More than three in five people believe MPs should not be able to take on paid second jobs outside of their work as an MP or minister, according to a new poll.
The poll comes as our #PartTimeParliament investigation reveals that MPs have earned almost £10m from work outside of Parliament during the pandemic and worked a combined total of more than six years.
Majority back change of rules to scrap second jobs for MPs
A majority of people across all age ranges and political allegiances believe MPs should not be allowed to take on paid second jobs outside of their work as an MP.
The poll, carried out by Survation on behalf of NationalWorld, found that 68% of people think MPs should not be allowed to take on paid work outside parliament, with just 21% in favour of the current rules.
MPs can take on as much work as they like outside of Parliament under the current rules, which do not place a cap on either the amount of earnings and MP can make or the time they can commit to other work.
NationalWorld found that one in three MPs have earned money from outside work during the pandemic, totalling almost £10m between January 2020 and August 2021, with around 87% of this registered by Conservative MPs.
The overall time spent by MPs on work outside of Parliament during that period is more than six years, or around 7000 working days, at a time when many have reported record levels of casework due to the pandemic.
Support for MPs being able to earn money on top of their taxpayer-funded salaries is low across all regions of the UK, but is highest in London at 31%, and less than half that in the South of England excluding London, at 15%.
Highest-paid and oldest are most against second jobs for MPs
Perhaps surprisingly, support for MPs being able to have second jobs decreases with age, with 54% of 18-34 year-olds saying they shouldn’t be able to have them, compared with 89% of those 65 and over.
Those on low pay were more likely to say that MPs should be allowed second jobs, with 29% of those earning less than £20,000 per year backing the current rules, compared with 70% of those on £40,000 or more per year.
The polling was carried out before the recent report which found Owen Paterson carried out acts of paid political advocacy on behalf of two firms legitimately employing him.
The two roles, which netted Paterson a combined total of more than £100,000 per year, were in theory totally compliant with the current rules on second jobs for MPs.
A report by the parliamentary watchdog and signed off by a cross-party committee of MPs found that Paterson carried out ‘egregious’ breaches of the ban on paid political advocacy by contacting the Food Standards Agency and Department for International Development on behalf of Randox Laboratories and Lynn’s Country Foods.
This has prompted calls for reform on the rules around MPs’ outside interests, including other employment.
Will Labour back change of rules for MPs?
The Committee on Standards in Public Life has called for the code of conduct for MPs to be amended to state that any work outside Parliament should be within reasonable limits and shouldn’t interfere with their work as an MP.
However, some would go further, such as Labour MP Richard Burgon, who has launched a campaign to ban MPs taking on second jobs, other than in exceptional circumstances such as for nurses and other healthcare workers.
Labour’s 2019 manifesto included a commitment to outlaw second jobs for MPs, but a Labour source said they did not know if the pledge was still policy, and a spokesperson for Labour was unable to confirm.
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