Can MPs have second jobs? Rules on additional earnings for members of parliament explained

Though many assume that the role of an MP, with a salary of more than £80k per year, is full-time, there are limited restrictions on taking on additional work

While millions of people struggled during the Covid pandemic, more than a hundred MPs earned significant sums from work outside of parliament, an investigation by NationalWorld has revealed.

The subject of MPs taking on additional jobs has attracted controversy before, most notably when, in 2017, former Chancellor George Osbourne announced he would become editor of the Evening Standard while staying on as an MP.

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But it has been brought to light again following a saga in which Conservative MP Owen Paterson was found to have broken rules on paid lobbying with two of his ‘second jobs’.

Can MPS have second jobs?

Between January 2020 and August 2021, MPs accumulated roughly £10m in additional income supplementing their MP salaries, an exclusive analysis by NationalWorld can reveal.

There is no limit or restrictions on how much an MP can earn or the amount of work they can take on.

The forms of additional income include consulting, media appearances, healthcare roles and more.

A 2018 report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) noted that “currently, there are no systems in place to regulate outside interests, and therefore no sanctions against MPs taking on outside interests outside of reasonable limits”.

In practice, there is no limit on the amount of work MPs can take on outside of parliament, or how much they can earn.

Although there is a ban on paid political advocacy, recommendations by the CSPL on banning political consultancy have yet to be acted upon.

This means that taking on any number of second jobs as an MP is permissible, although there are some rules and regulations that must be adhered to.

Do MPs have to register additional income?

There is no limit on how much an MP can earn in one calendar year, although there is a threshold at which income becomes registrable.

According to the UK Parliament website an MP must register individual payments of more than £100 for any employment undertaken outside of Parliament.

Any individual payments of £100 or less must be registered after an MP has received a total of more than £300 in payments from the same source over the duration of the calendar year.

When MPs register their second sources of income or any additional income they have made, this information is compiled in the Register of Members Financial Interests.

They must register any payments for second salaries, and any fees, payments or gifts received because of their work.

They must also register any taxable expenses, allowances, and benefits.

A number of MPs have earned additional income through completing opinion surveys for polling firms like YouGov or IpsosMori.

What does the Code of Conduct for MPs say? 

The Code of Conduct for MPs sets out the rules for MPs to follow, with particular regard to the registration of outside interests, in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

The last revision was published in October 2019, and is yet to be updated to reflect recommendations from the CSPL dating back as far as 2008.

The code does not place a limit on how much MPs can earn in one calendar year, and there is no  clause stating that any outside commitments should be within reason and not interfere with the primary role of being an MP.

It does however state that “no Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House” and it also compels members to “fulfil conscientiously the requirements of the House in respect of the registration of interests in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests”.

What is political lobbying?

Lobbying is the act of lawfully attempting to influence the actions, policies or decisions of government officials.

One of the roles undertaken by MPs to earn additional income is consultancy.

The Outside Interest report mentions: “based on our evidence, the Committee has concluded that MPs should not undertake outside employment as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, as this can lead to MPs having a privileged relationship with one organisation, and therefore bring undue influence to bear on Parliament.”

However, the Code of Conduct says: “The lobbying rules do not prevent a Member holding a paid outside interest as a director, consultant, or adviser, or in any other capacity, whether or not such interests are related to membership of the House”.

MPs are allowed to have paid interests outside the House of Commons, as long as it is not related to work relating to Parliament, which could influence any decisions made in the House.

Part Time Parliament: read our latest investigation findings here, and sign up to our newsletter to get the inside story.

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