Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 1 May 2009

Andrew Lansley can prove his second job is for the greater good

On BBC Question Time last night, during the inevitable question about MPs expenses, the subject of MPs doing other jobs came up. Andrew Lansley, Shadow Health Secretary admitted he has a second job as a non-executive director of a company and rather commendably also said how much he gets paid for it and how much work he actually does for them (£24,000 per year and 11 or 12 days - nice work if you can get it).

Frank Skinner (who was very good and incisive all night I thought) was incredulous that any MP could afford the time to do any other jobs given how all consuming it seems that an MPs primary duties are. I agree with Frank on this.

Mr Lansley went on to justify his second job by claiming that it gives him outside experience which he feels is warranted. He also made what I thought was a bit of a gaffe at this point by using the phrase "I knew I was going to be in government" - I suspect David Cameron is not happy about this level of confidence being openly expressed by a Shadow Minister. Anyway, he has said that he will give up the position if/when he is in government.

Now, I feel that MPs should devote themselves completely to their primary job and not have any outside interests (indeed I have commented on this before extensively with respect to William Hague). However, if Mr Lansley really feels that he needs the outside experience in order to be able to help him be a better minister then I have a simple suggestion for him. Give up the salary associated with the second job. Pay it to the exchequer, or donate it to charity (I am sure there are many worth causes in his consituency who would be very grateful). If he does this then I, and I suspect many others will respect him much more and his claim of doing the job ultimately to produce better government will be on much more solid ground.

Incidentally, with the way things are going regarding the MPs expenses, the whole outside interests issue could potentially also go nuclear in the near future, especially when MPs have to start filling in timesheets. If Mr Lansley acts on my advice now, he will be able to avoid much of the fallout and would stand as an example to others.

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