MPs back Boris Johnson’s ‘watered-down’ proposals to ban them from accepting paid consultancy work by 282 votes to 231
- Boris Johnson’s plan to ban paid consultancy work has been backed by MPs
- Labour’s plans to introduce rules to curb business interests was voted down
- Vague Government amendment described ban as ‘basis of a viable approach’
- PM told MPs ‘on a clear road I crashed the car into a ditch’ in Owen Paterson row
Boris Johnson’s plan to ban paid consultancy work has been approved by MPs after the Commons voted through the Government’s ‘watered-down’ proposals to improve standards in politics.
The Prime Minister admitted that he ‘crashed the car into a ditch’ while trying to defend lobbying sleaze shame MP Owen Paterson as he faced furious Tory MPs at the end of a bruising day.
Mr Johnson met the 1922 Committee of backbenchers last night after an explosive PMQs and a torrid few weeks for his party over his attempt to rewrite Parliament’s anti-corruption rules.
He has tried to draw a line under the chaos by pledging to ban MPs from working as consultants on the side after Mr Paterson broke standards rules to act as an advocate for a firm paying him a six-figure salary.
Mr Johnson also suggested MPs should have limits placed on the time they spend on second jobs – with both changes possibly costing dozens of his own backbenchers significant sums.
He later saw off a Labour motion calling for a ban on ‘any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant’. The change was rejected by 282 votes to 231, a majority of 51.
MPs voted down Labour’s plans to introduce new rules to curb their outside business interests, something which has increased tensions between Boris Johnson and Tory backbenchers.
Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons
Minister’s grovelling apology to standards watchdog ‘came after intervention from PM’s adviser’
Kwasi Kwarteng apologised for suggesting the Commons standards commissioner should quit after an intervention from the ministerial watchdog, it was revealed today.
Boris Johnson said his ‘collaboration’ with the adviser on ministerial interests Lord Geidt sparked the Business Secretary’s letter saying sorry for his remarks.
The comments came as the PM gave evidence to the powerful Liaison Committee, made up of committee chairs from across parties.
Mr Johnson repeatedly batted away calls for Lord Geidt to be able to initiate investigations into ministers without his approval.
But he stressed that the peer had been having an impact by referring to his part in the grovelling apology Mr Kwarteng last week.
‘The process by which the letter was generated was one that included collaboration between me and Lord Geidt,’ he said.
Mr Kwarteng was widely criticised for suggesting the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards should consider her position in the wake of the Owen Paterson row.
It was Ms Stone’s investigation that found the then-Tory MP breached the Commons code of conduct by lobbying ministers and officials for two companies paying him more than £100,000 per year.
Labour’s proposals called for a ban on ‘any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant’.
Crucially, it also included provisions requiring the Commons Standards Committee to come forward with proposals to implement the ban and guaranteeing time on the floor of the House for MPs to debate and vote on them.
In contrast, the more vaguely worded Government amendment simply described the consultancy ban as ‘the basis of a viable approach’ and supports the work of the Standards Committee to update the MPs’ code of conduct.
Labour’s motion was rejected by 282 votes to 231, majority 51, while the Government’s amendment on standards was approved by 297 votes to zero, majority 297.
No Labour MPs backed the amendment, but the division list showed four Conservative MPs rebelled to support Labour’s motion – Peter Bone (Wellingborough), Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Nigel Mills (Amber Valley), and Dan Poulter (Central Suffolk and North Ipswich).
Speaking after the vote, Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘We put forward a plan of action to clean up politics and strengthen standards in politics.
‘And if you can believe it, after two weeks of Tory sleaze and corruption, the Prime Minister whipped his MPs against that plan of action, and, frankly, he just doesn’t get.’
Sir Keir said: ‘We are not going to back down from these proposals, we’re not prepared to have them watered down, so we will press on with them. But it is unbelievable.’
Under the Government’s proposals, set out in a letter to Commons Speaker Sir Lindsay Hoyle, rules would be updated to include two key recommendations from the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s report on MPs’ outside interests from 2018.
These include changing the code of conduct so that any outside work should be ‘within reasonable limits’ and ‘not prevent them from fully carrying out’ their duties.
Those who failed to comply should be ‘investigated and appropriately punished’.
Speaker of the House Sir Lindsay Hoyle speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer during Prime Minister’s Questions at the House of Commons
Boris rows with Speaker and Starmer during bad-tempered PMQs session
Boris Johnson was today brutally rebuked by the Speaker as he tried to turn the tables on Keir Starmer during a fiery PMQs sessions.
The premier repeatedly tried to grill the Labour leader over his past legal work as the pair clashed over sleaze at the weekly session.
But Lindsay Hoyle demanded he stop, insisting it is questions to the Prime Minister rather than to the Opposition leader. ‘You might be the PM of this country but in this House I’m in charge,’ Sir Lindsay said.
Sir Lindsay also warned that the bad-tempered discussion was doing nothing to restore the image of the House after the Owen Paterson debacle earlier this month.
There looked to be fewer Conservative MPs cheering Mr Johnson on in the chamber this afternoon than in recent weeks.
And the weekly exchanges turned nasty after Mr Johnson attempted to question Sir Keir about links with Mishcon de Reya.
Sir Lindsay told Mr Johnson: ‘I don’t want to fall out about it, I’ve made it very clear – it is Prime Minister’s Questions, it’s not for the Opposition to answer your questions.
‘Whether we like it or not those are the rules of the game that we’re all into and we play by the rules, don’t we? And we respect this House, so let’s respect the House.’
After Mr Johnson attempted to ask again about the issue in a later exchange, the Speaker said: ‘Prime Minister, sit down. I’m not going to be challenged, you may be the Prime Minister of this country but in this House I’m in charge.’
Mr Johnson later accused Sir Keir of ‘Mish-conduct’, which prompted calls from the Labour benches for the comment to be withdrawn.
The Speaker said: ‘I don’t think this has done this House any good today. I’ll be quite honest, I think it’s been ill-tempered, I think it shows the public that this House has not learnt from the other week, I need this House to gain respect but it starts by individuals showing respect for each other.’
Despite the rollocking for Mr Johnson, at the end of the session Sir Keir was pulled up for calling the PM a ‘coward’.
When Mr Johnson again dodged saying sorry for his handling of the Paterson case, Sir Keir said: ‘That’s not an apology. Everybody else has apologised for him, but he won’t apologise for himself. A coward not a leader.’
Responding to a point of order, Sir Lindsay said the jibe was ‘not the kind of language’ for the Commons.
Rising to his feet again, Sir Keir said: ‘I withdraw it. But he is no leader.’
The changes would also ban MPs from accepting paid work as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, and from accepting payment or offers of employment to act as political consultants.
A Government spokesperson said: ‘The House of Commons has tonight voted to update the Code of Conduct for MPs.
‘This means that MPs will be banned from acting as paid political consultants or lobbyists and that MPs are always prioritising their constituents.
‘This will strengthen our parliamentary system and we will work on a cross-party basis to achieve this.’
But Chris Bryant, the Labour chairman of the Committee on Standards, replied to the statement on Twitter saying: ‘Except it doesn’t mean that. We haven’t changed anything yet.’
Mr Bryant then added in a statement that he hoped to have a final report on the committee’s proposed changes ready to present to the Commons in early 2022.
He said: ‘Any changes to the code would then require the Government to table the necessary motions and allow time for a debate on the floor of the House.’
The changes are likely to deepen tensions between Tory MPs.
Earlier, Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, treasurer of the 1922 Committee, said there was ‘dissatisfaction’ with the Prime Minister in the Tory ranks.
And speaking to GB News, former minister Johnny Mercer said: ‘There are serious problems in the quality of our politics at the moment.’
The Tory MP for Plymouth Moor View, who has been outspoken against the Government since losing his job as veterans minister, added that he had ‘no relationship’ with Mr Johnson, despite initially backing him as leader.
While Sir Keir said: ‘I’ve been really struck by how many Tory MPs seem to have lost faith and confidence in the Prime Minister.
‘It was noticeable at Prime Minister’s Questions today that their benches were with many gaps, many MPs hadn’t turned up to support him.’
However, Mr Johnson was greeted at the 1922 Committee of backbench MPs on Wednesday evening, prior to the vote, to loud banging on the tables in approval.
It was reported that he told MPs ‘on a clear road I crashed the car into a ditch’ in the saga surrounding former Tory MP Mr Paterson, who was found to have breached lobbying rules.
But one backbencher said that the vast majority of questions at the meeting were surrounding the issue of small boats and immigration.
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Johnson admitted the initial effort to shield Mr Paterson from immediate suspension to enable a review of his case and the disciplinary process had been an error.
‘The intention genuinely was not to exonerate anybody, the intention was to see whether there was some way in which, on a cross-party basis, we could improve the system,’ Mr Johnson told the Liaison Committee of senior MPs.
‘In retrospect it was obviously, obviously mistaken to think we could conflate the two things and do I regret that decision?
‘Yes I certainly do.’
Mr Paterson quit as an MP rather than face a vote on his suspension after the Government abandoned its bid to shield him from an immediate sanction.
The PM also insisted he wanted to find a cross-party approach to the Westminster sleaze rows but became involved in spiky Commons exchanges with Sir Keir during PMQs over his own outside earnings as a lawyer prior to becoming Labour leader.
The Speaker repeatedly ordered Mr Johnson to stop asking Sir Keir questions and said the exchanges had been ‘ill-tempered’, adding: ‘I need this House to gain respect but it starts by individuals showing respect for each other.’
Tory MPs could lose income worth £1.7m a year under a full consultancy ban
As many as 50 Tory MPs could lose a combined income of £1.7million a year if consultancy work was banned altogether.
Analysis of the Commons Register of Member’s Interests carried out by the Labour Party shows those who stand to lose out.
Name of MP
Iain Duncan Smith
Job and firm
Member of the Advisory Board of EPIC Private Equity;
Chairman of Investment Committee of Charles Stanley
Senior adviser to Investec;
Senior adviser to Montrose Associates;
Consultant with Ernst & Young;
Arch Emerging Partners adviser;
Senior adviser on African matters to SouthBridge;
Senior adviser to Kingsley Capital Partners
Principal Speaker for BRI Wealth Management plc;
Advisory Board of Laser Light Communications;
Chair of the Advisory Board of the Shetland Space Centre
Chair of the Infrastructure Policy Board, and Joint Chairman of the Policy Board, Public Policy Projects;
Strategic Advisor to Darwin Alternative Investments;
Non- Executive Director, Optibiotix Health plc (life sciences)
Chairman of OpSec Security;
Impero Solutions Ltd;
Advisory Director of Investcorp Securities Ltd
Strategic Adviser to Hutchison Ports Europe
J.P. Morgan EMEA Advisory Council
Non-executive director of Allpay Limited;
Managing director of Emerging Asset Management Ltd
President of HBSA, which provides technical and vocational education;
Strategic Adviser to BB Energy Trading Ltd
Ryse Hydrogen Ltd;
Simply Blue Management (UK) Ltd;
MJM Marine Ltd (marine refurbishment and fitting, property and renewables)
Strategic Adviser to Remedium Partners (permanent healthcare recruitment);
Strategic Adviser to Microlink PC;
Strategic Adviser to Sigma (pharmaceuticals)
Member of the Advisory Board of THI Holdings GmbH;
Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Kohlgartenstrasse 1
Adviser to the Board of the Outcomes First Group;
Chairman of the Quality and Safeguarding Board
Director of Hunters Property Plc
Non-executive Chairman of the Belfast Consortium Supervisory Board of Artemis Technologies Ltd
Senior Adviser to BBI Group;
Senior Adviser to Veezu Holdings Ltd;
Adviser to Elite Partners Capital Pte Ltd
Member of the International Advisory Board of Tunstall Health Group Ltd;
Adviser to the Board of Byotrol Technology Ltd
Non-Executive Director of JT Consultancy Ltd;
Non-Executive Director of Law Abroad Ltd
Strategic corporate advice to Squire Patton Boggs (law firm)
Abellio Transport Holdings (rail and bus operator)
Adviser to MHR International UK Ltd
Consultant providing general advice to The Electrum Group LLC
Non-executive director of Europe Arab Bank
Chair of the New Homes Quality Board
Non-executive director of Apprentify Limited
Chairman of the Foodservice Packaging Association
Independent Non-Executive Director of British Racing’s Horse Welfare Board
Advisory Board for Cumberland Strategies;
Advisory Board of Iogen Corporation (Canada)
Parliamentary Adviser on Sport and Safer Gambling to the Betting and Gaming Council
Director of the National Centre for Higher Education Policy
Consultant offering general advice to the Consumer Credit Association (CCA)
Partner in East Beckham partnership, engaged in arable farming in Norfolk
Adviser on by Cambridge and Counties Bank Ltd
Consultant providing public policy advice to Drakelow Development Holdings Ltd;
Advice to Penelope Thornton Hotels Limited;
Senior Counsel to GIN Property Ltd c/o Broughton Lambert Accountants
Adviser on communications and marketing strategy to Snowshill Allied Holdings Ltd;
Primary Access and Research
Consultant to Weightmans LLP;
Consultant to the Substantia Group
Non-Executive Director of Reaction Engines Ltd
Adviser to Mere Plantations Ltd
A Director of the International Centre of Justice for Palestinians;
Oversight Board Member of Stay Belvedere Hotels Ltd
Associate of SP Broadway Ltd (communications company)
Non-Executive Director of New Scientist Ltd
Strategic adviser, retained via Weble Ltd, to the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales
Director from Amanda Solloway Ltd (learning consultancy)
Parliamentary Adviser on Pawnbroking to the National Pawnbroking Association
Non-executive Director of Kanabo Group PLC
G E Sturdy and Son; a farming partnership
Member of the Advisory Board of the Author’s Licensing and Collecting Society
Advisory Board Member, Oxford International Education Group
EPIFNY Consulting Ltd
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