Anti-corruption watchdog the Committee on Standards in Public Life has reopened the window for civil servants, politicians, and other Westminster watchers to add their views into its probe on the acceptability of MPs taking on additional work outside of the House of Commons.
Its inquiry originally launched in March, following on the heels of former chancellor George Osborne’s announcement that he intended to become full-time editor of the London newspaper the Evening Standard at the same time as continuing as MP for Tatton, in Cheshire.
Designed to feed into the Commons Committee on Standards’ inquiry into the Code of Conduct for MPs, the “short investigation” on MPs outside interests originally set a deadline of submissions of April 28, with a view to reporting this summer.
However prime minister Theresa May’s decision to call a snap general election scuppered those plans and Osborne decided not to seek re-election as an MP – although the CSPL always stressed that the inquiry was not prompted by the conduct of any particular politician.
The committee has now reopened its consultation and is accepting submissions until September 13, with a view to reporting in October.
Its probe seeks to establish what factors should be used to determine the “reasonable limits” placed on MPs’ outside work interests, which was the phrase used by the committee to allow parliamentarians leeway to undertake additional work in 2009.
It also wants views on the extent to which MPs' outside work can lead to actual or potential conflicts of interest, and how this could be different for MPs, ministers and ex-ministers, chairs of select committees, and MPs holding other parliamentary roles.
Other questions include whether there is sufficient transparency around MPs’ outside interests, and whether new rules or guidance is required.
The committee, founded in the 1990s as part of the Major government’s response to multiple sleaze issues among MPs, is not responsible for investigating individual cases.
That duty falls to the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments, which vets applications made by former ministers and senior officials for permission to take up work outside of government.
Full submission guidance for the reopened review can be found on the CSPL website.