Call to tell voters about paid jobs

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Published: Sunday 1st March 2015 by The News Editor

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All would-be MPs should be forced to tell voters what paid jobs they have and whether they would keep them if elected, a sleaze watchdog has said.

Lord Bew, chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, told The Observer politicians were “really riding for a fall” if they failed to address the issue of outside earnings.

He urged immediate action to restore public trust in the wake of the latest Westminster cash-for-access controversy.

Former foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind said they had referred themselves for an investigation by the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards after being caught by hidden cameras discussing the possibility of working for a fictitious Chinese company.

Veteran Tory Sir Malcolm also announced he would not stand for re-election in May’s general election after helping fuel a furious debate over MPs’ right to supplement their £67,060 salaries.

Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that extra work can be fitted in alongside constituency duties and MPs voted down a Labour call for a ban on holding paid directorships, consultancies or trade union roles.

Labour candidates have already been told they will not be allowed to hold directorships or be consultants if elected in May.

Lord Bew expressed frustration that Parliament had not taken better steps to clean up the system, despite consistent calls by the committee for measures such as a cap on outside earnings, another idea being examined by Labour.

“They are really riding for a fall, in our view, unless a more proactive approach is taken to these issues,” he said – saying that voters increasingly saw politics as “an insider’s game”.

“We have been arguing for change in and around lobbying, and we are frustrated we haven’t been able to get Commons movement on it. We think that would have been helpful in the background to the current issues.

“We definitely believe parliament needs to take a more proactive approach.”

An Opinium poll for the newspaper found significantly increased public support for increasing MPs’ basic salaries in return for a ban on outside earnings – with the move now favoured by 40% to 34%.

A year ago voters were mostly against the idea by 39% to 36%.

Lord Bew said: “All candidates for parliamentary elections should publish at nomination a register of interests, including paid jobs.

“What we would expect them to be transparent about is whether they expect to continue with those roles. If the public feels that they have been brought into a decision on this matter, that can only be helpful.”

“It would be foolish to ignore that we are in a new and worrying place. This is something that could be acted upon. If the parties decided to do it quickly, they could do.

“It is important for public confidence that the House of Commons is not seen to be influenced by the prospects of personal gain.”

“We just can’t allow this malaise to continue.”

Published: Sunday 1st March 2015 by The News Editor

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