Page last updated at 09:30 GMT, Wednesday, 1 July 2009 10:30 UK

MPs' second jobs to be disclosed

House of Commons chamber
MPs will have to disclose what time they devote to second jobs

New rules have come into force that MPs have to disclose all income and time devoted to their second jobs.

Guidelines on disclosing pay from outside interests were agreed by MPs in April, before the latest expenses crisis engulfed Westminster.

Previously MPs only had to indicate what other salaries they earned if it related to their work as an MP.

Later they will debate proposals to make it a criminal offence for MPs not to declare a financial interest.

MPs are considering a package of reforms for Parliament which would make MPs liable for fines if they fail to comply with the rules governing financial interests.

But on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Jack Straw conceded proposals in the Parliamentary Standards Bill were "too potentially onerous and too restrictive on members".

He dropped a clause spelling out what MPs would have to declare about their financial interests under legally enforceable rules.

Labour backbencher Frank Field had complained it would require MPs to set "egg timers" to monitor time spent on outside activities and said he could face jail if it went into effect because he could not comply with the new rules.

Instead the government says, it will be for the new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority "to determine what goes into the rules".

Before 1 July, MPs have had to list outside employers and directorships but did not have to reveal how much time they spent on second jobs and only had to indicate salaries if it related to their work as an MP.

Under the new rules, MPs have to declare in the member's register of interests:

  • The precise amount of money they receive from any third party for work undertaken, even if it does not relate to their role as an MP
  • The number of hours worked during the period for that individual or organisation
  • Name and address of the individual or organisation paying them, except where this would breach privacy, confidentiality or rules.

Commons leader Harriet Harman said: "I believe that the public are entitled to know the source of work for payments to an individual MP, how much is being paid, and what the MP is undertaking for that payment."

Abolishing outside interests would make all MPs totally beholden to the party whips
Douglas Carswell MP

She added: "The public want to know who, other than they as taxpayers, is paying an MP."

Labour MP John Mann said it was an "important step forward" but that he wanted a total ban on second jobs and on firms paying MPs to use their contact books and inside knowledge.

"It's a form of insider dealing and it's entirely undemocratic and it needs banning," he said.

However, Conservative backbencher Douglas Carswell said the move could reduce accountability in Parliament.

He said: "Abolishing outside interests would make all MPs totally beholden to the party whips."

Mr Carswell said the plan would "remove the scope" for MPs to hold the government to account while knowing that they were not "financially dependent upon their party machines".

Conservative leader David Cameron has said all members of his shadow cabinet will give up their second jobs by December in preparation for the general election.

Several senior Tories, including William Hague, Oliver Letwin, Ken Clarke and David Willetts, either have lucrative second jobs in the City or supplement their salaries as MPs with work in journalism and public speaking.

Labour MPs whose reported income from second jobs has come under scrutiny in recent days include former ministers Alan Milburn and Nick Raynsford.

Ms Harman has said she is prepared to consider further action on second jobs and incomes if it was suggested by the Committee on Standards in Public Life which is conducting a review of MPs pay and allowances.

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