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25 November 2021

Exclusive: Tory MPs would be over £1m worse off in six months with Boris Johnson’s second job ban

Original New Statesman analysis finds Conservative MPs in political consultancy or similar advisory roles over the past six months earned £1,088,036 between them.

By Nicu Calcea and Anoosh Chakelian

In the last parliamentary session alone, 42 Conservative MPs earned over a million pounds between them in second jobs that face being banned in the House of Commons.

Exclusive New Statesman analysis of earnings by MPs in the governing party over six months from 1 May to 31 October finds a total of £1,088,036 earned from political consultancy or similar advisory roles that Boris Johnson wants to prohibit.

Following a protracted and painful row over former minister and then-Tory MP Owen Paterson breaching Commons’ rules while doing consultancy work, the Prime Minister spooked his backbenchers by tweeting on 16 November to propose that “MPs are banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists”.

In a letter sent that same day to Lindsay Hoyle, the Speaker of the House of Commons, Johnson wrote that no MP should be paid to “act as political or parliamentary consultants or advisers”.

MPs voted on 17 November to prohibit parliamentary advice or consultancy work. It will be up to the Committee on Standards to report on the details of such a ban.

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If there were a ban on political and parliamentary consultancy work, and similar advisory or board director roles, it would have meant Tory MPs being over £1m worse-off altogether over the past six months:

Chart by Nicu Calcea.

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All MPs listed have been contacted for comment. Paterson is now a former MP.

Not all MPs’ work over the past six months is ongoing. For example, Sajid Javid MP stepped down from his £150,000 a year (for 80-96 hours’ work) advisory role at JP Morgan in June when he was reappointed to the cabinet.

Others have reconsidered their outside earnings since the latest scandal.

Andrew Bridgen MP has not and will not receive payment for his role advising Mere Plantations, a company growing teak in Ghana, which would have earned him £12,000 a year for 96 hours of work, and has therefore not been included in our calculations (though the register of interests has not yet been updated with this development).

The New Statesman understands Andrew Percy MP decided to step down from his role on the advisory board of Iogen Corporation, a Canadian clean energy company, earning £3,000 for six hours each month, a few weeks ago. He has been included in our calculations for what he has earned so far in the current session, though we note his work there has since ended.

Richard Fuller MP, who earns £20,000 per year for two hours a month as an advisory director of venture capital company Investcorp Securities (including advising portfolio companies on the impact of Covid-19) commented: “I do not do any parliamentary or political consultancy. I am an advisory director of a venture capital fund I helped to set up in 2001 before I entered parliament.”

A spokesperson for Jonathan Djanogly MP, who earns £30,000 a year for 32 hours of work chairing a venture capital trust called Pembroke VCT, commented: “Jonathan Djanogly is chairman of Pembroke VCT plc, a venture capital trust, investing in companies.

“With regards to outside earnings, Jonathan Djanogly’s position has always been that it is beneficial to have MPs keep a foot in the world outside of Parliament, to maintain their existing skill sets and to maximise their experience.”

The new mooted rule changes on MPs’ second jobs have caused concern among some Conservative MPs, who do most of this kind of consultancy work on the side.

The New Statesman has heard from a number of Tory MPs who are trying to work out whether their second jobs are on the line – the definition of political or parliamentary advisory work is not yet clear to them.

One says the Prime Minister’s definition of what counts as political consultancy is causing confusion among backbenchers, with “some complaining it’s too narrow and others complaining it’s too broad”. Another is frustrated that the government’s “absolute appalling mishandling” of the Paterson case has tarnished MPs who have “followed the rules and acted appropriately” with the same brush.

Politicians in other parties would also have been affected by a ban. 

Until a few weeks ago, Lib Dem leader Ed Davey was a political and policy consultant to Herbert Smith Freehills, on £60,000 for 72 hours, and earned an additional £18,000 for 48 hours a year on the advisory board of Next Energy Capital. 

Labour MP Khalid Mahmood earns £25,000 a year for up to 180 hours of work as a consultant to the Policy Exchange think tank. 

Labour leader Keir Starmer has been criticised recently for considering taking up an advisory role in 2017 at Mishcon de Reya, the law firm that took government to court over Article 50 (he turned it down after warnings of a conflict of interest). 

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford received over £3,000 a month for eight hours of work per quarter as chairman of funeral plan fund Golden Charter Trust Limited, up until 31 March this year. A number of SNP MPs have other incomes, but these do not appear to fall within the definition of political consultancy. 

MPs are expecting this kind of work to be prohibited before the end of January next year.

Our method

To work out how much MPs earn from these kinds of jobs, we scraped all records of employment and earnings reported by MPs in the 1 November edition of the 2021-22 Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Of the 1,910 records we collected, only a fraction are advisory roles. MPs earn money from a wide range of sources, such as speaking engagements, writing articles, property letting and, for one group, playing gigs as part of a parliamentary rock band.

In an initial attempt to identify earnings that would fit the definition of “consultancy”, we searched the entries for a series of keywords such as “consultant”, “adviser/advisor” and “director”.

Yet not all entries include these descriptions, and some are split across multiple entries – for example, the highest-earning MP on our list, John Redwood (who earns a £48,222-per-quarter fee from the Investment Committee of Charles Stanley, as well as a one-off bonus of £35,000 from the same employer, which is listed as a separate entry).

Instead, the New Statesman’s team of data journalists (Afiq Fitri, Katharine Swindells, Michael Goodier, Miguel Roca, Nicu Calcea and Patrick Scott) reviewed each record individually and identified the ones that could be considered political consultancy.

Analysis was limited to MPs who were in such roles between 1 May and 31 October – six months beginning on 11 May, when parliament opened for the 2021-22 session.

We then extracted pound sterling amounts and payment frequency for each record, working out how much each Tory MP has earned from their jobs during that period. Where MPs have stepped down from their roles after 1 May, we adjusted their total earnings to only include the months they were in their role.

Additional reporting: Afiq Fitri, Katharine Swindells, Michael Goodier, Miguel Roca, and Patrick Scott.

This piece was updated on 29/11/21 to reflect that Ed Davey has resigned from the consultancy jobs listed.

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