An exclusive, wide-reaching analysis of the MPs’ register of interests by NationalWorld has revealed the extent to which the UK’s elected representatives are occupying themselves away from the House of Commons and their constituencies.
Between January 2020 and August 2021, the analysis shows 215 MPs made entries in the register concerning second jobs or other outside work commitments – 33% of the 653 MPs during that time.
This excludes MPs whose only outside earnings were from taking opinion surveys. When surveys are included, the proportion rises to 43%.
While the Conservative Party has been the focus of much of the current ‘sleaze’ scandal over second jobs and lobbying, more than a fifth of Labour MPs (22%) had outside earnings during this time, excluding surveys.
However, Tory members were the most likely to have interests away from Parliament – 41% of them did so. For SNP members it was 23%, Liberal Democrats 33%, Democratic Unionists 25%, and 14% for Sinn Fein.
The jobs undertaken by MPs ranged from writing newspaper columns all the way up to additional roles as elected councillors and even mayors – which come with their own taxpayer-funded salaries.
The MP with the highest number of outside commitments was Labour’s David Lammy, with 24 entries. However, all but one were one-off speeches at various events, with the other an ongoing stint as a presenter on LBC. In total, he earned £76,521 over the 20-month period, or £292 per hour for 262 hours of work.
When counting only ongoing commitments Conservative Andrew Mitchell was the MP with the most irons in the fire.
Ongoing commitments are those that could be said to constitute a second job, and include: roles with an annual salary, payments for roles they undertake regularly such as legal work or medical shifts, positions on councils, and book advances.
The Sutton Coldfield representative had no fewer than seven ‘second jobs’ advising businesses during the 20-month period, including one firm with links to the Pandora Papers leak published last month. One role ended in February 2020.
He also received an advance for writing a book, bringing his total number of ongoing commitments to eight during that period. Across these roles plus three other one-off gigs, Mr Mitchell brought in £363,971.
NationalWorld arrived at earnings estimates by applying prorated calculations to any salaried roles MPs took on.
In total, 148 MPs had ‘second jobs’ at some point in the 20-month period.
Of these, 39 had positions as councillors or mayors in addition to their MP roles, with some taking on positions at multiple levels of local government and even acting as council leader or leader of the opposition.
Labour’s Dan Jarvis has remained an MP despite raking in £131,378 as Sheffield City Mayor, with commitments of 1,440 hours per year.
There is no set amount of hours an MP has to work, and the role of member of Parliament is not particularly structured, as it can vary significantly based on a number of factors.
Past studies have found that an MP might typically work between 60 and 70 hours per week, while a report on newly-elected MPs’ workloads by the Hansard Society in 2011 noted that, “MPs are working very long hours, to the detriment of their personal and family lives”.
A number of current and former MPs who spoke to NationalWorld said they struggled to see how it was possible to do the job of being an MP well, alongside other significant time commitments.
Hayes and Harlington MP John McDonnell said: “Given the commitments in Parliament, in the constituency and on the many national and international campaigns I participate in, I don’t know where I could find the time for anything else even if I wanted.”
Other MPs also noted how much their workloads have increased during the pandemic, despite Parliament operating remotely, due to a surge in casework.
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon said: “Almost overnight when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020 the number of emails my office received doubled and has carried on at an above normal rate ever since.”
A message from the editor:
Thank you for reading. NationalWorld is a new national news brand, produced by a team of journalists, editors, video producers and designers who live and work across the UK. Find out more about who’s who in the team, and our editorial values. We want to start a community among our readers, so please follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and keep the conversation going. You can also sign up to our newsletters and get a curated selection of our best reads to your inbox every day.