Tory MP Reportedly Raked in Over £1 Million While Moonlighting for Tax Haven Accused of Corruption
05:48 GMT 09.11.2021 (Updated: 14:08 GMT 10.11.2021)
© AP Photo / Kirsty WigglesworthBritain's Attorney General Geoffrey Cox leaves after attending a cabinet meeting at Downing Street in London, Thursday, Oct. 3, 2019. The U.K. offered the European Union a proposed last-minute Brexit deal on Wednesday that it said represents a realistic compromise for both sides, as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged the bloc to hold "rapid negotiations towards a solution" after years of wrangling.
© AP Photo / Kirsty Wigglesworth
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who skipped the Commons’ emergency sleaze debate on Monday, insisted his government took allegations of corruption seriously amid calls for an independent probe over the attempt by Tories to change the Commons ethics standards system to ensure a reprieve for ex-MP Owen Paterson, guilty of breaching lobbying rules.
A Tory MP has earned hundreds of thousands of pounds “moonlighting” for a tax haven in the Caribbean that allowed him to continue to vote remotely in Parliament, reported The Daily Mail.
The revelation comes amid calls for a reform of the regulations surrounding MPs’ second jobs, triggered by the current Owen Paterson “sleaze” row and the backlash it has generated for the government of Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Sir Charles Geoffrey Cox, QC, a British Conservative politician and barrister, serving as Member of Parliament for Torridge and West Devon, had been hired as “consultant global counsel” by Withers, an international law firm, to advise the government of the British Virgin Islands “on private and overseas government clients”. COVID-19 lockdown rules had allowed him to cast votes in the House of Commons by proxy, according to a source cited by the outlet.
Cox, whose backbencher salary amounts to £82,000 ($111, 253), earned more than a million pounds ($1,356,700) from outside legal work over the past year, it was revealed.
“While he should have been in the UK working for his constituents he’s been over in the British Virgin Islands doing his second job working as a barrister and advising those accused of trousering cash for their mates,” a Whitehall insider was cited as saying.
Sir Geoffrey Cox, known to be one of the highest-earning MPs, received almost £900,000 during the past year from Withers as he spent up to a month in the British Virgin Islands (BVI), according to the report. A cited register of financial interests reveals Cox received £156,916.08 from Withers for legal work carried out between 29 April and 31 May 2021.
Throughout that period, Cox continued to carry out his duties by proxy as MP for Torridge and West Devon and a privy counsellor. Furthermore, Cox remained a practicing barrister at Thomas More Chambers in London.
The MP was recorded as arriving in BVI on 26 April. A press release on the BVI government website for 26 April, cited by the outlet, says the MP was “currently in quarantine” but “intends to hold a series of meetings with government ministers in the next few weeks.”
Furthermore, other legal outside work allow Cox to pocket over £130,000 in remuneration. Sir Geoffrey Cox has been representing the government of the BVI – a British Overseas Territory - in an inquiry into the governance of the islands launched in January by the Foreign Office.
The probe, acting on allegations of unaudited spending and “contracts being handed out to politically-connected people”, was tasked with determining whether there was evidence of “corruption, abuse of office or other serious dishonesty” that had taken place within BVI public office in recent years.
Sir Geoffrey Cox has been accused by a government source of “pocketing hundreds of thousands of pounds to help stop the exposure of corruption in a Caribbean paradise.” In response to the revelations, Labour MP Karl Turner was cited as asking:
“How does Geoffrey Cox find time to do his job as a constituency MP?”
The disclosures come as the UK House of Commons standards committee was reported to be mulling plans to restrict MPs from having consultancy jobs to earn extra cash like former Conservative MP Owen Paterson’s amid calls to clampdown on “sleaze”.
The government of Boris Johnson has been fending off criticism for its handling of the Paterson lobbying row. The Prime Minister on Monday was accused of “running scared” after he was a “no show” at the emergency Commons debate following the row over the Government’s botched attempt to block the suspension of the disgraced ex-Tory MP.
Rumbling ‘Sleaze Row’
Former Tory MP for North Shropshire Owen Paterson had been facing a 30-day Commons ban over an “egregious case of paid advocacy”. Kathyrn Stone, the Parliamentary Commissioner for Standards, last week recommended the suspension in a report approved by a group of cross-party MPs on the standards committee.
© AFP 2022 / JUSTIN TALLISConservative MP Owen Paterson (R) and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage arrive for a press conference on the impact of Brexit on the fisheries industry in London on February 28, 2017
Conservative MP Owen Paterson (R) and former UK Independence Party (UKIP) leader Nigel Farage arrive for a press conference on the impact of Brexit on the fisheries industry in London on February 28, 2017
The politician was found to have repeatedly lobbied on behalf of two companies which paid him more than £100,000 annually. However, Boris Johnson's government, instead of endorsing the standards watchdog's call for punishment, attempted to grant Paterson a reprieve from reprisal by turning the spotlight onto the standards process itself. On 3 November it backed the creation of a Tory-led committee to review the Paterson case, while overhauling the Commons standards system.
However, after a barrage of criticism, the Government performed a U-turn the following day, scrapping the proposed reforms. After Downing Street indicated on Thursday that Paterson would have to face a fresh vote on the 30-day suspension, the former MP announced he would resign to leave “the cruel world of politics”.
Amid fallout from the “sleaze” row Labour Party leader Keir Starmer accused Boris Johnson of "corroded trust" in MPs. The Labour leader told the emergency debate in the Commons that the PM had given the "green light to corruption".
© Photo : Twitter / @NorthumbriaHNSPrime Minister Boris Johnson attending Hexham Hospital on Monday, skipping a parliamentary debate on sleaze to do so.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson attending Hexham Hospital on Monday, skipping a parliamentary debate on sleaze to do so.
© Photo : Twitter / @NorthumbriaHNS
Johnson, who skipped the debate claiming he had a prior commitment, ahead of the grilling said that it is "very important" to get the Commons standards system right.
"We are going to make every effort to get it right. We are going to hold MPs to account. MPs should not break the rules, " said Johnson.
Questioned on the Own Paterson case, Johnson said: "I don't think there's much more to be said about that particular case, I really don't… If there is anything positive to come out of the whole thing, it is that, as far as I can make out, the Speaker is determined to try to move us all forward with a system whereby we have a cross-party approach, which is what we were trying to achieve last week."
On the issue of whether MPs should be barred from having second jobs, the PM said:
"All those kind of things are issues that the Speaker's panel - whatever he is going to set up - will have a look at."