Around one in three MPs had at least one other job or commitment outside of parliament during the Covid pandemic, often earning thousands of pounds on top of their salaries, a NationalWorld study has revealed.
Exclusive analysis of the Register of members’ financial interests showed that sitting MPs accumulated almost £10m from a wide range of additional work between January 2020 and August 2021.
Many people would think that being an MP is a full time job or that taking on other work should even be banned - particularly during a pandemic.
However, an investigation by NationalWorld found that some MPs spend on average more than two working days a week on other roles.
What second jobs do MPs have?
The second jobs that MPs have vary widely, and while some of these roles could be said to carry a benefit to their constituents or complement their work as a parliamentarian, many seem to have taken on outside work for financial gain.
Some MPs also serve as elected councillors, others maintain consultancy roles with big businesses and a handful have gone back to work to assist in the fight against Covid, as nurses, GPs or pharmacists.
For some MPs with second jobs, their outside commitments can be extremely lucrative, even if the roles don’t take up much of their time.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson earned £25,465 with minimal exertion through book royalties in this period.
There are also a number of MPs that averaged an extremely high number of hours per week from work outside of parliament.
Dan Jarvis worked 2,413.7 hours - the equivalent of 27.8 hours per week - during the period of 20 months as Sheffield City Region Metro Mayor.
How many hours a week should MPs work?
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.
Whereabouts an MP’s constituency is in relation to Parliament, the size of their majority and the type of issues that impact the communities they represent all factor into how busy a backbench MP generally is.
For ministers, shadow ministers, select committee chairs and other MPs who carry out parliamentary roles beyond the scope of a standard MP’s job, there are even more time constraints.
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.”
What are the rules on MPs making additional income?
As it stands, there is no limit on how many hours an MP can work and how much they can earn from work outside of Parliament.
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”.
However, there are some limitations surrounding the nature of the work MPs can do.
According to the MPs’ Code of Conduct, “No Member shall act as a paid advocate in any proceeding of the House”.
This means that MPs cannot offer any services that would allow them to influence the decisions made by the government, which is also known as lobbying.
MPs are compelled to register any income they receive from outside sources in the Register of Members' Financial Interests, as well property and shareholdings over a certain value that they hold, and other non-financial interests.
Any additional income of more than £100 per annum must be filed in the Register.
This includes any tax deductions, gifts, donations and second salaries.
Should MPs have additional jobs?
When the CSPL asked members of the public in 2017 to give their thoughts on whether MPs should be able to have additional jobs, the responses were overwhelmingly negative.
One member of the public wrote: “I am afraid I believe that Members of Parliament are being paid quite a lot more than most of their constituents and should have NO other jobs while they are Members of Parliament”.
They added: “No one can do two jobs to the full satisfaction of each”.
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