Parliamentary rules clearly state that MPs cannot use public resources, which includes parliamentary offices, for “personal or financial benefit”. Last year Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Cox made almost £900,000 was involved in a virtual meeting in a Parliament office of which there is video footage but denies that he has broken any Parliamentary rules as he was conducting paid legal work in the House of Commons as a barrister. Cox also said that he thought voters should decide if he should keep his job as MP, whilst he continues to practice as a barrister, which he claims he never tried to hide. It has also been found that Cox about voting by proxy while abroad in the British Virgin Islands, and has stated that he believed his actions was, “appropriate”.
Angela Rayner, deputy Labour leader made a stamen saying, “A Conservative MP using a taxpayer funded office in Parliament to work for a tax haven facing allegations of corruption is a slap in the face and an insult to British taxpayers. The prime minister needs to explain why he has an MP in his parliamentary party that treats Parliament like a co-working space, allowing him to get on with all of his other jobs instead of representing his constituents.”
This incident follows the recent story of Conservative MP Owen Paterson, who was found to be lobbying the government on behalf of companies that were paying him, showing a conflict of interest which he has also denied. Owen also used the House of Commons office for his private meetings for business which is prohibited by the parliamentary rules.
Both of these cases have highlighted the concern around MP’s doing additional paid work on top of their jobs in Parliament and if this should be allowed. Many MP’s do work additional jobs in various roles such as lawyers, authors of books, doctors and making appearances to give speeches, however, any additional income they make must be declared.
Sir Geoffrey, posted a lengthy statement on his website to defend his actions, it read, “He does not believe that he breached the rules, but will, of course, accept the judgment of the Parliamentary Commissioner or of the Committee [on Public Standards] on the matter. “Sir Geoffrey regularly works 70-hour weeks and always ensures that his casework on behalf of his constituents is given primary importance and fully carried out”. It then also goes on to say, “Sir Geoffrey’s view is that it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon whether or not they vote for someone who is a senior and distinguished professional in his field and who still practices that profession. “That has been the consistent view of the local Conservative Association and although at every election his political opponents have sought to make a prominent issue of his professional practice, it has so far been the consistent view of the voters of Torridge and West Devon. Sir Geoffrey is very content to abide by their decision.”