PRIME MINISTER David Cameron stuck up for his second-job chums yesterday by rejecting calls to limit MPs’ outside income in the wake of a fresh Commons cash-for-access scandal.
Ex-foreign secretaries Jack Straw and Malcolm Rifkind were suspended from their parties after a TV sting operation caught them red-handed bragging to a fictitious firm about their “unique” contacts and preferred fees.
Yet astonishingly Mr Cameron moved swiftly to snuff out calls to rein in the extraparliamentary activities of part-time MPs in the wake of the scandal.
Opposition leader Ed Miliband laid down the gauntlet following the overnight revelations, urging the Prime Minister to back a Commons ban on directorships or consultancy roles.
Labour will also pledge a cap on outside earnings similar to the US Congress, where limits are set at £5,000-£15,000 a year.
“The British people need to know that when they vote they are electing someone who will represent them directly and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others,” Mr Miliband wrote in a letter to the PM.
But his proposed changes would deal a massive financial blow to Tory MPs, many of whom work for a shopping list of firms — as well as banking their full-time basic parliamentary salary of £67,060.
And Mr Cameron swiftly rejected the call for a clampdown, claiming there were already “very clear rules” governing MPs’ conduct and the Labour proposal “doesn’t make any sense.”
It was enough for MPs to “demonstrate to people that people in Parliament are there to work for them, serve their communities and serve their country,” he suggested.
Labour shadow Commons leader Angela Eagle accused the PM of defending “a discredited status quo.”
In the latest cash-for-access scandal Labour’s Mr Straw and Tory Mr Rifkind were recorded by undercover reporters posing as representatives of a Hong Kong firm.
The Conservative MP is said to have offered to lobby ministers on behalf of the firm, with the usual fee for his services “somewhere in the region of £5,000 to £8,000” for half a day’s work.
Mr Straw, who is stepping down in May, reportedly put his own charges at £5,000 a day and explained how he had helped commodities firm ED&F Man to get EU regulations changed in its favour through “under the radar” Brussels meetings.
An unrepentant Mr Rifkind claimed yesterday that the electorate did not want “full-time politicians,” adding that it was “quite unrealistic” to expect people to get by on £67,000 a year.
Mr Straw complained: “What I said is being used to suggest wrongdoing when there was none.”
Both MPs reported themselves to the parliamentary authorities after the revelations.
Green Party leader Natalie Bennett said the cash-for-access claims “further cast the shadow of distrust” over politicians.
“The influence of big business in politics is corrosive and seems to run through the veins of the entire political Establishment.
“Full-time MPs should only have one job — representing their constituents.”