Statement on Owen Paterson

There has rightfully been a lot of interest in the Owen Paterson case and the broader conduct of MPs in relation to outside earnings and second jobs.

This is an important part of democracy and the public rightly expect MPs to hold themselves to the highest standards in public office. Given the importance of this, I want to set out my views on the Owen Paterson situation and how I voted, while also commenting on the wider standards regime and my own position in relation to second jobs.

First and foremost, I do not support the lobbying activities that Owen Paterson undertook while working as an MP for two companies that he acts as a paid consultant for. This is expressly forbidden in the rules and it is right that he is punished.

For the record, being the Member of Parliament for Eastleigh is the only job that I have and am remunerated for. I do not have a second job and I do not earn any money from any paid consultancies.  This is reflected in my own register of interests which is a matter of public record.

Last week, the Government made a serious mistake in my view by conflating the process of punishing Owen Paterson with a broader review of the Standards Regime which monitors the conduct of MPs. There are some legitimate concerns about the way the Standards Regime operates (such as the absence of an appeals process) but the votes last week blurred and confused these two issues and the Government has now recognised this.

There were two votes last week. I did not vote for the ‘Leadsom Amendment’ which would have stopped Owen Paterson being punished although I did vote for a review into the Standards Regime which was encompassed in the second vote. I am pleased that the Government has now changed its mind and is proceeding with a review into the standards regime but in a more cross-party and collaborative way.

While I do not have a second job or any other paid role, I recognise that in certain circumstances, our Parliament and our democracy is enhanced by this. MPs continuing to do a limited amount of work outside of their role as an MP to maintain professional qualifications or work in our NHS as a doctor or nurse, brings real experience and adds value to Parliament.

However, the important restriction on this is that MPs shouldn’t use their position as an MP, with access to Government departments and Ministers, to personally benefit. We need to get this right and I hope that in future we can create a better, more transparent system that prevents abuse but still allows MPs to gain outside experience which complements their role in Parliament.