Thank you for contacting me about parliamentary standards in light of the Owen Paterson debacle.
As you know, in November, the government shamelessly voted to overturn the decision of the Standards Committee to suspend Owen Paterson, who had been paid more than £100,000 for lobbying. Paterson’s suspension would have lasted 30 days. Instead, he ended up resigning entirely after his friends in the government, who had been pushing to overhaul the disciplinary process to void his punishment, bowed to public pressure and pulled the plug on him.
As I told the BBC prior to that U-turn:
“They’re doing it because they’re getting into trouble and they don’t like it and they are protecting themselves. And because they’ve been found out, and because the rules applied against them, they’ve decided to change the rules. It is as corrupt as corrupt goes. If Donald Trump was able to blush, this would make Donald Trump blush. This is not the way that you behave, honestly. It’s just extraordinary that they think that rules don’t apply to them.”
Owen Paterson’s actions clearly broke the rules around lobbying. While MPs are currently permitted to have second jobs, what they are not allowed to do is be paid advocates for the private businesses they are working for.
This incident has sparked a debate into whether MPs should even be allowed to have second jobs. In the Labour Party, we came to the conclusion that – while MPs like Rosena Allin-Khan should continue to be able to work shifts as an NHS doctor – no MP should also be employed part time as parliamentary strategists, advisers or consultants. The Labour Party would also introduce an Independent Integrity and Ethics Commission, which would – amongst other things – ban ex-ministers from work connected to government roles for five years.
There is a culture of cronyism at work in this government that is deeply disturbing, and a deep-seated sense amongst many of their MPs and Ministers that there are one set of rules that apply to them, but another that apply to everyone else. I will continue to call this out at every opportunity, alongside my other Labour colleagues, and in particular, we will continue to hold Boris Johnson to account for setting that sleazy tone from the very top of the government.
Thank you again for your email. If you have any further issues you would like to raise with me, you are welcome to get back in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Attorney General