EXCLUSIVE: Wirral MPs comment on government sleaze and corruption

With scandals emerging from the government benches on a seemingly daily basis, birkenhead.news spoke to four Wirral MPs: Angela Eagle, Margaret Greenwood, Mick Whitley, and Alison McGovern about MPs receiving money for second jobs.

MPs are required to register financial interests they may have, including second jobs, consultancy work, and gifts. The declarations are listed in the register of members’ interests, which is usually published at each new parliamentary session.

One recent scandal concerned the disgraced former Conservative MP, Owen Paterson, who committed a breach of lobbying rules for which he was paid more than £100,000. Despite him stepping down over the matter, the scrutiny of his work for Randox and Lynn’s Country Foods continues.

Another recent scandal involves former attorney general, Sir Geoffrey Cox. Sir Geoffrey is Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon who has earned more than £1m this year from his legal work, on top of his £82,000 salary as an MP.

In yet another scandal, Jacob Rees-Mogg is the first Cabinet minister to become embroiled in controversy, after not declaring £6m in cheap loans from his Cayman Islands-linked company.

All four Wirral MPs we spoke to voted in favour of suspending Owen Paterson for breaching the lobbying rules and against the government’s decision to tear up Parliament’s standards rules.

None of the Wirral MPs we spoke to have a second job and commit their time fully to representing their constituents. Three of the four MPs had received gifts or donations that are required to be listed on the register of members’ interests. (Details below)

Mick Whitley, Labour MP for Birkenhead commented on the sleaze issue in general, saying, “Not for the first time in his life Prime Minister Johnson has tried to justify the indefensible. When his mate Owen Paterson was found to have breached the rules on lobbying Johnson tried to block his suspension from Parliament and change the rules.

“The reason is now clear. A whole number of Tory MPs have been involved in dodgy lobbying, ludicrously well paid second jobs and conducting private business from their parliamentary offices.

“We are facing a tsunami of Tory sleaze and a government that wants to cover it up. 

“Being an MP is a full-time job and one in which you are elected to serve – above all else – your constituents. Too many Tories treat it as a pathway to wealth where doors can be opened for their mates in big business.”

Mick Whitley does not have a second job. Unite the Union donated £2,250 to him. This money meant he was able to get furniture for his office in Birkenhead, send Christmas cards to stakeholders across the constituency, operate out of a union office until he secured his own premises and be sponsored to attend conferences. In every instance, this support has been fully documented and declared. Mick said that “not once [had he] been asked for anything in return from the Union.”

Referring to Sir Geoffrey Cox, Mick said, “This Tory MP has earned at least £6m from his second job since he entered parliament, worked on a Caribbean island and skipped 12 recent votes on days when he was doing paid legal work.

“This kind of disgraceful behaviour needs to stop right now. The fact that it is tolerated by the government at the highest levels is a scandal.”

Margaret Greenwood, MP for Wirral West, has received no gifts or donations. She told birkenhead.news, “People across the country have been shocked by the Conservative corruption scandal.

“It cannot be right that people who have been given the honour and privilege to serve as Members of Parliament are allowed to act as paid lobbyists.

“The role of an MP is a full-time job, yet more than a quarter of Conservative MPs have second jobs. The sheer number of them is alarming. They should be spending their time working on behalf of their constituents, not lining their own pockets.

“There may be a few exceptional cases, where people want to maintain professional registration, such as nursing, but these are unusual.

“It is wrong too that many are acting as consultants in areas such as private healthcare, and yet those same MPs will be voting on the government’s Health and Care Bill. This is a clear conflict of interest and their constituents should be very concerned about which way they vote. The Health and Care Bill is a privatising bill that hands our NHS gift-wrapped to big business. People need MPs who will act in the public interest. 

“Labour would ban MPs from holding paid consultancies or directorships to prevent further cash for questions or access scandals. MPs should not be able to be both lawmakers and paid lobbyists.”

Angela Eagle received a donation from a private individual of £5,000 for campaigning and received payment of £200 for speaking at an event.

The MP for Wallasey said, “It is noticeable that the vast majority of those MPs who have registered second jobs are Conservatives – I regard representing Wallasey as both a great privilege and more than a full-time job.

“In nearly 30 years as Wallasey’s MP, I have never taken a second job in addition to my Parliamentary duties. I have over the years received donations for party political campaigning purposes and this is one such example”

Alison McGovern is MP for Wirral South. She received £2,000 for campaigning from the Communication Workers Union. The MP also received gifts of two tickets for the Ladies Singles Final at Wimbledon from the Lawn Tennis Association and a single ticket to the Mercury Awards from BPI (British Recorded Music Industry) Limited. She was also paid costs to attend a four-day summit for local and national leaders by the Franco-British Council.

Alison McGovern told birkenhead.news, “I have been proud to receive donations from trade unions for the purpose of campaigning. Trade Unions are made up of working people acting collectively and it is right that they represent their member’s views on how to change our country for the better.

“That is in sharp contrast to the Tories found with very highly paid second jobs, where private interests undermine our democracy.”

Tomorrow, Wednesday 17 November, Labour will force a Commons vote on whether MPs should be banned from taking second jobs, Sir Keir Starmer has said.

“We are putting that down. It is for every MP to decide how they want to vote on that. That will perhaps be a measure of where people are on how we actually move this forward,” Sir Keir said during a phone-in on LBC.

“How do we clean this up? We clean this up by drawing a very stark line – no paid consultancies, no directorships.”

Image: Clockwise from top left: Margaret Greenwood, Labour MP for Wirral West – Mick Whitley, Labour MP for Birkenhead – Angela Eagle, Labour MP for Wallasey – Alison McGovern, Labour MP for Wirral South.

Image credit: Clockwise from top left: Margaret Greenwood/Handout, Mick Whitley/www.fotopiaimages.com, Angela Eagle/Official Portrait, Alison McGovern/Official Portrait.

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