Boris Johnson has lined up plans to ban MPs from working as paid political consultants or lobbyists in the wake of Westminster’s sleaze dispute.
In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Prime Minister said there was a need to ensure that the rules for MEPs are “up-to-date, effective and appropriately stringent”.
Mr johnson said he believed the Code of Conduct for MPs should be updated to ensure that their work “continues to have public confidence”.
The prime minister’s intervention comes two weeks after he called on his Conservative MPs to rescue one of their colleagues, a former minister. Owen Paterson, from an immediate commons suspension over a breach of lobbying rules.
A consequent outcry over the actions of Mr Johnson and Tory MPs led to a rapid U-turn of the government. But the prime minister has yet to stem further accusations of Westminster filth in a new inquiry into MPs’ external earnings following furore over Mr Paterson.
There have also been signs that the continuing quarrels have caused political damage to both the Prime Minister and the Conservative Party, with Labor pulling ahead of the Tories in recent polls.
In his letter to Sir Lindsay on Tuesday, Mr Johnson supported the proposed reforms in a 2018 report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which advises Downing Street on schemes for maintaining ethical standards of conduct among public servants.
The Committee’s proposed reforms included an update of the Code of Conduct to state that the external remuneration of Members of Parliament “should be within reasonable limits and should not prevent them from fully performing their range of duties”.
As part of Westminster’s sleaze series, Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Cox has been criticized after he was revealed to have voted by proxy in the Commons while performing lucrative legal work in the Caribbean.
Johnson also supported the report’s recommendation to update the Code of Conduct to ban MPs from “any paid work to provide services such as parliamentary head of state, adviser or consultant”.
I have written to the Commons Speaker to suggest:
1) The Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament has been updated
2) Members of parliament who prioritize external interests over their constituents are appropriately investigated and punished;
3) Members of parliament are prohibited from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists pic.twitter.com/3SSQqrKRCG
– Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) November 16, 2021
The Prime Minister wrote in his letter: “Adopting these specific recommendations will ensure that Members of Parliament who neglect their duties to their constituents and prioritize outside interests will be examined and appropriately punished by the existing disciplinary authorities.
“They would also ban MPs from exploiting their positions by acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists.”
Sir. Paterson, who has since resigned as a Member of Parliament, was found to have violated lobbying rules during his £ 110,000-a-year consultancy for Randox, a clinical diagnostics firm, and Lynn’s Country Foods, a meat processor and distributor.
In his letter, Mr Johnson added that it was “a matter of regret” that the Commons “had not yet pursued these specific recommendations” from the 2018 report and said the government “wants to see them adopted as an urgent matter”.
He also expressed his conviction that changes to the Code of Conduct for Members of Parliament “should be based on a cross-party consensus” in the Commons.
The prime minister’s letter was released minutes before Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer was due to speak at a news conference to explain his party’s own plans in the wake of the Westminster sleaze scandal.
Labor aimed to force a Commons vote on Wednesday on a proposal to end MPs’ paid board positions and commercial consulting firms.
Sir Keir said on Tuesday he would have to “look carefully” at the prime minister’s proposal.
“If he fully accepts the proposal, then it is a significant victory for us in our work to clean up politics,” the Labor leader added.
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Speaking to broadcasters later, Sir Keir said: “I rather hope that all my press conferences are so successful that while I make a claim to the Prime Minister, he admits that he falls in line.”
He added: “What I want to see from the Prime Minister now is that he follows up and ensures that his MEPs vote in favor of this tomorrow so that we can get the binding resolution from Parliament and move on.
“We’ve had two weeks of corruption and badass. Let’s follow up and let’s see the vote go through tomorrow.”
Dr. Hannah White, from the Institute for Government think tank, who has previously worked for the Committee on Standards in Public Life, said the “key” to the prime minister’s plans would be the definition of “paid political consultants or lobbyists”.
“Is a former minister who has knowledge of a policy area allowed to take on an advisory role (as long as there is no paid advocacy) because it is not ‘just’ a parliamentary strategy?” she asked.
“Will it be up to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards to determine what ‘reasonable limits’ for external activity mean?
“So far, MPs have argued that it is up to them to decide how they fulfill their role – so who can decide whether they fulfill ‘their range of duties’?”
Earlier Tuesday, the government ended his U-turn in the row over Mr. Paterson when MPs formally supported the results against him.