Dewsbury and Mirfield MP Simon Reevell has again defended his job as a barrister after Ed Miliband brought the issue of MPs’ second jobs to the forefront of political debate this week.
The Labour leader has called for changes to the rules governing MPs’ second jobs, and questioned whether they should be able to earn vast amounts in careers like the legal professional.
His comments came as he announced changes to how the Labour Party would be funded by unions.
Mr Miliband argued that “at the very least” there should be a limit placed on outside earnings, in line with restrictions in place in other countries.
He said: “The vast majority of all MPs have performed their duties properly within the rules and raising this issue casts no doubt upon that, but we should question the rules.
“The question of MPs’ second outside jobs has been discussed but not properly addressed for a generation. The British people expect their MPs to be representing them and the country not anyone else.
“They understand that Members of Parliament need to keep connected to the world beyond Westminster and will always write articles and give speeches, but can it be right that the rules allow MPs to earn hundreds of thousands of pounds from private legal practice while they are supposed to be an MP? Being an MP should not be a sideline, it’s a privilege and a duty and the rules must reflect that.”
But Mr Reevell (Cons), who earned more than £87,000 last year from his legal work, said he saw Mr Miliband’s comments as “passive approval” of his work situation.
Mr Reevell told the Reporter: “What Ed was saying was that he wasn’t opposed in principle to people having other roles but people earning hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. What I take from that is there is nothing wrong with people having outside skills but it’s got to be in proportion to being a Member of Parliament - that’s what I have been saying since 2009.
“His criticism would not apply to someone like me. I take it to be passive approval from the Labour Party. The important thing for a Member of Parliament is to be first and foremost a Member of Parliament. If people have outside interests there is nothing wrong with that.
“I have never earnt hundreds of thousands of pounds a year.”
Mr Miliband’s office has hit back at Mr Reevell’s interpretation of his comments.
A spokesperson said: “The part-time MP for Dewsbury is wrong – Ed Miliband has made clear that the amount that MPs earn outside their main job should be capped.”
During Prime Minister’s Questions earlier today (Wednesday), David Cameron said it was important MPs remained open and transparent about any work outside Parliament.