so, a while back i blogged on my thoughts about MPs having other jobs. Greg Baker commented that outside work was a valuable way for MPs to get experience, so I’ve been thinking about this.
Much has been made of the time demands of the role, which I don’t dispute at all - so why do so many MPs have the time to take on second (and a few more..) jobs?
Once the furore dies down over expenses, the risk is that rules are introduced to deal with the public mood now. that will probably mean a much tighter system for expenses, and maybe a review of the rules about employing family members.
I think there needs to be a distinction between roles which enable MPs to gain an insight, or help organisations, and roles which are for pure financial gain. At the end of the day, their value in these roles is significantly enhanced by the letters ‘MP’ and yet it is the electorate that entrust them with that responsibility. and we certainly don’t do it so they can enrich themselves.
Take two examples. Firstly, Michael Gove recieves £65k a year for his column in the Times. Would he command such a salary if he were just a journalist? Absolutely not. Does writing the column improve an aspect of his role as an MP? Doubtful.
The second example is more common - an MP who receives 20K a year to sit on the board of a company. There’s quite a few who do. Now I don’t disagree this isnt a valuable insight into the pressures facing business. Yet this poses an obvious question - how many MPs are directors of SMEs? Roughly two-thirds of people in the UK are employed by SMEs, and once you add in public sector jobs the number of people employed by FTSE listed businesses is quite a small fraction. Yet MPs tend to appear as directors of large, and indeed multi-national, companies.
Call my a cynic, but if they were interested in learning about business, surely being on the board of an SME would be more useful? Furthermore, why not just accept remuneration for expenses, rather than a hefty salary.
There are obvious exceptions - MPs who continue to profit from business interests established before they were elected, or those receiving royalties for work done before they were elected - but anything earned during their term as an MP should be donated to charity, or forfeited into a constituency fund.
MPs should not be able to profit from their role - I think we need robust rules in place which essentially say the only money MPs are able to earn from second incomes should be to cover their expenses.
And once they leave office, or in the case of ministers cease to hold their post, there should be strict rules and a considerable timescale prohibiting consultancy work and corporate engagements.
We need a Parliament of MPs who are willing to serve without it being a financially rewarding role. MPs shouldnt be poor, of course not, but they shouldn’t be able to take home £500k a year either. If money is someone’s primary motivator, our democracy would be better off without them.