The Tory MP representing the Torridge and West Devon constituency has faced widespread calls to quit since it became known that he missed hearings in the House of Commons, while doing his second job outside the British Parliament. The opposition Labour Party has called on PM Johnson to launch an investigation into Sir Geoffrey.
The scandal over UK MP Sir Geoffrey Cox’s second job has prompted a mixed response from both fellow colleagues and constituents, the British media has reported. Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab has defended the 61-year-old, who has represented his constituency since 2005, saying it was “legitimate” for lawmaker to have a second job “as long as it’s properly declared”.
Several members of the Torridge and West Devon Conservative Association too backed the MP. “All we have to say is we fully support him”, Debbie Flint, deputy chairman of Cox’s local association said. Councillor Peter Crozier said MPs were not expected to be in their constituencies all week. Like other members of the association, he believes Sir Geoffrey Cox having a second job didn’t take his focus away from serving the public.
“He is visible for those in need of help and is probably one of the best MPs with his constituents, and that’s probably why he increases his majority every time”, he said.
Some constituents, who spoke with the BBC, said they found the MP’s work “very good” and noted they had no problem with him working as a lawyer as long as “he does his [first] job well”.
‘Insult to British Taxpayers’
Sir Geoffrey Cox, who earned almost 1 million pounds via a second job as a lawyer last year, has been accused by MPs of not paying due attention to his work in parliament. Lawmakers have called on Prime Minister Boris Johnson to launch an investigation into the lawmaker and referred Mr Cox to the standards commissioner.
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the opposition Labour Party described the news as “a slap in the face and an insult to British taxpayers”, arguing that the lawmaker breached the parliamentary code of conduct.
MPs, who according to official data, receive an annual salary of 81,932 pounds (over $111,000) are allowed to have a second job. At issue here is the MP’s work in the British Virgin Islands, where he advised the local government on an anti-corruption inquiry launched by the UK Foreign Office this January. Mr Cox travelled there in April during the lockdown and stayed for several weeks during which he voted in Commons’ hearings by proxy.
A video also shows him taking part in the inquiry via video at his Commons office, something the Labour Party claims is a violation of government rules, which state that MPs should ensure facilities paid for by the public purse “always support their parliamentary duties”.
According to the BBC, since the beginning of the year (up to 7 September) all of Sir Geoffrey’s votes in the British Parliament have been carried out by a proxy. He was present in the House of Commons on 13 September, but since then has missed 30 hearings involving votes.
MPs, including Mr Cox’s fellow party members, found the details disquieting and stressed that lawmakers should devote their time to serving the public.
“If colleagues or I took even a minimally paid second role, our integrity would be questioned and position likely terminated. We don’t have the luxury of only being held to account once the PM calls an election – it is one rule for them, another for everyone else”, a senior Whitehall insider told PoliticsHome.
Several Tory MPs said the MP was “tarnishing the reputation of those [lawmakers] who don’t have second jobs”.
“He needs to make a decision as to what he wants to do with his life – either he should do his legal jobs and work wherever that takes him, or be in parliament – he shouldn’t be doing both”, an MP, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Guardian.
Labour Party chair Anneliese Dodds has demaned Sir Geoffrey provide all information to the PM on how he was appointed to the British Virgin Islands.
The lawmaker himself has not yet commented on the scandal, which comes a week after former government minister Owen Paterson was found to have broken rules by lobbying the government on behalf of two companies, who paid him.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has indicated Sir Geoffrey Cox will be judged by his constituents.
“[Lawmakers should be] visible in their constituencies and available to help constituents with their constituency matters. If they’re not doing that, they’re not doing their job and will rightly be judged on that by their constituents”, he said.