John Penrose: Tighter rules on MPs' jobs 'not nearly enough'

The debate is taking place today, in the House of Commons.

Anti-corruption champion, John Penrose has called for further action to reinstate public belief in Westminster's standards. - Credit: Archant

Weston's MP John Penrose wants tighter rules on MPs having second jobs while in office.

Mr Penrose, the Government's anti-corruption champion, voted in favour of Boris Johnson's recent proposal to prevent MPs from having paid political consultant or lobbyist roles in order to prioritise their duty to constituents.

In a speech he made to Parliament on November 17, Mr Penrose agreed with the Prime Minister's previous statement that the UK is not a corrupt country.

He said: "When the Prime Minister was forced to answer the question: 'is this a corrupt country?' he answered 'of course it is not'.

"And he is quite right to say that, but it is very concerning that he was forced to.

Weston MP John Penrose. Picture: Eleanor Young

Weston's MP put forward a 'shopping list' of changes to the House of Commons. - Credit: Eleanor Young

"The crucial thing is strengthening standards in public life - yes it is about second jobs, of course. But it is a great deal more than whether or not MPs have second jobs, and what kind of jobs Parliamentarians may or may not have.

"We have to fix that but it will not be nearly enough on its own."

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Weston's MP then put forward a 'shopping list' to the house of measures to prevent further sleaze accusations.

Mr Penrose told the Mercury about these points in detail, stating that the processes which deal with MPs' behaviour and lobbying issues need to be more transparent to the public.

He said: “It is right to tighten the rules on MPs' second jobs, and I spoke in Parliament to support it as well as to propose a whole raft of extra, cross-party steps we should take to improve public ethics and integrity in politics, business, public and charitable sector work as well.

"It includes cleaner and tighter judgements on how MPs behave; quicker and more transparent disclosure of who lobbies government ministers and officials about what; stronger rules to prevent former ministers and senior civil servants cashing in with organisations they have just stopped regulating; a faster, more digital and more transparent process so Government contracts always get the best value for taxpayers’ cash, and an Economic Crime Bill so we can ‘follow the money’ to prevent kleptocrats and organised criminals stashing dirty cash in the UK too."

Weston's Labour group, who last week published an open letter included in the Mercury in which Mr Penrose gave his opinion on the parliamentary sleaze controversy, agreed with the ideas raised by the town's MP, though questioned if action would be taken.

Cllr Catherine Gibbons.

Catherine Gibbons described Penrose's speech in Parliament as 'a feeble attempt to close the gate after the horse has well and truly bolted.' - Credit: Archant

Labour party leader at North Somerset Council, Cllr Catherine Gibbons said: "Mr Penrose was appointed the Government's lead on tackling corruption back in 2017.

"His comments in Parliament seem like a feeble attempt to close the gate after the horse has well and truly bolted.

"People are saying to me he and the Tory Party have been 'caught asleep at the wheel' while Tory MPs line their pockets through sleaze and corruption, damaging our democracy.

"If Mr Penrose was really committed to tackling a culture of corruption at Westminster, he would have supported Labour's vote, rather than the watered-down proposals put forward by the PM.

"It should not take a national scandal to prompt Mr Penrose to call for action."

The anti corruption champion role is not responsible for investigating allegations of corruption in Government.

Mr Penrose's office has also noted previous examples of his anti-corruption role, which can be found at www.johnpenrose.org/wp/category/national-campaigns/anti-corruption/

The Mercury also asked John Penrose if an MP's £81,932 salary made for ample living.

He said: “I have always believed that – since no-one else gets to tell their boss what their pay rise should be – MPs should not be any different.

"So I have never voted or commented on my salary and will take whatever the politically-independent Parliamentary Standards Authority decides is fair."

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