The public outrage caused by former Conservative MP Owen Paterson’s paid lobbying of parliament is shared by local people, says Yeovil Constituency Labour Party. The Paterson affair has also fuelled calls for tighter rules on MPs taking second jobs. Terry Ledlie, Chair of Yeovil Constituency Labour Party, says that the current rules are way out of line with public expectations. “Talking to local people, its clear that they feel that being an MP should generally be a full-time job. They rightly expect that their MP should spend all of their time representing them in parliament and helping local people with their problems. There is a strong distaste for those who are seen to use their parliamentary role as a way of furthering their own business interests. Of course, MPs should still lobby strongly to promote the interests of their constituency, but that is already part of their job and they should not expect to be paid twice for doing so. My view is that there should be only a handful of exceptions to a general ban on MPs taking second jobs. The tests should be about whether their work contributes to the broader public good. Generally, we should have a right to expect that our representatives will put all their energy into helping us”.
Yeovil Labour found that local people’s views chimed with the findings of a recent national opinion poll, which showed a substantial majority against MPs having second jobs. The YouGov poll found strong support for MPs being allowed continue to work as health professionals, but this was a notable exception to the overwhelming support for banning most second jobs.
The Labour Party has been calling for some time for a ban on most second jobs, with leader Kier Starmer slamming the current rules as “ utter nonsense”, adding that “we put forward a plan of change to clean up politics and strengthen standards”.
Rosena Allin-Khan, the shadow cabinet member for mental health, works as an A+E doctor. She says that her constituents strongly supported her decision to keep working for the NHS. She has committed to continue to work as a volunteer in her hospital if all second jobs were banned. She has also pledged never to let this detract from her work as an MP.
However, while supporting a ban on directorships and consultancies, Labour has also recognised the need to allow some exceptions for the public good.
Terry Ledlie, Yeovil Constituency Labour Party spokesperson, said: “Once again, our parliamentary system has been brought into disrepute by an MP determined to put himself first. We have the right to expect much better than this sleaze. Local people want tougher rules that will lead MPs to put their constituents first. This must include tightening the rules on second jobs”
Owen Paterson MP was a former Conservative minister who was caught acting as a paid lobbyist. This was found to breach parliamentary standards, but he was backed by the PM until it became clear that public opinion made this position untenable.