MPs salaries have remained a highly contentious issue since their inception in 1911. It is commonly overlooked that many (if not, most) Members of Parliament have a supplementary income in addition to their public pay package. The focus of the media’s attention on MPs expenses and Pension schemes has largely overshadowed this fact. Many members are turning to their second income to consolidate tax funded salaries that are already three times the national average. Recently, however, there have been calls from both sides of the house to limit or abolish the amount which MPs are allowed to earn from extra-Parliamentary sources. An end to moonlighting, and the corporatism that comes with.
The Parliamentary Register of Interests requires MPs to declare any outside incomes they receive throughout the year and allows the voter to see exactly where their MP gets his/her income. The register contains details of donations, sponsorships, properties owned and remunerated employment. Members are as it stands fully entitled to retain a full time second job alongside their work in the House of Commons, and there are many whose secondary profession takes up a large proportion of their time. Sir Tony Baldry is listed as a “practicing barrister, arbitrator and mediator” and last month worked for 72 hours in his legal practice. Bill Wiggin, MP for North Herefordshire, works 16 hours a week as a head-hunter for his firm Apex Fund Services Holdings and also in an advisory capacity for a number of other firms. Sir Paul Beresford works as a part-time dentist in his own firm Beresford Dental Practice Ltd.
There have been widespread calls for MPs to limit the amount they are paid from outside of Parliament and to give up their second jobs altogether. Tessa Munt MP says that these jobs often come with hidden costs to the constituents as many firms see opportunities for lobbying within the provision of extra-Parliamentary employment; ‘Some MPs take paid jobs from companies or groups, whilst claiming to serve the interests of local people. Essentially, this is a way in which organisations can buy expertise and influence, but of course, that MP is already funded for his or her full-time job by the taxpayer. Personally, I find it utterly incredible that MPs can find the time to take on any extra work over and above what is already a (more than) full-time role.’
Ed Miliband has joined this call for MPs to relinquish the amount of time given to work outside the Commons by suggesting a cap on the amount that MPs are allowed to earn from the private sector; ‘If an MP is sitting on the board of ten different firms, how much time can they really be dedicating to their parliamentary work? The British people must be reassured that their MPs are working for them. Being an MP should not be a sideline, it’s a privilege and a duty, and the rules must reflect that.’
For an MP to spend time not doing what the tax-payer has paid him/her to do is not only a blatant misappropriation of the faith which the elective have put into their representatives, but also a dangerous step towards further corporate involvement in the Commons.