MPs forced to declare details of second jobs

New laws have been introduced stating that in future all MPs will have to disclose details of how much time they devote to and how much they are paid for employment outside Parliament, rather than merely having to declare the existence of such employment as has previously been the case, even if that employment is not related in any way to their position as an MP. At present, they are only required to mention outside interests if they are relevant to the topic under debate - for example, an MP who holds a directorship in a telecoms company would be required to admit as much while debating policies related to that industry - but are not required to go into detail.

Harriet Harman MP says that the public have the right to know if and how much MPs are being paid for jobs outside Parliament.
Image by Steve Punter, taken from Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative CommonsAttribution ShareAlike2.0 license.

Several members have expressed support for the moves, including Labour's John Mann who called the new laws "an important step forward." Some others - such as Conservative Douglas Carswell, conversely warn that there may be undesirable effects: "Abolishing outside interests would make all MPs totally beholden to the party whips," he says, explaining that MPs will now find themselves entirely financially dependent upon their party, causing them to be unwilling to risk angering party leadership. Commons leader Harriet Harman, meanwhile, says that the public have the right to know who other than themselves is paying an MP.

Some MPs have argued that the new rules will discourage members from either taking up outside employment or continuing in jobs they held prior to their election; jobs which, they claim, enable them to remain in touch with the economy and workplace as experienced by their constituents. However, the lucrative City and directorship jobs held by many MPs bear so little similarity to those held by the vast majority of constituents that they are as good as useless in this respect - Oliver Letwin's (pictured right) directorship job at N M Rothschild Corporate Finance Ltd (where he puts in eight hours a week and receives an annual salary of £60,000), for example, is not going to help him understand the employment and financial concerns of a single parent working part-time for the minium wage in Weymouth McDonald's, nor any other of the most vulnerable and worst-off residents of his constituency.

The new rules were agreed in April, before the current expenses scandal began with the Daily Telegraph's publication of details from the leaked document listing all claims made by all MPs. Allowing the public to know if their representative is being paid from a source outside Parliament and the salary they receive adds a new dimension to that ongoing row - if an MP is known to be earning, say, £100,000 a year in addition to his or her Commons salary (which is at present a minimum of £64,766 per annum), is it then acceptable for that MP to claim expenses on a second home, or for food, or for any of the other things they are entitled to claim for? All MPs representing constituencies outside central London are permitted to do so, but since this cost will be met by the tax-payers (most of whom earn far less), is it morally right for them to do this or should wealthy MPs be expected to pay their own way thus freeing up funds for more deserving causes such as the NHS?

Oliver Letwin image by Cooperniall, taken from Wikipedia, used in accordance with Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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