MPs in rush to ditch outside jobs as deadline looms

Author: By Brian Brady, Whitehall Editor

Four Tories have now officially given notice that they intend to quit directorships, consultancies and other work worth tens of thousands of pounds before Wednesday, when all MPs will have to declare how much they are paid, and how many hours they put in, on extra-curricular jobs.

It has now emerged that a shadow Treasury minister, David Gauke, has given up his directorship of Ivobank, while David Evennett, Edward Leigh and Edward Timpson have confirmed that they will do the same before Wednesday.

The figure comes on top of a list of members of the Shadow Cabinet who have already dumped outside work ? or pledged to do so at the next general election ? as David Cameron’s most senior colleagues respond to a government attempt to improve “transparency” in MPs’ affairs.

But many more insisted last night that they would not bow to a “politically motivated” measure which they claimed was designed to embarrass the Tories, who traditionally accept more paid work than MPs from any other parties.

An Independent on Sunday investigation has revealed for the first time the scale of the fees commanded by many of Britain’s MPs in their work for external organisations.

Details of sums paid for directorships include the £245,000 in fees and “share-based awards” received by former Tory leader Michael Howard from a Canadian gold-mining firm last year.

Shadow Cabinet Office minister Francis Maude received £27,000 as non-executive chairman of the Mission Marketing and a further £52,000 in fees and options from the American technology group UTEK in 2008. Shadow Home Secretary Damian Green has received £21,000 a year through a non-executive directorship with South East Water.

Company records also show that Gerald Howarth, a shadow Defence minister, received £13,000 in 2007 for a non-executive position with Landkom International. Senior backbencher Hugo Swire was paid £61,000 for his work as non-executive chairman of Photo-Me International.

Almost 40 former Labour ministers, including Alan Milburn, Patricia Hewitt and John Reid, have signed up to lucrative external work. Ms Hewitt’s position with BT alone pays £75,000 a year. But Ian McCartney, who will abandon a £113,000-a-year role with the Fluor this week, is the only senior Labour figure to ditch a contract.

A number of Mr Cameron’s team, including the shadow International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, the shadow Commons Leader, Alan Duncan, and Grant Shapps, the Shadow Housing minister, have already begun shedding paid jobs. Mr Maude and the shadow Foreign Secretary, William Hague, are preparing to leave their additional jobs before the election.

However, a number of senior Tory MPs are digging in against the “political pressure” to abandon outside work. Mr Cameron’s parliamentary aide, Desmond Swayne, who earns up to £5,000 from a property company and as an officer with the Territorial Army, said: “Gordon Brown is doing this because it pleases his backbenchers and because he thinks it will embarrass us much more than it will them. But I feel strongly in favour of outside interests, because the whole notion of just having professional politicians is abhorrent.”

Another Cameron ally, Ed Vaizey, said he would be keeping his paid position until the next general election. The Wantage MP said he earned £2,500 as a non-executive director of educational services firm Edexcel. He said: “It is more of an honorarium and I intend to do it until the general election.”

£21k Shadow Home Secretary Damian Green’s annual fee from South East Water

£79k Francis Maude’s combined earnings from Mission Marketing Group and UTEK

£245k Former Tory leader Michael Howard’s fees and awards package from Entrée Gold

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