MPs back government’s ‘watered down’ plans on second jobs

Boris Johnson's government has drafted a Labour motion to ban second jobs as paid lobbyists. (Credit: Getty)Boris Johnson's government has drafted a Labour motion to ban second jobs as paid lobbyists. (Credit: Getty)
Boris Johnson's government has drafted a Labour motion to ban second jobs as paid lobbyists. (Credit: Getty)

A motion to ban MPs from holding second jobs outside parliament as paid lobbyists or political consultants has failed.

MPs voted by a majority of 51 votes to reject the motion which had been put forward by the Labour Party following the recent Tory sleaze row and the government’s handling of the Owen Paterson case.

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Boris Johnson had instructed his MPs to vote against the Labour motion, with a following Conservative amendment passing through a majority of 297 votes.

Labour motion defeated

Labour leader Keir Starmer announced that the party would be tabling a motion to call for a ban on MPs being able to hold “any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant”.

It came after huge backlash over the Owen Paterson row and the accusation that the Conservative government had returned to a policy of “sleaze”.

Johnson had previously instructed Tory MPs to vote against the immediate suspension of former MP Owen Paterson, who had been found by the parliamentary standards committee to have broken lobbying rules while working as a consultant and earning £100,000 per year.

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The committee had recommended that Paterson serve a 30-day suspension, however his suspension was initially blocked after a vote in the House of Commons, where a reform of the parliamentary standards committee was also voted through.

The government was forced to do a hard u-turn on blocking Paterson’s suspension following intense backlash from opposition parties and the public, with critics claiming that the incident had heralded a return to “Tory sleaze”.

As a result of the incident, Labour took the opportunity to table a motion which banned the paid employment of MPs in positions consultancy and advisory role outside of parliament.

At a vote in the House of Commons on 17 November, the motion was rejected by 282 votes to 231.

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Despite rejecting the motion with a majority of 51 votes, the vote showed that Boris Johnson’s majority on the issue had decreased.

Many Tory MPs abstained from voting against the controversial motion, while four Conservative MPs - Peter Bone, Philip Hollobone, Nigel Mills and Dan Poulter - rebelled against the party and voted in favour of the ban on certain kinds of second jobs.

Conservative amendment passes

Upon the announcement that a Labour backed motion calling for a ban on paid lobbying and consultancy role for MP would be tabled, Johnson tabled an amendment.

The amendment described the ban as “the basis of a viable approach” and called on the Standards Committee to update the MPs’ Code of Conduct.

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Labour called the motion a “watered down” version of the original amendment.

Despite the original motion being rejected, the amendment passed with 297 votes to zero, with Labour MPs abstaining from the second vote.

A Government spokesperson said: “The House of Commons has tonight voted to update the Code of Conduct for MPs.

“This means that MPs will be banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists and that MPs are always prioritising their constituents.

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“This will strengthen our parliamentary system and we will work on a cross-party basis to achieve this.”

Starmer not going to “back down”

Following the vote and rejection of the Labour motion, Starmer said: “We put forward a plan of action to clean up politics and strengthen standards in politics.

“And if you can believe it, after two weeks of Tory sleaze and corruption, the Prime Minister whipped his MPs against that plan of action, and, frankly, he just doesn’t get.”

“We are not going to back down from these proposals, we’re not prepared to have them watered down, so we will press on with them.

“But it is unbelievable.”