A Conservative MP earns hundreds of thousands of pounds a year through a series of ‘second jobs’ advising businesses, including one firm with links to the Pandora Papers leaks published last month.
Andrew Mitchell, MP for Sutton Coldfield, has received payments from eight different firms to provide advisory or consultancy services between January 2020 and August 2021, for work equating to more than a month of the year.
Second jobs raise questions about ‘whose interests MPs are serving’
A former Secretary of State for International Development, Mitchell has earned the most through his work outside of parliament during the pandemic advising Rwandan investment bank SouthBridge on “African matters”.
Since 3 February 2020 Mitchell has worked as a senior adviser to SouthBridge earning £39,600 per annum for nine days per year, equating to £62,275 during the period of analysis.
In January 2020 he received a ‘facilitation payment’ of £57,380 from Global Voice Group (GVG Holdings) for previous work carried out for the company.
Global Voice Group is a telecoms security firm which has found itself embroiled in a number of legal disputes with African governments over allegations of corruption.
The firm was set up by former Haitian President Laurent Lamothe, who was named in the Pandora Papers investigation published by the ICIJ earlier this year.
Campaigners have criticised the current system around MPs taking on work outside of parliament, particularly within the corporate world.
Speaking to NationalWorld, Rose Whiffen, Research Officer at Transparency International UK, said: “MPs are elected to represent their constituents in Westminster, but when they are also employed by private companies it raises questions over whose interests they are really serving.
“Whilst MPs are allowed to hold outside interests, they must scrupulously avoid the perception – or reality – that they are using their public role for private gain.”
Andrew Mitchell’s advisory work
Among his other roles out of parliament, Mitchell is paid £36,000 per year for 16 hours work every month by corporate intelligence firm Montrose Associates, which offers “strategic intelligence” to help business leaders with “political and reputational threats,” according to the firm’s website.
A 2018 report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL), chaired by Lord Evans, recommended that “MPs should not undertake outside employment as a Parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, as this can lead to MPs having a privileged relationship with one organisation, and therefore bring undue influence to bear on Parliament”.
And in a letter to Chris Bryant, chair of the Committee on Standards, in October 2020, Lord Evans stressed again the CSPL’s recommendation that advisory and consultancy work should be banned, saying the matter “warrants close attention”.
He wrote: “MPs should not accept any paid work to provide services as a parliamentary strategist, adviser or consultant, for example, advising on parliamentary affairs or on how to influence Parliament and its members. MPs should never accept any payment or offers of employment to act as political or parliamentary consultants or advisers. This warrants close attention.”
Lord Evans described the current ban on paid political advocacy in the MPs code of conduct as “too narrow”, and that “whilst an MP cannot undertake paid advocacy on behalf of any specific cause, they can still be paid to advise private interests on how best to influence the House in relation to any specific cause”.
“We believe such activities should be prohibited by the Code,” Lord Evans wrote.
Work for investment firms
Investment firm Kingsley Capital Partners employ Andrew Mitchell as a senior adviser on £50,000 per year for an annual commitment of eight days per year, equating to £83,151 since January 2020.
He also has advisory and consultancy roles with Ernst and Young, Archway Emerging Partners and Investec, which net Mitchell a combined £57,000 per annum in return for five, two and a half, and two days per year, respectively.
Mitchell has held all these roles since before 2020 apart from the job with SouthBridge, which was registered in February 2020, although he had carried out work for them prior to that.
Mitchell held another role as an advisor to UK Global Health Care, until February 2020, earning £30,000 per year in exchange for five days’ work.
In March 2021 Mitchell also received £956.12 from Biteback Publishing for an advance on a forthcoming book, for which he registered the hourly commitment as “impossible to calculate”.
Although Parliament has been closed or sitting remotely for periods during the pandemic, many MPs have still reported a huge overall increase in their workload caused by Covid-related issues.
Oldham West and Royton MP Jim McMahon MP told NationalWorld: “Almost overnight when the first lockdown was announced in March 2020 the number of emails my office received doubled and has carried on at an above normal rate ever since.”
A number of MPs and former MPs have told NationalWorld that even before the pandemic, it would be difficult to do the job of being an MP properly while maintaining other interests.
Tom Brake, a former MP and director of Unlock Democracy, said in many cases there’s “no benefit” to MPs taking on other work, and that “there are some MPs who you do wonder when they manage to fit in any time for their constituents at all”.
He told NationalWorld: “For most second jobs that MPs take up, the only interest is a financial one for them. There’s no benefit for their constituents from them holding a series of directorships or consultancies. In fact the opposite is true. MPs will have less time to spend on doing their full time job of representing their constituents and legislating”.
“My starting point is that MPs should be spending no time on doing outside things, unless they are clearly of benefit to their constituents or help them in their parliamentary work. But it is very difficult to see how for instance an MP, working for foreign companies as a consultant, promoting their interests, is of any benefit to that MP’s constituents.”
Who is Andrew Mitchell MP?
Mitchell was elected as MP for Sutton Coldfield in the West Midlands in 2001, but had previously served as an MP in a different constituency, Gedling, Nottinghamshire, between 1987 and 1997, when he lost out to Labour’s Vernon Coaker.
The former investment banker has held a number of shadow and junior ministerial positions, as well as serving as the international development secretary and chief government whip.
After being appointed chief whip by David Cameron in September 2012, Mitchell soon became involved in a scandal which would see him resign from cabinet.
On 19 September, he was involved in a dispute with a police officer, PC Rowland, at the gates of Downing Street.
PC Rowland would later allege that Mitchell called him a “f***ing pleb” and told him to “learn your f***ing place”.
Mitchell apologised but disputed many details of the accusations, including the use of the word ‘pleb’, but resigned from the cabinet as a result of the incident a month later.
Evidence later came to light which cast serious doubt on aspects of the police’s version of events, with one officer being charged with misconduct in a public office after sending an email claiming to be a member of the public who had witnessed the incident.
However, after Mitchell launched legal proceedings against The Sun newspaper, which had first published details of the incident, he was countersued by PC Rowland.
When the judge later ruled against Mitchell, he became liable for both the Sun and PC Rowland’s costs, as well as damages, totalling between £2m and £3m.
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