Johnson says MPs who break the rules should be 'punished' amid sleaze accusations

ITV News' Political Correspondent Libby Wiener reports on the latest in the sleaze scandal

The prime minister has said MPs who break the rules must be "punished" as he attempted to assert some authoritiy over the escalating sleaze scandal engulfing his party.

Speaking at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow, Boris Johnson said that if MPs were to carry on taking second jobs it was essential they abided by the regulations.

“The most important thing is that those who break the rules must be investigated and should be punished,” he told a news conference.

His comments come in the wake of Sir Geoffrey Cox who has refuted claims he broke parliamentary rules by taking a high paying external job and spending part of lockdown working from the British Virgin Islands.

ITV News analysis on Wednesday revealed that MPs across the political spectrum have declared almost £9.2 million on the Register of Members' Financial Interests as of November 1.

Sir Geoffrey's constituents tell ITV News what they think about him taking on second jobs worth hundreds of thousands of pounds

Sir Geoffrey said "he does not believe" he breached code of conduct rules after The Times reported that the practising barrister used his MP office to advise the tax haven's authorities over a corruption probe launched by the Foreign Office.

In a statement issued on his website, The Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon defended his decision to work with the islands and said he would co-operate with any investigation into his conduct.

In response to a question about the recent scandal, Mr Johnson said he does not believe Britain's political system is "corrupt" and noted MPs found to have broken conduct rules “should be punished”.

The prime minister said he does not think Britain's political system was "corrupt" Credit: PA

The PM added: "On the issue of MPs and second jobs and all that, I just want to say that the most important thing is that those who break the rules must be investigated and should be punished.

"On second jobs, I would say that for hundreds of years MPs have gone to Parliament and also done work as doctors, lawyers or soldiers or firefighters or writers, or all sorts of other trades and callings.

“And on the whole, the UK population has understood that that has actually strengthened our democracy, because people basically feel that parliamentarians do need to have some experience of the world."

Did Political Editor Robert Peston get any answers from the Prime Minister today?

The PM said for the system of double jobs to carry on MPs must follow the rules and ensure their role as an elected politician is prioritised over all others.

Deputy Labour leader Angela Rayner has written to standards commissioner Kathryn Stone requesting a formal investigation into the claims Sir Geoffrey used his office for legal work.

Responding to the PM's comments, she said: "Boris Johnson's refusal to apologise proves that he doesn't care about tackling the corruption that has engulfed Downing Street, his government and the Conservative Party.

"Instead of taking responsibility the Prime Minister is taking the mickey out of the British people and won't clean up his mess. He thinks it's one rule for him and another rule for everyone else."

Speaking on ITV's Peston show on Wednesday night, Labour's Liz Kendall said she would ban MPs from taking up private consultancy jobs, adding that she doesn’t know how they have time to have a second job.

The shadow social care minister said she worried the recent examples were "just a tip of the iceberg".

But former MP and justice secretary David Gauke said it was "important that MPs are allowed to have outside interests" saying harsher rules on extra-parliamentary activities could drive away potential talent.

How a row over former cabinet minister Owen Paterson's actions started the sleaze allegations

Mr Johnson again refused to apologise for his handling of the row which erupted after Tory former cabinet minister Owen Paterson was found to have repeatedly lobbied ministers and officials on behalf of two firms he was working for as a paid consultant.

Conservative MPs were furious after they were ordered to vote for a review of the system which could have allowed Mr Paterson to appeal against a recommended six-week suspension, only for ministers to abandon the plan when opposition parties refused to co-operate.

It was recommended Mr Paterson should be suspended for six weeks after the Commons Standards Committee found he had broken the centuries-old ban on paid lobbying by MPs after receiving more than £100,000.

In the bitter aftermath of the sleaze debate, Mr Paterson announced he was quitting as MP for North Shropshire after 24 years.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid also weighed in on the matter.

He told ITV News he did not want to comment on the specific allegations but said it's wrong to use taxpayer-funded resources for private work.

"No one should be repeatedly using their office space, or anything funded by the taxpayer, for anything other than what is public service," Mr Javid said.

Sajid Javid gives his thoughts on the use of taxpayer-funded spaces for private business

Mr Javid also defended his own previous second jobs, which saw him expect extra pay of more than £300,000 a year.

Until June this year, Mr Javid was being paid £150,000 a year as an adviser to multinational investment bank JP Morgan, plus another £151,835 as an adviser to an enterprise AI software provider,

Both these roles came to an end when he became health secretary, but Mr Javid said the jobs, where he advised on the global economy, major industries, market opportunities and geopolitics, only took up one or two days a month.

He said he did not “really want to just talk about myself” but insisted he was “very open and transparent” about the arrangement.

The Parliamentary Committee on Standards' chair said the last three weeks in Parliament has been "despicable"

"The last three weeks has been shocking and despicable," Chris Bryant, the Chair of the Parliamentary Committee on Standards said.

"The Prime Minister is always running away. He should have been in the House of Commons to apologise for the stitch up that they organised last week."