MPs should not use their parliamentary office for work relating to their second jobs, a cabinet minister has told Sky News, as a senior Conservative faces allegations he misused his Commons office to carry out legal work.
According to The Times, former attorney general Sir Geoffrey Cox used his parliamentary office to undertake some of his work for law firm Withers.
His entry in the register of members interest shows he earned more than £800,000 for the firm, which is representing the British Virgin Islands government in a corruption case brought by the UK government.
Asked by Kay Burley if MPs should be using their parliamentary offices for outside work, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “No.”
“You might be trying to draw me into some individual case,” he said, when asked what should happen to an MP if found to have done this.
“But, if someone believes for good reason that they might [be doing that] then what they should do is ask the appropriate authorities to look into it and they can get down to the facts.
“Whether it’s your parliamentary office or any other parliamentary stationery or anything that’s funded or supported by the taxpayer, of course, that should not be used.”
Labour has called on the anti-sleaze watchdog, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, to investigate the claims.
Deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This appears to be an egregious, brazen breach of the rules.
“A Conservative MP using a taxpayer-funded office in parliament to work for a tax haven facing allegations of corruption is a slap in the face and an insult to British taxpayers.”
The MPs code of conduct states any facilities “provided from the public purse” are used “always in support of their parliamentary duties”, adding: “It should not confer any undue financial benefit on themselves”.
It comes after it was revealed that Sir Geoffrey voted by proxy in the House of Commons while earning hundreds of thousands of pounds for the legal work more than 4,000 miles away in the Caribbean.
Sir Geoffrey’s office has been contacted for comment.
Asked about MPs having second jobs, Mr Javid said he was in favour of them.
But he continued: “I think the most important thing is that an MP, whoever he or she may be, is completely transparent and open and follows all the rules so that their constituents and the wider public know that they might have another interest.
“But also I think it’s important that they continue to spend the vast majority of their time on their parliamentary affairs and their constituency affairs.”
According to his entry in the register of members’ interests, Sir Geoffrey did approximately 434 hours of work for Withers between January and July this year, at an average of more than 15 hours per week.
Sir Geoffrey took part, by proxy, in Commons votes this year on the cladding scandal and on protecting the UK’s steel industry.
And, by taking advantage of the Commons allowing widespread proxy voting – introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sir Geoffrey was also able to appear at a corruption inquiry held in the British Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory, on the same day those votes were held.
The revelation that Sir Geoffrey was voting remotely in the Commons while also taking part in lucrative legal work abroad comes amid a fresh focus on MPs’ second jobs following the Owen Paterson lobbying scandal.
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