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Prohibit MPs from working as paid consultants, suggests watchdog | Communal room


MPs should be banned altogether from working as paid consultants and ministers should be more open about any potential conflict of interest, Parliament’s internal standards watchdog has proposed among a slew of new anti-sleaze rules .

Other recommendations from the Commons Standards Committee report include a requirement for MPs to have a written contract for any outside work, available for inspection if necessary, and which would specify that they cannot lobby on behalf of the ’employer.

Another idea, which the committee felt would need all-party support to be implemented, would be to limit how much time MPs can spend on outside work or other interests, and how much they can spend. to win. She admitted, however, that it was difficult to see how this could work in practice.

The report also suggests updates to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament to include a ban on members subjecting anyone else to “unreasonable and excessive personal attack”, whether in the House of Commons or by anybody else. other way, including social media.

The proposals, unanimously approved by the all-party group of MPs and seven lay members co-opted into the committee, are now open for consultation, with the hope that a final version will be put to the Commons vote by Easter. .

The committee was preparing its report before the recent controversy over parliamentary standards as the government tried to protect Owen Paterson.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Commissioner found that Paterson, then a Conservative MP who has since resigned, repeatedly broke lobbying rules, a move approved by the standards committee.

In an effort to save Paterson from punishment, Boris Johnson secured a vote in the House of Commons to overturn the verdict and replace the standards committee with a new body with a built-in Conservative majority. The plan was dropped a day later after an uproar.

Paterson’s supporters alleged he had not been given the opportunity to appeal. It was not, but the committee’s report recommends that a senior judicial official be appointed to review the current disciplinary system to ensure it is fair.

The PM has previously suggested both a ban on MPs working as consultants and measures to prevent them from neglecting voters due to outside work, but a Guardian analysis suggested the proposal would affect fewer than 10 MPs.

Labor has proposed particularly tougher rules, including a ban on almost all second jobs for MPs and a new independent watchdog for potential conflicts of interest.

The committee’s report states that an advisory ban should cover “parliamentary advisory, consultancy or strategy services”. He also suggests that contracts for other secondary jobs should include a clause prohibiting such activity and should be presented to the Standards Commissioner if necessary during an investigation.

The standards committee would also define in detail the types of work that would be prohibited, with the hope that the contracts applied would prevent many conflicts of interest.

Under a proposed “safe harbor” provision designed to encourage MPs to seek advice, it would not be established that they broke the rules if they acted in accordance with official advice.

The committee also suggests changing the rules under which ministers can report gifts and hospitality in a ministerial register of interest, which is separate from the register of deputies, is updated much less often and is more difficult to search. . All of these gifts should be on the MP’s register, the report said.

Chris Bryant, the Labor MP who chairs the standards committee, said: ‘These are not the final proposals that we bring home. This report is the committee’s insightful take on the changes we need to tighten the rules and tackle conflict of interest following a comprehensive, evidence-based investigation.

“We will consult and hear broader views on what we released today before submitting a final report to the House for decision in the new year. If approved, these strong proposals will enable the standards system in parliament to better hold rule-breaking MPs to account. “