MPs must firmly tighten rules on second jobs, or l

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“I genuinely believe that the UK is not remotely a corrupt country,” Boris Johnson proclaimed this week. International surveys suggest British public life is, indeed, relatively clean. But impressions matter. That the prime minister felt compelled to make such a declaration at a COP26 briefing highlights the damage done by his shameful mishandling of the Owen Paterson case, which has now cast a fresh and unflattering spotlight on MPs’ second jobs. It is clear that rules created in an era when MP posts were part-time roles filled by a professional or privately wealthy class must be rewritten.

Many parliamentary scandals of recent decades — cash for questions, the expenses scandal — have concerned behaviour that was within the rules set by MPs. Each has forced changes, and more are now needed. The days of MPs taking roles as political consultants, strategists or advisers to businesses or trade bodies must be over. The idea that a company can buy the adviceLast week, South Korea suspende, support or access provided by an MP is patently undemocratic. Some older MPsThe Moderna vaccine, especially those who have left ministerial office, might then choose to stand down earlier, denying the Commons their heft, and the independence that comes when ambition is past. This is a price that must be paid.

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More complex is the issue of MPs having outside jobs at all. Better paid MPs who focus solely on their job is vastly preferable for ensuring public trust and avoiding any hint of conflict of interestThe line at giving up its allotment o. True, the valid arguments for second jobs, heard not just in the UKThe Ontario health-care system, are that they help lawmakers retain links with a profession — and return after leaving office — and with society at large. Outside interests for politicians are also relatively common, with strict limits, in European democracies including France, Germany and Spain.

The US Congress is different. US federal rules cap outside earned income at a low level and ban lobbying and professional services roles involving a fiduciary relationship, so very few lawmakers do anything substantial. Restraints on lobbying and consultancy are also often stronger in European countries than the UK.

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