Dear West Country Voices,
The Government sleaze and corruption scandals continue, with MPs’ second jobs now in the news. I was always taught that people should treat others the way they wish to be treated themselves. This is a high standard and hard to meet all the time. Still, the furore and debate about MPs doing second jobs and lobbying for external commercial interests makes this all too clear: MPs, and I mean largely Conservative MPs, have voted through legislation which means that carers looking after sick or disabled relatives and on the carers allowance, and people on low incomes receiving benefits will be strictly penalised for working and earning money. If carers or benefit claimants go over the stringent limits on earned income or working hours their allowance or benefits are cut to save public money.
MPs are not treated this way – they earn a full time salary for a full time job working for constituents in the public interest; but if they work for other interests as well and earn extra cash they get to keep it all. There is no such sanction on them. Our Conservative MP for Somerton & Frome David Warburton previously earned £15,000 on the side over 15 months (£125 an hour for 8 hours work every month) advising Vouch, a commercial PR firm, as its non-executive chairman. This role included running events on a yacht in Cannes. Jacob Rees-Mogg (Conservative, North East Somerset) has been criticised for failing to declare that he received £6 million in cheap loans from one of his companies. Some Tory MPs have complained about having to live on the £82,000 salary, and some have threatened to resign if second jobs are restricted. And this after removing the £20 Universal Credit uplift a week for their constituents on the lowest incomes! It’s almost another world.
So when our local Conservative MPs get to debate the recommendations of the Commons Committee on Standards for a revised MPs’ code of conduct, including a revised policy on second jobs, I would like them to do as they would be done by. That would mean either relaxing the rules for carers and benefit claimants, or introducing a strict new earnings cap for MPs with second jobs (or banning second jobs entirely). Under the cap option, if MPs earn extra cash over the limit their MP pay is docked pro rata to save public money when they are not working for their constituents. If this doesn’t happen it is yet another instance of ‘One rule for us, one rule for them’. These double standards are unacceptable.
Mendip District Councillor, Frome College ward (Liberal Democrats)