MPs back ‘watered-down’ proposals to ban paid consultancy work

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    Government plan to ban paid consultancy work has been approved by MPs after the Commons voted through what has been called “watered-down” proposals to improve standards in politics.

    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.

    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.

    Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer speaks during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London (House of Commons/PA) / PA Wire

    “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.

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