Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Outside jobs for MPs

There has been talk in the last few days about outside jobs for MPs and how there is likely to be a clamp-down on them. I knew this would come; after the MPs expenses scandal it was a natural follow up.

Some Tories seem to be complaining that any restrictions in this area would disproportionately affect them and that Labour is politicking on this issue. They are probably right but I have little sympathy with them. Being an MP should be more than a full time job. There is so much to do that my mind boggles when I hear that some MPs have second, third, fourth, fifth and so on jobs. I simply do not believe that they are doing their job as an MP to their fullest capability if they have outside commitments like this.

The argument that MPs should have outside jobs in order to allow them to keep in touch with the outside world does not really wash with me either. I fully agree that MPs should have outside experience but that should come before they enter parliament. It is one of the reasons that I think it is a good idea for people to wait a while and live in the real world for say 10 or 15 years before they try to get into parliament. There are lots of other ways for MPs to keep in touch with the outside world once they are there.

It looks like this sort of activity is going to be curtailed now. However I have a suggestion for the MPs who try to defend their outside interests on the grounds of "keeping them engaged with the outside world". If that is truly the reason why they feel the need to do it then they should give all the money that they earn in this way to the exchequer or charity. If they did this, I would still consider it an unneccessary distraction but I would be more inclined to believe their claims.


Pete B - Pete's Politics Blog said...

I agree with you completely on this.

It is interesting that MPs argue that they have so much casework that they need several members of staff to cope with it and yet still have time for a second job. This basically means that taxpayers are paying for staff to look after an MP's parliamentary responsibilities while they are off working for a bank or doing paid speaking engagements or whatever. In other words, we are paying for them to be able to do their second jobs.

To add to that, there is the question of whether they are using second homes as bases from which to attend their second jobs. If they are, their second homes are not being used "wholly, exclusively and necessarily" for their parliamentary duties.

Chris Gilmour said...

Surely, if people feel that their MP cannot do an adequate job as MP if they have second or third jobs, then people are free to vote for another candidate.

Otherwise, aren't people pretty satisfied with the job the MP that they have elected is doing?

sanbikinoraion said...

Mark, what do you think about people like John Hemming, who have built successful businesses for themselves from the ground up? Should they be required to sell it or resign from it, etc? That does seem a bit unfair.

Also, what about things like Vince Cable's column for the Daily Mail? From a partisan perspective, I think it's really good that we have a Lib Dem writing in such a prominent publication, and I think (hopefully a bit more non-partisanly) that MPs writing stuff for public consumption is a useful thing for them to undertake generally.

sanbikinoraion said...

(sorry, just ticking the box to sign up for email replies)

neil craig said...

Obviously not being a complete hypocrit you will have said how much you disapproved of Ashdown's job while as LibDem leader - training KLA gangsters inngenocide, child rape & dissecting living people.

I disapprove for entirely different reasons.

Anonymous said...

I guess the reason Gordon had to appoint so many Lords as Ministers is because his MP's were too busy doing constituency work.

Mark Thompson said...

Thanks for the comments:

manc_ill_kid: Our system unfortunately doesn't work like this. If you are a strong Tory supporter and you don't like the fact that your Tory MP has 5 jobs, what do you do? Most people in this position would grit their teeth and vote for their MP again as there is no real choice. It is extraordinarily difficult to get most MPs ejected from their seats so whilst in theory your point could be true, in practise it very really is.

sanbikinoraion: Yes, good point and I had thought about this. I also own my own business so if I ever ended up in parliament I would find myself in this position. I would say that retaining an interest in the business is fine and realistically you would need to able to attend board meetings but that should be it. Your job is an MP and you will need to make sure arrangements are in place for it to largely carry on without you whilst you serve your constituents and the country. My objection is not to people who own businesses coming into parliament (although like I say their day-to-day commitments to this should be minimal, otherwise they should leave parliament) but of MPs taking on other jobs once they are in parliament.

Neil: I have no idea what you are on about regarding Paddy but yes, anything I say about MPs applies to all MPs, not just the ones of other parties.

vince stevenson said...

I think it's time the gravy train ended. Let's have professional politicians who have their eyes solely on improving the UK. There are too many politicians writing best sellers, journalistic columns and lobbyist fodder out there. Concentrate on the job and let's start improving the UK.

Mark Thompson said...

I've just realised, I didn't respond to the point about MPs writing columns for newspapers (e.g. Vince Cable).

This is a bit more of a grey area I think because you could argue it is actually part of the duty of an MP to publicise their views on issues and help public debate on issues of the day.

sanbikinoraion said...

... but like you say, Mark, should they actually get paid for doing it? One might argue that being part of their job as an MP that they are already being paid to communicate with the public.

On the other hand, without allowing them to keep the money, fewer of them will do it...

Mark Thompson said...

Yes, tricky one.

I think it would be better I guess if they didn't get paid for it. I think you might be surprised how many MPs would still write columns even if they didn't get paid for it though!

neil craig said...

"Obviously not being a complete hypocrit you will have said how much you disapproved of Ashdown's job"

Despite your use of the word "yes" your answer is clearly "no" you have never openly done so.

Vince we have far to many "professional" politicians already - people who have never had a real job. ou should look up the derivation of the amateur. We need amateurs not professionals.

Mark Thompson said...

It's not my responsibility to sit here and criticise someone who isn't even a member of parliament any more because of something you claim they have done that I have no knowledge about. I am talking about MPs second jobs.

If you want to have a debate about Paddy Ashdown and the allegations you claim then do it on your own blog.

neil craig said...

So your "yes" does indeed mean "no".

I can see why you have no problem endorsing illegal wars, genocide, child rape & organlegging.

Mark Thompson said...

I'll try one more time before I stop feeding the troll.

I. Have. No. Idea. What. You. Are. On. About.

neil craig said...

You & all the Germans who said they never knew where the Jews went.

And many others but then it is easy to avoid facts if you tell anybody who shows you some to go away. But even so you know that the truth doesn't alter because you avoid it.

Cardinal Richelieu's mole said...

And what about the 100 or so MPs who have second jobs as government Ministers?

This is a point made by John Redwood amongst various others on his blog that illuminate this question.

Also, your friend Carswell makes this sound point, "Banning "outside interests" means that MPs will have only "inside" Westminster interests. It will mean that the executive and party whips have a total monopoly to determine an MP's career trajectory. That means less scope for the independent-minded and more power for the executive over those we elect to represent us."

There is a balance to be struck, and I would not expect my MP to tell me he was too busy doing other work to fulfil his MP duties, but the risks seem to lie more with banning paid outside interests than not.

Mark Thompson said...

CRM - I suppose this is one of the problems with attempting reforms in isolation.

If there was a defined career structure within the HOC as a member and chair of committees with real power and salary structure independent of the executive along with electoral reform to STV so your position was not wholly owed to the party machine then there would be much more independence of mind in the Commons anyway.

Pete B (from comment number 1 on this thread) made the point on his own blog today that what sort of "outside experience" do we think MPs are getting for massively remunerated after dinner speaking, executive positions in investment banks and writing newspaper columns. I think he has a fair point.

ceedee said...

I too have backed the idea that income from MPs' moonlighting should be donated to charity.
However a friend pointed out how easy it would be to set-up a dodgy trust to take such income out of the public eye.
Far better that MPs' have their salaries, appearance fees and editorial rates limited to prevent any allegation of impropriety.
I'd suggest the limit be set at the national minimum wage, currently £5.73/hour -- if it's enough of a motivator for those at the bottom of the heap, I'm sure it won't act as a deterrent to those near the top.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of ambivalent about MPs and outside jobs, but I would have one thing to say in its favour - Audit committees should have at least one member with recent relevant financial experience. We can assume that for audit committee, read one or more of the myriad committees in Westminster - and the principle is valid even if there is no directly equivalent committee. If MPs are prevented from outside work, it seems unlikely that any MP would qualify for recent relevant financial experience. Given that MPs are required to scrutinise accounts, I wonder (as an accountant) how they would be able to tell whether anything was amiss if they are not keeping their hand in in some way - especially with the move to international financial reporting standards.

Also, if MPs wish to retain their professional qualification (and I'm sure this applies not just to accountants), they need to carry out continuous professional development - which requires time out of somewhere.

Things move on in professions too - I know there are lawyers and doctors in the commons (don't know about accountants), so having cntinuing work in the relevant field helps them to keep up.


sanbikinoraion said...

Perhaps it would be better to stipulate that MPs work no more than, say, 5 hours per week on their second jobs?

neil craig said...

So clearly Mark's claim not to be against genocide because he didn't know about it was untrue. He undeniably now knows, as do all other readers here & still supports it.

sanbikinoraion said...

Neil, you're an idiot. Sorry to get all ad hominem on you, but your lack of denunciation of the holocaust, the crusades, Hitler, Pol Pot and Stalin make you a terrible person. When will you admit that you hate Jews and Muslims?

This is one of the oldest ploys on the internet: find something that your opponent has not openly criticized, and criticize them for not criticizing it. Grow up and fuck off.

Mark Thompson said...

Neil, I absolutely do not support genocide and I doubt any other commenters here do either.

I did have a look at your post but I do not have time to go through what is a very long and detailed article in order to respond to your specific points.

I get the feeling you are just trolling. I haven't specifically denounced loads of things, it doesn't mean I support them.

neil craig said...

That is precisely what you are doing right now. The party you are in specificly supports it & you specificly support the party.