A Conservative MP who spent the first three months of this year working as a barrister in a high-profile trial of a Sun journalist, earned more than £800,000 from his second job in the past two years.
Backbencher Geoffrey Cox QC has apologised and referred himself to the standards commissioner after breaking time limits on reporting earnings from hundreds of hours of legal work. The extra earnings are on top of his basic MP’s salary of £67,000.
The Torridge and West Devon MP is known as one of parliament’s highest earners and has argued that continuing to practise law alongside his parliamentary duties means he has “practical experience of a world outside politics”.
Cox worked at the Old Bailey almost full-time between 5 January and 20 March when he represented the Sun’s deputy editor, Geoffrey Webster, who was on trial for alleged illegal payments to public officials for stories.
According to the latest register of members’ financial interests, Cox received £325,000 on 15 and 16 June for 500 hours of work carried out for one client between June 2014 and March 2015. That is the equivalent of £650 an hour.
Cox said he had always intended to declare the income but recognised he had breached rules.
“I have referred myself to the parliamentary commissioner for standards following the late registration of payments received for my continued practice at the Bar,” he said. “While there was no intention not to declare these sums, I recognise that the failure to do so in a timely manner is a clear breach of the required 28-day notification period.
“I wish to apologise unreservedly to my constituents and to the house for this error and for my failure to give these matters their due priority.”
The most recently updated Commons register of financial interests for Cox shows that he earned £860,237.50 between September 2013 and October 2015 for legal services. This was for 1,310 hours, the equivalent of 32 weeks’ work.
Among earnings he declared was £5,000 for work in the Cayman Islands, where he successfully defended former premier McKeeva Bush. Bush was found not guilty on charges of corruption in October 2014.
Under Commons rules, external income needs to be registered within 28 days, but the sum was not declared to the authorities until 30 September.
A number of other payments, amounting to £82,692, not declared within the 28-day deadline were also highlighted on the the register of members’ financial interests as at 12 October 2015.
A spokesman for Cox said that although no conflict of interest had been identified, the MP felt it was “no longer appropriate” for him to remain a member of the cross-party standards committee.
The office of the parliamentary standards commissioner, Kathryn Hudson, confirmed that she had launched a formal investigation into Cox over registration of financial interests.
This article was written by Lisa O'Carroll, for theguardian.com on Monday 19th October 2015 16.02 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010