The SNP’s former Westminster leader has said politicians “need to be above suspicion” after the Westminster Accounts project revealed MPs are earning millions from second jobs.
Ian Blackford, who stepped down from his role last month after five years, said he fully supports his successor Stephen Flynn calling for “root-and-branch” reform of how MPs earn extra cash.
Mr Flynn, who is the new SNP Westminster leader, yesterday led the calls after Sky News and Tortoise Media launched a new database of MPs’ outside earnings – the first time they have all been collated in one place.
He said the findings of the investigation should “ring alarm bells for everyone” and demonstrate that a “complete overhaul” of the rules is required.
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The project found MPs have earned £17.1 million on top of their salaries since the last election, including 14 MPs who have been given more than £250,000 each in campaign donations since December 2019.
The SNP’s demands include a ban on “dark money donations”, a block on MPs taking second jobs involving “a considerable time commitment or conflict of interest” and tightened restrictions and full transparency on outside earnings.
Mr Blackford said reforms need to be made “as quickly as possible” within this session of parliament – before spring – as he called on all parties to back reform to “clean up politics”.
He told Sky News’ Kay Burley at Breakfast: “I think at the end of the day, it’s about that responsibility that we have to the public.
“Sky News and Tortoise have shone a light on this.
“Politicians have got a responsibility to act, to make sure that we’ve actually got the best in class politicians, people that we can have faith in.
“We have to take our own responsibilities to make sure that we have our house in order, that we have to be above suspicion.”
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He added that he thinks there are exceptions where MPs should carry on with second jobs, such as if they are doctors who need to keep their skills up.
“But we need to make sure that the jobs politicians are doing are primarily about that responsibility to the heart of their own constituents and they’re not feathering their own nest, that’s what this is all about,” he said.
‘Being an MP ought to be a full-time job’
Labour’s Shadow Attorney General Emily Thornberry said the Labor Party has been calling for reforms and a ban on most second jobs long before the SNP did.
She told Sky News: “Being an MP ought to be a full-time job. We do want to restore faith in politics and we have a number of ideas, we want to set up an independent ethics commission, for example.
“We think that ministers should be declaring their interests in the way that MPs do, and it shouldn’t just be left to the ministerial code which is policed by the prime minister.”
She pledged if Labor got into power they “will change the rules” and they “will be firm about this”.