‘Legitimate’ for MP Geoffrey Cox to earn thousands as adviser in Caribbean corruption probe

Former attorney general Geoffrey Cox

A Devon MP's work defending the British Virgin Islands in an inquiry launched by the UK Foreign Office is a “legitimate thing to do as long as it is properly declared”, the Justice Secretary has said.

Torridge and West Devon MP Sir Geoffrey Cox has long been one of the biggest earners in the House of Comments - making around £1million a year.

In the latest register of interest, the ex-attorney general declared a £400,000 a year role as a consultant to law firm Withers LLP.

The documents show Sir Geoffrey also received from Withers this year:

  • £52,535.84 for 60 hours of work between January 25 and February 28

  • £45,354.48 for 55 hours of work between February 28 and March 26

  • £72,569.39 for 89 hours of work between March 26 and April 29

  • £156,916.08 for 140 hours of work between April 29 and May 31

  • £63,143.03 for 50 hours of work between June 1 and June 30

  • £46,716.29 for 40 hours of work between July 1 and July 31

He also registered a total of £133,603.84 for other legal work.

He spent weeks in the Caribbean, participating in Westminster votes from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) as he advised the islands over Foreign Office corruption charges.

Now Justice Secretary Dominic Raab has said Sir Geoffrey's role defending the islands is a “legitimate thing to do as long as it is properly declared”.

Dominic Raab, who is also Deputy Prime Minister, was asked on Times Radio about reports the Tory MP had been representing the British Overseas Territory in an inquiry and had been paid up to £900,000.

Dominic Raab has said "voters will decide" on whether MPs are spending enough time doing the job for them as their constituents.

Mr Raab said: “I think it’s first of all important to say that all of… any outside interests have to be properly declared.

“In relation to the British Virgin Islands, I was the foreign secretary that commissioned a commission of inquiry, given the allegations of misgovernance and very serious ones, including criminal wrongdoing.

“Now, I’m not going to get dragged into what individual MPs do, but actually having the former attorney general – and it wasn’t my decision, he was hired by the government of the BVI to advise them on how to correct and deal and address those allegations – actually, is a legitimate thing to do as long as it’s properly declared.

“And of course, it’s quite important in that Parliament, which is responsible residually for some areas of our relationship with the overseas territories, we’ve got some knowledge of what’s going on in those territories.”

Labour calls for investigation

Labour is calling for an urgent investigation. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Labour’s chair Anneliese Dodds said: “The people of Torridge and West Devon must be wondering if Geoffrey Cox is a Caribbean-based barrister or a Conservative MP.”

A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Mr Johnson thought an “MP’s primary job is and must be to serve their constituents and to represent their interests in Parliament”.

He said: “They should be visible in their constituencies and available to help constituents with their constituency matters.

“If they’re not doing that, they’re not doing their job and will rightly be judged on that by their constituents.”

  • 'We never see him here' - constituents react to Sir Geoffrey's £1m earnings

'Up to voters to decide'

Dominic Raab said it was ultimately up to voters whether they thought their MP was earning too much in a second job.

He told BBC Breakfast “there are very strict rules” on second jobs and it is “respectable and legitimate” for MPs to hold other roles.

Mr Raab said: “I think that people do want to see MPs and politics have exposure and experience that comes (from) outside the political world.”

He said it makes sure MPs do not become "ever more secluded and out of touch with the priorities of what’s going on in the world outside the House of Commons”.

But Mr Raab said: “Ultimately, voters will decide on their MP and whether they’re spending enough time doing the job for them as their constituents.”

ITV News has approached Sir Geoffrey's office for comment.