Revealed: 16 MPs started new second jobs during height of Covid pandemic

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A number of Conservative MPs took on new roles worth a combined £1.2m per year during the worst months of the pandemic

More than a dozen MPs took on new second jobs during the pandemic, while many of their colleagues reported record workloads supporting constituents struggling as a result of Covid.

Sixteen MPs in total, the majority of whom were Conservatives, took on new roles worth a combined £1.2m per year between March and December 2020, an exclusive analysis of the register of members’ financial interests has revealed.

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Workload ‘doubled’ overnight at start of pandemic

At a time when the UK was going through the biggest crisis since World War II, which has so far left more than 100,000 people dead and caused massive damage to the economy, many people would expect public servants such as MPs to have been at their busiest.

Labour MP Jim McMahon told NationalWorld that when the first lockdown was announced in late March 2020, “the number of emails my office received doubled and has carried on at an above normal rate ever since.”

Almost every MP’s email inbox currently carries an automated response stating that they are still receiving an exceptional amount of correspondence.

However, while many MPs were working more than usual to offer support, a handful were preparing to take on new ‘second jobs’, often earning significant sums.

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Within a week of lockdown legally coming into effect on 26 March, two Conservative MPs registered new, lucrative part-time roles worth a combined £68,000 per year.

£38k for 25 hours a month

On 1 April, Sir John Hayes, the MP for South Holland and the Deepings, took on a new role as a part-time professor of political studies at the University of Bolton.

For this role he earns £38,000 per year, for a monthly commitment of approximately 25 hours.

On the same day, the Conservative MP for Rugby, Mark Pawsey, took on a new £30k per year role as chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association, working 32 hours per month on average.

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A further two Conservative MPs took on new part-time roles before Boris Johnson announced a conditional plan for ending lockdown in late May, and another did so before social distancing restrictions were relaxed for the first time in mid-June.

These include Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP for North West Leicestershire, who on 6 May 2020 registered a new advisory role with Mere Plantations, a firm which grows teak wood in Ghana.

The job takes up approximately eight hours every month, for which Bridgen earns £12,000 per year.

Former shadow chancellor of the exchequer, John McDonnell MP, told NationalWorld that he doesn’t do any other paid work outside his role as an MP and doesn’t know how other MPs find the time to do so.

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He said: “I serve on lots of local community groups and work with national campaigns all voluntarily as part of my MP’s role.

“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.”

Sajid Javid and Geoffrey Cox among MPs to start second jobs during Covid

Between July and December, when the UK moved rapidly from a brief period of relaxed restrictions back into a second and eventually third lockdown, 11 more MPs took on 15 new roles between them.

They include Sajid Javid, who took on a number of lucrative roles after losing his role in the cabinet, though he did give all these up again once he became Health Secretary earlier this year.

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Former transport secretary Chris Grayling and former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox are also among those who took on lucrative new roles, as is Nusrat Ghani.

Alun Cairns added two new second jobs to his portfolio during this period, as did Mark Garnier.

Laurence Robertson became a parliamentary adviser on sport and safer gambling to the Betting and Gambling Council lobbying organisation.

Tom Brake, director of Unlock Democracy and a former Liberal Democrat MP, said NationalWorld’s findings show “how many constituents are being short-changed” by double-jobbing MPs.

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

“The main issue for me is that it distracts attention from what should be their principal responsibility, which is representing their constituents. But, of course, also being involved in legislation.”

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

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