conduct was made before the release of the Standards Commission report because the party’s proposal would cover ministers and lords too.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, Labour’s deputy leader said: “The Standards Commission report that’s coming out today – I haven’t seen the contents of that – but that’s around all MPs.
“This integrity and ethics committee is around ministers and lords as well. We’ve seen that ministers and lords have broken the ministerial code and the Prime Minister vetoes it.
“This will be a fundamental change which means that the independent commission on integrity and ethics will have binding powers to sanction ministers who break the ministerial code.
“We think it’s really important that we clean up the Act because only under this Prime Minister have we seen that the code’s been so flagrantly disregarded, and we can’t have those undermining of public standards.
“People have to have trust in ministers doing the job that they’re there to do, and that’s to protect the British electorate and protect our interests, not their own.”
Standards Committee chairman Chris Bryant said: “The past few weeks have seen a number of issues raised about MPs’ standards, but the key overarching issue here is about conflict of interest.
“The evidence-based report published by my committee sets out a package of reforms to bolster the rules around lobbying and conflicts of interest.
“These aren’t the final proposals we’re putting to the House. This report is the committee’s informed view on what changes we need to tighten up the rules and crack down on conflicts of interests following a detailed evidence-led inquiry.
“We will consult and hear wider views on what we’ve published today before putting a final report to the House for a decision in the new year.
“If approved, these robust proposals will empower the standards system in Parliament to better hold MPs who break the rules to account.”