The UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed on Tuesday to ban MPs from having second jobs as consultants after a two-week row over lobbying rules.
Opposition leader Sir Keir Starmer said the prime minister only made the proposal “kicking and screaming” under pressure from the Labour Party.
Johnson announced the proposal shortly after the House of Commons rescinded a resolution the government pushed through two weeks ago that protected then-Tory MP Owen Paterson from immediate suspension for breaking lobbying rules and sought to change rules on standards at the same time.
In a post on Twitter, Johnson said he had written to Speaker of the House of Commons Sir Lindsay Hoyle, asking for the Code of Conduct for MPs to be updated.
Johnson said Parliament should adopt recommendations from a 2018 report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life, prohibiting MPs from prioritising outside interests over their constituents or acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists.
Responding to the prime minister’s move, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed a “significant victory for the Labour Party,” saying Johnson had been “dragged kicking and screaming” to his new position only because Labour had secured a binding vote on Wednesday.
“We’ve had two weeks of Tory sleaze and corruption. Be under no illusion, the prime minister has only done this because his back was against the wall because the Labour Party have put down a binding vote for tomorrow,” Starmer told reporters.
The Labour leader said Johnson’s letter was “obviously a concession” to the vote on Wednesday, adding it’s “in exactly the same terms as the binding vote.”
But Deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner said that Labour’s amendment goes further than banning consultancy jobs.
“Labour will ban second jobs for MPs, with limited exemptions for public service as we set out today,” she wrote on Twitter.
Having MPs with a diverse range of professions has historically been seen in a positive light as it enriches Parliament’s experiences and expertise, and most MPs were expected to have another job, which they carried out before starting in the Commons at 2:30 p.m. However, the custom has become increasingly controversial as consultancy and lobbying jobs became common.
Labour on Thursday published an analysis showing Conservative MPs have received more than £1.7 million ($2 million) in consultancy fees this year.
Earlier on Tuesday, MPs backed the government’s motion—after a one-hour debate—to rescind a motion it whipped through on Nov. 3, approving the report of the Committee on Standards that recommended a 30-day suspension of Paterson, and noting that Paterson, who resigned on Nov. 4, is no longer an MP.