The chairman of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Lord Evans, has urged for the implementation of some form of limit on MPs’ second jobs, citing concerns that certain politicians are prioritising their personal endeavours over their parliamentary duties.
In an interview with Sky News, Lord Evans proposed that MPs should be given an “indicative” ceiling on the amount of time they can allocate to their extra-parliamentary roles.
Lord Evans, a crossbench peer with a distinguished career in the secret service and former head of MI5 for six years, commended the “valuable” work carried out by Sky News in the Westminster Accounts project.
The project, which investigated the role of money in politics over the past seven months, has highlighted the issue of MPs’ involvement in outside employment. Lord Evans views this as an opportunity to advocate for necessary changes.
During the interview, Lord Evans also criticised the attempts by Boris Johnson’s government to alter the standards system following the Owen Paterson affair, deeming it inappropriate behaviour for public office. He expressed his dismay over “very disgraceful” episodes involving breaches of parliamentary standards that occurred over the past three years.
Setting a positive example from the top
Commenting on leadership within the government, Lord Evans emphasised the importance of setting a positive example from the top. He believes that the behaviour of leaders influences others and establishes the overall tone for governance.
Lord Evans acknowledged the challenges in establishing precise rules regarding MPs’ second jobs and conceded that the responsibility lies with parliament rather than his committee. Nonetheless, he encouraged MPs to continue their efforts in addressing the issue. One suggestion put forth by the Committee on Standards in Public Life is the introduction of indicative figures for the number of hours MPs should dedicate to their outside roles.
Boris proposed a limit
In the past, Boris Johnson had proposed a fixed limit on second jobs in response to the lobbying scandal involving former Tory MP Owen Paterson. However, the plans were later abandoned due to opposition from Tory backbenchers.
The Westminster Accounts project, conducted by Sky News and media company Tortoise, revealed that Boris Johnson earned £5.1 million during his tenure as an MP from December 2019 to June, making him the highest earner among MPs. Former Prime Minister Theresa May earned £2.7 million during the same period.
Keir Starmer has proposed a ban
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has proposed a ban on second jobs, while shadow foreign secretary David Lammy has continued with well-paid media work and speeches, earning over £272,000.
The Committee on Standards in Public Life does not investigate individuals but instead offers suggestions directly to the prime minister on how to amend the rules. Therefore, Lord Evans refrained from commenting on individual cases.
Lord Evans stressed the importance of ensuring that MPs’ priorities lie with their constituents and parliamentary duties rather than personal economic or career interests, regardless of their level of fame or public profile. While the path to achieving this balance may be difficult, Lord Evans remains committed to advocating for meaningful change in the interest of the public and transparent governance.
Amelia Brand is the Editor for HRreview, and host of the HR in Review podcast series. With a Master’s degree in Legal and Political Theory, her particular interests within HR include employment law, DE&I, and wellbeing within the workplace. Prior to working with HRreview, Amelia was Sub-Editor of a magazine, and Editor of the Environmental Justice Project at the University College London, writing and overseeing articles into UCL’s weekly newsletter. Her previous academic work has focused on philosophy, politics and law, with a special focus on how artificial intelligence will feature in the future.