Are MPs allowed second jobs?

20 July 2018

MPs are allowed to get paid for jobs they do outside of parliament. This can include media work, like appearing on TV and radio, and writing books and columns.

If they are government ministers, they shouldn’t be paid for writing newspaper articles and cannot write books on their “ministerial experience” while still in Cabinet roles. Former-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson returned to his role as a Telegraph columnist the week after his resignation.

Former ministers are supposed to wait three months after leaving Cabinet before taking on an outside job.

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The rules for Cabinet ministers

Shortly after he resigned as Foreign Secretary, the Telegraph announced that Boris Johnson was to restart his regular column in the newspaper.

Before he was appointed Foreign Secretary in July 2016, Mr Johnson reported being paid around £275,000 a year for his Telegraph column. According to the ministerial code, ministers who leave office must seek advice from a cabinet office ethics board “about any appointments or employment they wish to take up within two years of leaving office”. Several media outlets reported quoted this ethics board saying Mr Johnson hadn’t contacted them for permission.

The ethics board also says that a “minimum waiting period of three months from the date of leaving office to taking up an appointment or employment will be expected when the former Minister was a member of Cabinet”.

What are the rules on MPs doing outside work?

MPs have to declare individual payments of more than £100 for work outside of parliament, and if they make over £300 from the same source in one year they have to declare all the payments no matter how big they are individually. They also have to declare gifts received for their services. An MP’s basic salary is just over £77,000 in 2018/19.

Just under 20% of the 643 sitting MPs had “regular paid outside commitments” between July 2017 and March 2018, according to a report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life. The Committee says that the figures should be treated as “approximations” because of inconsistencies in how outside interests are reported.

They found earnings of around £2,300 a month were declared on average for each MP with outside earnings. Those doing jobs outside of parliament each worked on them for an average of 18.5 hours per month.

What kind of work do MPs do?

The jobs MPs take up in their spare time vary widely.

For example, Conservative MP Douglas Ross regularly serves as an assistant referee. Since being elected in June 2017, he has received between £60 and £435 for working at over 30 matches for the Scottish Football Association, and five payments between £750 and £2,000 from UEFA and FIFA for linesman work outside of Scotland.

Several MPs are local councillors and accept an allowance for that work.

Some MPs earn more as consultants, advisors, and partners of companies. Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP, earned around £180,000 in consultancy fees from a law firm bearing her name between June 2017 and May 2018.

Labour MP Darren Jones received £10,000 from BT for his work as a lawyer “during the course of the election campaign and in addition for one week after the [2017] election”.

Between July 2017 and May 2018, Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg was paid around £165,000 as a partner in an investment management firm.

Several MPs earn money from book deals and royalties. Conservative MP Nadine Dorries received £110,000, as well as £13,000 a month between October 2016 and July 2018 in signing fees, advanced payments and royalties from her books.

Labour’s Harriet Harman MP received a £10,000 advance on a book in 2018. Labour’s Jess Phillips MP earned £25,000 on publishing a paperback the same year.

David Lammy MP earned around £20,000 over 2017 and 2018 for various speaking engagements.

The MP will see you now

A number of MPs work in medical fields.

Conservative MP Maria Caulfield works bank shifts as a nurse. According to the register of MPs' interests, she has worked roughly one 12 hour shift per month at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London since the start of 2018, receiving between roughly £100 and £200 per 12 hours worked.

In a submission to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, she said: “I am in a very marginal seat and to keep my nursing registration I have to do 480 hours [of nursing] over 3 years.”

Labour MP Karen Lee has worked several shifts as a nurse in her home constituency of Lincoln since being elected, earning between £120 and £210 for a 12 hour shift.

Rosena Allin-Khan, the Labour MP for Tooting, who’s also a doctor, was paid around £300 for two shifts totalling 24 hours at St George’s Hospital in April 2017. Dan Poulter, a Conservative MP, declared that from February 2018 he would earn around £2,500 a month for work as an NHS doctor working 50 to 90 hours a month.

Labour MP Paul Williams will serve as a “part time salaried GP” at a practice in Stockton-on-Tees from January 2018. He said he would “receive £6,534 a year” for 105 hours of work. He also lists several other payments in the thousands for hours worked as a GP, and until September 2017, for being the CEO of a GP federation. Conservative MP Phillip Lee is a freelance GP, and declared two payments for around £5,000 each per approximately 60 hours worked in 2017.

Media work

Other MPs receive payments for media work. 

For example, Diane Abbott reported receiving £1,500 for an appearance on the Russell Howard Hour television programme at the end of 2017. The Conservative MP Michael Fabricant received around £1,000 in total for appearing on television shows The Mash Report, The Wright Stuff, and Pointless Celebrities in 2017 and 2018. He also received around £500 for four appearances on Talk Radio.

Labour’s Ed Miliband reported that he expected to earn £2,500 for presenting the Jeremy Vine Show for a week on Radio 2 last year.

Our MP says…

One of the most common ways MPs earn extra income is by taking part in specialist surveys for polling companies

Over 2017 and 2018, the Conservative MP Philip Davies received 25 payments between £20 and £200 for taking part in surveys.

Labour’s Mary Creagh MP received seven payments in 2017 between £75 and £200 for completing surveys. All these fees were donated to local party groups or local organisations.

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