Can MPs have second jobs? What are the lobbying rules? Does my MP have a second job?

File photo dated 22/10/2019 of Owen Paterson who has has resigned as the MP for North Shropshire. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised MPs a fresh vote on Owen Paterson's suspension for an alleged breach of lobbying rules "as soon as possible" after performing an extraordinary U-turn. Issue date: Thursday November 4, 2021.  Stefan Rousseau/PA
Owen Paterson who has has resigned as the MP for North Shropshire. Credit: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Words by ITV News Multimedia Producer Ann Yip

MPs' second jobs and lobbying rules have come under the spotlight in the wake of the Owen Paterson row that led to the Tory MP resigning.

The cross-party Standards Committee ruled Mr Paterson repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials for health tech firm Randox and meat producer Lynn's Country Foods - who paid him more than £100,000 per year as a consultant.

It called for the MP to be banned from Parliament for 30 days.

But Mr Paterson appeared to escape the suspension last Wednesday after Tory colleagues voted to overhaul the Commons' standards system. They argued the investigation process was unfair as it did not give Mr Paterson the option to appeal.

Amid allegations of Tory sleaze, Mr Paterson resigned on Thursday and ministers U-turned on the overhaul.

Here is a look at the rules around MPs' second jobs and lobbying:

Can MPs get second jobs, and do they need them?

Yes, MPs can get second jobs, although financially speaking, they do not need them.

MPs are currently paid £81,932 a year - the pay was set in April 2020 by the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority.

On top of that, they receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, having somewhere to live in London or their constituency and travelling between Parliament and their constituency.

In the past, MPs with second jobs were viewed in a more favourable light, seen as giving Parliament a diversity of professional insight. But after the 'cash for questions' scandal in 1994, rules were tightened to prevent MPs lobbying for money.

ITV News Correspondent John Ray reports on November 4 on the political chaos that has been caused by Owen Paterson's resignation

What are the rules around second jobs or income?

MPs are expected to be transparent about their second jobs.

They have to declare individual payments of more than £100. But if they make more than £300 from the same source in a year, they have to declare all the payments. They also have to declare any gifts they received.

What kind of second jobs do MPs have, and how much do they earn?

Some MPs are employed by companies to act as a consultant, this involves advising on parliamentary procedure and the likelihood of legislation being passed. This is currently allowed but they cannot lobby for those companies in Parliament.

Torridge and West Devon MP Geoffrey Cox, earns £400,000 a year as a Consultant Global Counsel for law firm Withers LLP - an international law firm appointed by the British Virgin Islands government.

Epsom and Ewell MP Chris Grayling earns £100,000 a year as a strategic advisor to port operator Hutching Ports Europe.

Kingston and Surbiton MP Ed Davey is earning a relatively modest £5,000 a month as a consultant to law firm Herbert Smith Freehills.

Credit: PA Images

There are also MPs that take on traditional professional jobs as second jobs.

Dr Caroline Johnson, MP for Sleaford & North Hykeham, works as an NHS paediatrician, earning nearly £18,000 a year for part-time hours of 336 hours a year.

Wrexham MP Sarah Atherton worked as a part-time nurse at Wrexham Maelor Hospital.

What is lobbying, and what are the rules around lobbying for MPs?

Lobbying is when anyone tries to persuade someone in Parliament to support a policy or campaign.

Anyone can lobby their MP to support a cause, and MPs can lobby ministers, other MPs and officials.

The issue arises when it is perceived an MP is lobbying or campaigning for certain causes for financial benefit.

Under the Code of Conduct, MPs cannot start proceedings (e.g. presenting a bill/petition and starting a debate) nor spearhead approaches to ministers, other MPs or officials to try to benefit someone they are receiving money from.

But they may participate in such proceedings or approaches, as long as they are not trying to exclusively benefit the organisation paying them and as long as that organisation is not doing the lobbying.

The lobbying restrictions are redundant six months after the material benefit is received.

MPs who are paid to be advisers or consultants of an organisation are not allowed to lobby for that organisation, but MPs who are members of an organisation may lobby for that organisation, provided any financial interests are properly declared.

The rules are set out in detail here.

How do I find out if my MP has a second job?

Any second income MPs get and declare is published on the Parliament.uk website here.