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MPs for hire

Should parliamentarians stick to the day job?

What’s the daily rate for an MP, or better still, a former minister, to act as an “adviser” to a company with big ambitions? Two thousand a day? £5k? £10k? Sounds a lot, especially when stacked against the pay of an overworked and under pressure junior doctor whose starting salary currently stands at around £29k – a year. But then politicians have influence, not to mention access to many at the very top of government. Former ministers Matt Hancock and Kwasi Kwarteng were well and truly stung recently when both offered their expert services to a fake Korean firm in exchange for a daily rate of £10k. Nice work if you can get it. MPs are currently permitted to seek employment outside of Parliament, so long as they abide by transparency and lobbying rules. In this case, though, former health secretary Hancock and ex-chancellor Kwarteng walked straight into the trap set by the campaign group Led By Donkeys, with their pay expectations subsequently and embarrassingly captured on film. Both boasted of their suitability for the job, with Kwarteng, speaking from his parliamentary office, offering to facilitate setting up a meeting between the fake firm and Boris Johnson.

The former prime minister is unlikely to have time to even consider new opportunities, however, since his own extra-curricular income since leaving office last September is said to be approaching the £5m mark. But it’s not just those at the top, or formerly at the top, who seek to profit from their parliamentary profile. And not all MPs choose to abide by the rules. Scott Benton, who represents the Blackpool South constituency, has been suspended by the Tories and stripped of the party whip after being secretly filmed by a team from the Times newspaper. Benton appeared to offer to lobby ministers on behalf of gambling investors in exchange for cash, a clear breach of parliamentary rules. Labour is seeking to ban second jobs for MPs, even though the policy would impact on some of their own number, including shadow foreign secretary David Lammy, who would be forced to quit his LBC radio talk show.

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May 2023, Surveys

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