Labour condemns PM’s decision not to place limits on MPs’ second jobs

Labour has accused Boris Johnson of “appeasing Tory MPs to save his own skin” by dropping a plan to place an earnings or time limit on backbenchers’ jobs outside parliament.

The party has identified eight Conservatives who were particularly critical of the prime minister over claims of lockdown-breaking parties inside Downing Street, but who earn significant extra salaries.

Johnson and his ministers pledged to take action over outside earnings following a wave of bad publicity over second jobs, including the scandal over illicit lobbying by now-resigned Tory backbencher Owen Paterson.

The extent of some outside work was also highlighted by a furore over Geoffrey Cox being paid nearly £6m as a lawyer since joining parliament, including in the British Virgin Islands, and voting by proxy on days he was undertaking paid work.

Ministers suggested limiting either earnings or numbers of hours, with one, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, suggesting that around 10 to 15 hours a week would be reasonable.

But the government’s submission to the consultation by the Commons standards committee, seen by the Guardian, states that a time limit “would be impractical”, while an earnings cap “could serve to prohibit activities which do not bring undue influence to bear on the political system”, such as writing books.

Labour’s deputy leader, Angela Rayner, said her party would toughen up the system. “Boris Johnson’s hollow promise to clamp down on MPs’ second jobs was nothing more than a media stunt to dodge scrutiny – he is straight back to appeasing Tory MPs to save his own skin,” she said.

“The prime minister’s U-turn shows just how far he’s willing to go to put his party’s own interests ahead of the public. The public deserves a government that respects them – not one that treats the job of an MP as just another income.”

The Tory MPs highlighted by Labour as examples of those who have been critical of Johnson over the claims about parties, for which he still faces a police investigation, are Theresa May, Jeremy Wright, Andrew Mitchell, Stephen Hammond, David Davis, Tim Loughton, Bob Neill and Gary Streeter.

In a particularly scathing Commons question at the end of January, May challenged Johnson, her successor as prime minister, over a report by the senior civil servant Sue Gray into the claimed parties.

“Either my right honourable friend had not read the rules or didn’t understand what they meant, and others around him, or they didn’t think the rules applied to No 10. Which was it?” May asked.

Since leaving Downing Street, May has earned sums of up to £160,000 a time for speeches, with her personal company also paying her a fixed income of £85,000 a year for speeches.

Hammond, the Wimbledon MP and a former minister, has three extra jobs that collectively pay almost £100,000 a year, including as an adviser to an investment firm and non-executive director of a life sciences company.

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