UK Parliament votes to curb members’ 2nd jobs after scandal
LONDON (AP) — Britain’s Parliament voted Wednesday to restrict lawmakers’ ability to hold second jobs outside politics, in an attempt to stem a slew of damaging headlines over lobbying and political “sleaze.”
Opposition lawmakers, though, accused the Conservative government of watering down proposals that could have made a bigger difference.
The House of Commons voted to ban legislators from acting as paid political consultants or advisers. But lawmakers rejected a more strongly worded proposal by the opposition Labour Party that would have barred more second jobs and set out a strict timetable for making the changes.
The proposals are an attempt to stem a tide of criticism over ethics that began last month when the House of Commons standards committee recommended that Conservative lawmaker Owen Paterson be suspended for 30 days for lobbying on behalf of two companies that paid him more than 100,000 pounds ($137,000) a year.
Usually, such decisions are rubber-stamped by lawmakers, but the government ordered Conservative legislators to oppose the suspension and instead call for an overhaul of Parliament’s standards process.
The government changed course the next day after a furious backlash, and Paterson resigned from Parliament.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson told lawmakers Wednesday that the government had been mistaken to try to protect Paterson.
“Do I regret that decision? Yes I certainly do,” he said.
Members of Parliament are allowed to earn outside income as long as they declare it and it does not shade into lobbying. But there has been widespread criticism of politicians having second jobs since it was revealed that one lawmaker from Johnson’s Conservative Party, Geoffrey Cox, earned 400,000 pounds ($540,000) a year as a lawyer while serving in Parliament.