MPs who break the rules on other jobs “should be punished,” says Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Politics news

Boris Johnson has said MPs who break parliamentary rules on other jobs “should be investigated and should be punished”.

In the past week, the government has come under fire because of its backing for former MP Owen Paterson, who was found to have broken the rules on lobbying.

It has since emerged that former Attorney General Sir Geoffrey Cox earned more than £ 800,000 while working as an associate for the law firm Withers, which represents the government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in a corruption case brought by the British government.

Sir Geoffrey Cox has earned £ 800,000 to work for a law firm, while also serving as MP

Speaking at the COP26 summit in Glasgow, the Prime Minister said he did not want to comment on individual cases.

But he added that it is “crucial” that MPs follow the rules, saying that parliamentarians should “put your job as a Member of Parliament first and foremost dedicate yourself to your constituents”.

Johnson said for “hundreds of years” that MPs have had other jobs too, and he believes it has strengthened Britain’s democracy because voters “feel that parliamentarians need to have experience with the world”.

“But if that system is to continue today, it is crucial that MPs follow the rules,” he warned in his strongest words on the issue yet.

“You have to put your job as MP first, and you have to dedicate yourself first and foremost to your constituents, the people who send you to Westminster, to Parliament.”

He said MPs should not use their position to lobby on behalf of an external interest.

Johnson told Sky News political editor Beth Rigby: “I strongly feel that those who break the rules and do not put their voters’ interests first, they should face appropriate sanctions and punishment.”

Analysis by Jon Craig, Chief Political Correspondent

Many MPs will think it’s a bit rich for Boris Johnson to declare that MPs who break the rules of parliament should be punished.

A week ago, he ordered his MPs to vote against punishing Owen Paterson after the Standards Committee said he was guilty of a “cruel” violation of the rules.

He also proposed abolishing the committee and replacing it with another, this time with a Tory majority and led by a Member of Parliament who used to be his wife’s boss.

So on Monday, after a humiliating U-turn that led Mr Paterson to resign as a Member of Parliament, the Prime Minister avoided a Commons debate on sleaze, in which some of his own MPs protested bitterly against his handling of the controversy.

But at his COP26 news conference in Glasgow, clearly prepared for bad questions, he suggested – not entirely convincingly – that he would not tolerate breaches of “other jobs and all that” in the future.

He insisted that the United Kingdom “was not a corrupt country”, and when asked about his own affairs – the Downing Street apartment and his free holiday in Marbella – he mumbled, again not convincingly, that he had complied with the rules.

Once again, there was still no excuse for the whole failure, prompting Labour’s tenacious deputy Angela Rayner to immediately accuse him of “taking the mickey” and ensuring that this sleaze series does not disappear.

But Labor Vice President Angela Rayner said Mr Johnson’s refusal to apologize for the Paterson affair “proves that he does not care about tackling the corruption that has engulfed Downing Street, his government and the Conservative Party”.

She accused the Prime Minister of “taking mickey out of the British people” and refusing to “clean up his mess”.

“He thinks it’s one rule for him and another rule for everyone else,” Mrs Rayner added.

Sir Geoffrey has defended his extra earnings, with a statement on his website saying “he does not believe he has broken the rules”.

The MP’s office said: “Sir Geoffrey regularly works 70-hour weeks and always ensures that his case processing on behalf of his constituents is given primary importance and fully executed”.

It has been revealed that he voted by proxy in the House of Commons while earning hundreds of thousands of pounds for legal work more than 4,000 miles away in the Caribbean.

According to his entry in the register of members’ financial interests, Sir Geoffrey performed approximately 434 hours of work for Withers between January and July this year, with an average of more than 15 hours per week.

Sir Geoffrey, by proxy, took part in this year’s Commons vote on the clothing scandal and on the protection of the British steel industry.

And by taking advantage of the Commons, which allows widespread proxy voting – introduced due to the COVID-19 pandemic – Sir Geoffrey could also appear at a corruption inquiry held in the British Virgin Islands, a British overseas territory, on the same day as the polls were held. .

British Foreign Secretary for Northern Ireland Owen Paterson leaves Downing Street 10 following a government meeting in central London on 15 June 2010. REUTERS / Andrew Winning (UK - Tags: POLITICS BUSINESS)
Owen Paterson resigned as MP after he was found to have broken the lobbying rules

Sir Geoffrey is also facing allegations that he used his parliamentary office to carry out some of his work for Withers, after footage appeared to show the Member using his Commons office to conduct a Zoom session of the BVI Commission of Inquiry .

Asked about Sir Geoffrey’s behavior, spokesman Lindsay Hoyle said: “He has not broken any rules, but we will all be judged by the voters, including the said member.”

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