Labour plan to curb MPs' outside work could affect 90 parliamentarians

Ed Miliband

Proposals by the Labour leader, Ed Miliband, to curb the outside earnings of MPs to around £10,000 a year could affect up to 90 parliamentarians, a Guardian analysis suggests.

In the wake of the Channel 4/Telegraph sting operation on two former foreign secretaries, Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind, Miliband wrote to the prime minister suggesting limits on MPs’ earnings from second jobs should be capped at around 10% or 15% of their parliamentary salaries.

Preliminary analysis based on the MPs’ register of interests from last October shows that in that period around 90 MPs – about one in seven – had earned above this threshold over the last period, though the terms of declarations can go over a year.

The results suggest Miliband’s proposals would affect Conservatives considerably more than Labour MPs. As of October, 63 Conservative MPs – around one in five – had earned more than £10,000, compared with just 20 of their Labour counterparts, or one in 12.

Conservative MPs are the highest earners with a combined total of more than £4.5m while Labour MPs have declared over £1.5m and the Lib Dems £240,000. Under parliamentary rules, MPs are permitted to take outside jobs provided the earnings are declared in the register of members’ interests.

MPs’ earnings come from a range of directorships, consultancies and paid employment with more than 20 declaring more than £100,000 in outside earnings, according to analysis of the data last October.

The top outside earner is technically former prime minister Gordon Brown, who declared £492,331 from outside activities primarily from public speaking engagements around the world. However, none of the sums declared are received by Brown himself and his parliamentary declaration states: “I am not receiving any money from this engagement personally.”

Conservative MPs Geoffrey Cox, Stephen Phillips and Sir Edward Garnier also appear in the top 10, all three from income derived from their work as barristers, which for all three was in excess of £200,000.

Responding to the analysis in October, Garnier defended the outside roles of himself and other MPs as important in avoiding creating a professional political class.

Preliminary analysis of the latest parliamentary record shows that in the past two months MPs have declared handsome sums from work in the finance, energy and defence sectors.

Nicholas Soames, a defence minister under John Major, declared £53,868 last month with more than £26,000 derived from a directorship with defence and security contractor Aegis Defence Services and around £24,000 from an American insurance and risk consultancy firm MMC Group.

Other MPs to declare earnings last month include Sir Gerald Howarth, who – as well as serving as MP for Aldershot – earned £31,500 for advising Blenheim Capital, a consultancy firm specialising in advising governments and corporations on offsetting and procurement.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Harry Davies and James Ball, for theguardian.com on Monday 23rd February 2015 17.52 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010