MPs worked a total of 7000 working days on second jobs and work outside of Parliament during the pandemic

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MPs spent the equivalent of more than six years on second jobs outside of their Parliamentary duties during the pandemic

Sitting MPs have spent a total of more than 7000 working days on second jobs and other work outside of Parliament during the pandemic, NationalWorld can reveal, as part of our Part Time Parliament investigation.

An exclusive in-depth analysis of the Register of Members’ Financial Interests dating back to January 2020 has for the first time revealed how much time MPs commit to work outside of Parliament.

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Between January 2020 and August 2021, MPs’ work commitments came in at around 56,000 hours, the equivalent of more than 2,300 days, or six years.

In terms of working days, that would be the equivalent of 7,532 seven-and-a-half hour shifts.

Graphic: NationalWorld / Mark HallGraphic: NationalWorld / Mark Hall
Graphic: NationalWorld / Mark Hall | NationalWorld / Mark Hall

NationalWorld arrived at the figure by adding hours worked at one-off jobs to prorated calculations for commitments MPs said spanned either part or all of the 20-month period.

Some MPs maintain one or more regular part-time roles on top of their parliamentary duties, whereas others have spent time on one-off jobs, speeches or filling out surveys for polling companies like YouGov and IpsosMori.

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Some MPs have ‘second jobs’ which can see them committing the equivalent of several full working days every week.

Where MPs have given an inexact range for their hourly commitments, NationalWorld took the median value. Some did not give any indication of the time their work commitments demanded – meaning the true total could be higher still.

What was the average time MPs spent on outside work?

Excluding MPs whose only outside time commitments related to opinion surveys, one in three (33%, or 215) spent some time on work outside of Parliament during this period.

Among MPs with some outside commitments, the average time spent on other work during the period was about 10 hours per month. The median was 1.8 hours per month.

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While a small handful of MPs put their other commitments on hold during the pandemic, at a time when most reported massively increased workloads, many have retained their outside work or even taken on new opportunities.

Which MPs spent the most time on outside commitments?

The busiest MP was Labour’s Dan Jarvis, who worked 2,414 hours over the period – the equivalent of 27.8 hours per week, or 3.7 working days

Jarvis’s work as metro mayor of the Sheffield City region makes up almost the entirety of his outside commitments.

Last month he announced that would not seek re-election as mayor at the next opportunity, though he will stay on as an MP.

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There are seven MPs who have done the equivalent of more than two working days per week on outside commitments.

In 14 cases an MP has spent more than 1,000 hours – 133 working days – on outside commitments.

Ten MPs had a single regular commitment that demanded more than 1,000 hours, with an average of 70 hours per month between them.

Among these is Conservative Dr Dan Poulter MP, who averaged 27.8 hours per week on other work since January 2020.

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Most of Dr Poulter’s time on outside work is spent on his role as an NHS GP, though he has recently taken on a non-executive director role with Kanabo, a medicinal cannabis firm, earning £24,000 per year for an additional 7.5 hours per month.

Many MPs are also elected local councillors, including Conservative Ben Bradley MP.

Bradley has been an elected councillor for some time, but since May 2021 has served as the leader of Nottinghamshire County Council and sat on the Executive Board of East Midlands Councils - a combined commitment of 60 hours per week.

Because of inconsistencies in how information is published in the register of members’ financial interests, in some instances MPs have registered no time period for their work commitments.

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Is being an MP a full-time job?

While many people would expect that being an MP is a full-time role, and many do report working well over a standard 40-hour work week, there is no formal structure to the role.

While there are some limited restrictions on the type of work that MPs can take on outside Parliament, including a ban on paid lobbying, there is no formal limit on the amount of work they can take on.

This means that MPs are in theory able to take on as much work as they like outside of Parliament.

Research on MPs’ work patterns carried out prior to the pandemic found that many work 60 to 70 hours per week, and a number of MPs have told NationalWorld that their workload has increased significantly as a result of Covid.

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Jim McMahon MP, Oldham West and Royton 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.”

Former Liberal Democrat MP and director of Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake, told NationalWorld that being an MP is a “full time essential vocational role that everyone should devote every waking moment to”.

He said: “There are some MPs who you wonder when they manage to fit in any time for their constituents at all.

“The main issue for me [with second jobs] is that it distracts attention from what should be their principal responsibility, which is representing their constituents, but also being involved in legislation.”

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

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