Former Cabinet Minister Sir Geoffrey Cox could be the subject of an investigation by the Commons Standards Czar for claiming to have “broken the rules” by using his parliamentary office for his second job providing legal advice.
The Times reported that the former attorney general, who has been criticized for his outside income, used his Westminster office to participate remotely in advising the British Virgin Islands in a corruption investigation launched by the Foreign Office.
Tory and QC MP Sir Geoffrey earned hundreds of thousands of pounds for his work with the islands, as allegations surfaced he was based in the Caribbean earlier this year while using the proxy voting rules lockdown to continue to have a say in the Commons.
Deputy Leader of the Labor Party Angela Rayner said the alleged use of the office appeared to be “a blatant and brazen violation of the rules” and wrote to Standards Commissioner Kathryn Stone asking for “advice on the opening. a formal investigation into this matter “.
Ms Rayner said in her letter that the MP’s code of conduct was “very clear” that elected officials ensure that “all facilities and services provided with public funds are … always in support of their duties parliamentarians “and” should not confer any … profit on themselves “.
She added: âThe member clearly broke this rule based on the media reports we have seen.
âMembers need to be clear that they cannot use the estate for private financial purposes and that in such a blatant conflict with the public interest, they face substantial consequences. “
The most recent Financial Interests Register showed Torridge and West Devon MP Sir Geoffrey would earn more than Â£ 800,000 from Withers, an international law firm appointed by the Government of the British Virgin Islands (BVI) in January.
Sir Geoffrey also revealed in the register that from September 28 of this year and until further notice he will be paid Â£ 400,000 per year by Withers for a maximum of 41 hours of work per month.
At the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry hearing on September 14, Sir Geoffrey can be heard in the online recording telling the Commissioner: ‘Forgive my absence for part of the morning – I’m afraid let the bell ring.
The bell referred to could be the division bell that rings throughout the area of ââparliament to alert MPs that a vote is taking place.
Earlier in the proceedings, Sir Geoffrey appears to be leaving his seat for around 20 minutes to around two hours of the video footage.
His voting record in the House of Commons shows that he voted in person six times on September 14 to pass the government’s health and social care tax.
Ms Rayner said: âThis appears to be a blatant and brazen violation of the rules.
âA Tory MP using a taxpayer-funded office in Parliament to work for a tax haven amid corruption allegations is a slap in the face and an insult to UK taxpayers.
âThe Parliamentary Standards Commissioner needs to investigate this, and the Prime Minister needs to explain why he has a member of his parliamentary party who treats Parliament as a collaborative workspace allowing him to devote himself to all his other work instead of representing its constituents.
“You can be an MP serving your constituents or a lawyer working for a tax haven – you can’t be both and Boris Johnson has to decide which Geoffrey Cox will be.”
The Liberal Democrats also floundered, with Party Chief Whip Wendy Chamberlain urging QC to “save everyone the time and hassle of an investigation” and “get frank now”.
Ms Chamberlain added: “The real slap in the face is that it took place the very day he voted for a tax hike for millions of hard-working Britons.”
The second-job dispute follows a recommendation that former Environment Secretary Owen Paterson be suspended for six weeks after the Commons Standards Committee found out he had violated the age-old ban on paid lobbying by MPs.
In the aftermath of the row, Mr Paterson announced he was stepping down as MP for North Shropshire after 24 years, as a government attempt to delay his sanction by tearing up the current standards system failed when opposition parties refused to offer their support.
Boris Johnson, who was previously well paid as a backbench MP, including for his regular Daily Telegraph column, has signaled MPs should focus on their electorates.
A spokesperson for the Prime Minister, while declining to rely on individual cases, said Mr Johnson believed that “an MP’s main job is and should be to serve his constituents and represent their interests in the country. Parliament”.
Spokesman No.10 said, âThey should be visible in their constituencies and available to assist voters in their constituency affairs.
“If they don’t, they are not doing their job and will rightly be judged on it by their constituents.”
The PA news agency has contacted Sir Geoffrey’s office for comment.