By JILL LAWLESS, Associated Press
LONDON (AP) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Tuesday proposed a ban on lawmakers from acting as ‘paid consultants’ and vowed to tighten ethics rules in response to lobbying and outside employment scandals that have tarnished British politics.
Johnson said lawmakers should be investigated if they “neglect their duty to their constituents and prioritize outside interests” and should be banned from acting as “paid political consultants or lobbyists. “.
He promised to seek all-party support for changes to the House of Commons code of conduct.
“It is imperative that we challenge the reputation of the House of Commons by ensuring that the rules that apply to Members are up to date, effective and sufficiently stringent,” Johnson wrote in a letter to President Lindsay Hoyle.
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Members of Parliament are allowed to earn outside income as long as they declare it and it does not amount to lobbying. But there has been plenty of criticism of politicians with second jobs since it was revealed that a Johnson Tory lawmaker, Geoffrey Cox, made 400,000 pounds ($ 540,000) a year as a lawyer while sitting in Parliament.
The proposals Johnson backed would prevent Members of Parliament from selling influence and ensure that any outside work does not interfere with their duties.
Keir Starmer, leader of the main opposition Labor Party, said Johnson’s measures appeared to be “a significant victory for us in our political clean-up work.”
The proposals are an attempt to stem a wave of criticism of ethics that began last month when the House of Commons Standards Committee recommended that Conservative lawmaker Owen Paterson be suspended for 30 days for lobbying on behalf of two companies that paid him over 100,000 pounds ($ 137,000) per year.
Usually, such decisions are endorsed by lawmakers, but the government has ordered Tory lawmakers to oppose the suspension and instead call for an overhaul of Parliament’s normalization process.
The government changed course the next day after a furious reaction. Paterson resigned from parliament, but lawmakers formally approved his censorship on Tuesday.
House of Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, who is a member of the Conservative government, admitted it was “a mistake” not to suspend Paterson.
“We expect all members to respect the rules of conduct in force. Paid lobbying is bad, and members found guilty of it should pay the necessary penalties, ”Rees-Mogg said.
Labor lawmaker Thangam Debbonaire said the government had treated the rules with “disdain, downright incompetent and a complete lack of leadership.”
Former Prime Minister Theresa May, a Conservative, said the government’s behavior had been “misjudged and just plain wrong”.
“Let’s be clear: this is not a question of political party,” said May. “Damage has been done to all MPs and to Parliament as a whole. “
The Paterson case has fueled allegations that Johnson and his government are not playing by the rules that apply to everyone.
Johnson himself has been criticized for agreeing to an expensive vacation to the Caribbean island of Mustique and Spain. He is also the subject of an investigation by the Parliament’s standards watchdog into the source of the money that was used to renovate his apartment in the Prime Minister’s official residence in Downing Street.
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