Boris Johnson backs ban on MPs’ lobbying work in wake of Westminster sleaze row

Boris Johnson has set out plans to ban MPs from working as paid political consultants or lobbyists in the wake of Westminster’s sleaze row.

In a letter to the Speaker of the House of Commons, the prime minister said there was a need to ensure rules for MPs are “up to date, effective and appropriately rigorous”.

Mr Johnson said he believed the code of conduct for MPs should be updated in order to ensure their work “continues to command the confidence of the public”.

The prime minister’s intervention comes two weeks after he encouraged his Conservative MPs to save one of their colleagues, ex-cabinet minister Owen Paterson, from an immediate Commons suspension over a breach of lobbying rules.

A resulting outcry over the actions of Mr Johnson and Tory MPs’ prompted a swift government U-turn.

But the prime minister has yet to stem further accusations of Westminster sleaze in fresh scrutiny of MPs’ outside earnings following the row over Mr Paterson.

In his letter to Sir Lindsay on Tuesday, Mr Johnson gave his backing to suggested reforms by a 2018 report from the Committee on Standards in Public Life, which advises Downing Street on arrangements for upholding ethical standards of conduct among public servants.

The committee’s proposed reforms included updating the code of conduct to state that MPs’ outside earnings “should be within reasonable limits and should not prevent them from fully carrying out their range of duties”.

Mr Johnson also supported the report’s recommendation to update the code of conduct to ban MPs from “any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary stategist, adviser or consultant”.

The prime minister wrote in his letter: “Adopting these specific recommendations would ensure that MPs who are neglecting their duties to their constituents and prioritising outside interests would be investigated, and appropriately punished by the existing disciplinary authorities.

“They would also ban MPs from exploiting their positions by acting as a paid political consultants or lobbyists.”

Mr Johnson added it was “a matter of regret” that the Commons had “not yet taken forward these specific recommendations” and said the government “would like to see them adopted as a matter of urgency”.

He also set out his belief that changes to MPs’ code of conduct “must be done on the basis of a cross-party consensus” in the Commons.

The prime minister’s letter was released just minutes before Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer was due to speak at a news conference to set out his party’s own plans in the wake of the Westminster sleaze scandal.

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