Boris Johnson proposes ban on MPs’ paid lobbying to stem sleaze row

The Prime Minister has announced he wants updated and tougher rules on MPs with second jobs. ITV News Political Reporter Shehab Khan reports

Boris Johnson has proposed banning MPs from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists as he tries to stem the sleaze row that has plagued the Tory party.

The Prime Minister outlined the plans just as Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer started a press conference detailing his bid to force a vote for the government on taking action to tackle sleaze.

As well as tackling paid lobbying, Mr Johnson also called for the Commons code of conduct to be updated and for MPs who fail to focus on their constituents to be “investigated and appropriately punished”.

Detailing his plans in a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the PM said they would ensure MPs who are “neglecting their duties to their constituents and prioritising outside interests would be investigated, and appropriately punished by the existing disciplinary authorities”.

“They would also ban MPs from exploiting their positions by acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists,” Mr Johnson added.

The move is an attempt to draw a line under the damaging saga that began with Mr Johnson’s bid to overhaul the disciplinary system to prevent the immediate suspension of Owen Paterson.

Cabinet Minister Steve Barclay says the Prime Minister is calling for the 'code of conduct to be tightened' in regards to MPs with second jobs

The Prime Minister was forced to U-turn on that plan and the Conservative former minister resigned as the MP for North Shropshire, as a vote was rescheduled to ban him from the Commons for six weeks for breaching lobbying rules.

Mr Johnson’s latest plans came a day ahead of Labour staging a vote to ban MPs from taking paid consultancies or directorships during an opposition day debate on Wednesday.

The government and Conservative backbenchers would have found themselves in the difficult position of having to either back Labour’s plans or face allegations they were not stamping out sleaze.

What impact could Boris Johnson's proposals have?

Mr Johnson sent Sir Lindsay two key recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on MPs outside interests from 2018.

These included changing their code of conduct so that any outside work should be “within reasonable limits” and “not prevent them from fully carrying out” their duties.

The rules would also ban MPs from accepting paid work as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, and from accepting payment or offers of employment to act as political consultants.

Mr Johnson said changing the Commons code is “rightly a matter for Parliament” but said he believes those two recommendations would be the basis of a “viable approach which could command the confidence of parliamentarians and the public”.

Sir Keir said Labour will “look carefully” at the Prime Minister’s proposals, adding: “If he is accepting the motion in full then that’s a significant victory for us in our work to clean up politics.”

Earlier in the afternoon, MPs finally voted to endorse the investigation that found Mr Paterson breached the Commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.

The motion, which was approved unanimously, also undid the proposed changes to shield the Conservative former Cabinet member from a 30-day suspension that the Prime Minister ordered Tory MPs to back just two weeks ago.

Sir Keir gives a press conference outlining Labour's plan for improving politics as Mr Johnson announces his own proposals.

At Tuesday's vote former prime minister Theresa May warned of the “damage” caused to all MPs and Parliament by the sleaze row.

The former prime minister said it was clear that former MP Owen Paterson had broken lobbying rules, and the attempt by MPs “aided and abetted by the government” to save him was “misplaced, ill-judged and just plain wrong”.

Mrs May also suggested scrapping the proposed controversial standards overhaul which sparked the crisis was a “step in the right direction”.

But she cautioned that such a move would “not undo the damage” done by the government’s botched attempt to delay the parliamentary suspension for former Tory cabinet minister Mr Paterson.

Other senior Conservatives became ensnared in the fallout, with Geoffrey Cox being criticised for standing to make more than £1 million by representing the British Virgin Islands in a corruption inquiry launched by the Foreign Office.

The disclosure led to questions over whether the MP for Torridge and West Devon, and a practising barrister, was spending enough time on his constituents.

While some MPs in the Conservative Party will back the bid to clean up politics, others will be angered by what could be major restrictions on their ability to earn significant sums outside Parliament.