Tory MP defends Conservative actions amid ‘sleaze’ controversy
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The Prime Minister yesterday wrote to the Commons Speaker to recommend a series of measures to tighten up parliamentary standards rules. His surprise announcement came ahead of a Labour bid to trigger a Commons vote today on banning MPs from taking paid company directorships. Sources close to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer claimed the PM’s shift in stance was a “victory” for the Opposition.
In his letter to Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, Mr Johnson wrote: “It is imperative that we put beyond doubt the reputation of the House of Commons by ensuring the rules which apply to MPs are up to date, effective and appropriately vigorous.”
The PM suggested the Commons adopt a series of recommendations for tightening standards rules put forward in a report on MPs’ outside interests from the House’s committee on public life in 2018.
He added: “Adopting these specific recommendations would ensure that MPs who are neglecting their duties to their constituents and prioritising outside interests would be investigated, and appropriately punished by the existing disciplinary authorities.
“They would also ban MPs from exploiting their positions by acting as paid consultants or lobbyists.” Mr Johnson’s spokesman said: “Clearly in recent days we have seen the strength of feeling in the House on this and that’s why the Prime Minister has written this letter today.
“We have changed our approach in recognition of the strength of feeling and the need to ensure the public continues to have faith in the rules that guide parliamentarians.”
The PM wants MPs to work on a cross-party basis to thrash out the new rules, the spokesman said. But he indicated that Mr Johnson did not support a complete ban on second jobs – apart from very limited exceptions – that Labour is now calling for.
Mr Starmer said the PM had been “dragged kicking and screaming” to his new position.
He added: “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 has put down a binding vote for tomorrow.
“This is a significant victory for the Labour Party.”
His deputy Angela Rayner said: “Labour will ban second jobs for MPs, with limited exemptions for public service as we set out today.”
The row began after a report concluded former Tory Cabinet minister Owen Paterson had breached lobbying rules.
He has quit the Commons in the wake of the row.
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