Today
Thu 29 July 2021

A Conservative MP and her husband own a firm that has signed a deal with a company in her constituency

A Conservative Member of Parliament and/or her husband stand to benefit from a £60,000 private contract that began just weeks after the MP held a constituency meeting with the firm.

The MPs’ register of interests states that Ruth Edwards, MP for Rushcliffe, became a director of Mongoose Bridges Limited – a firm co-owned by her husband – on 1 May this year.

On the same day, the register shows, Mongoose Bridges began a year-long, £5,000-a-month contract with MHR International – a software company that specialises in payroll and human resources. Mongoose Bridges will provide 16 hours of advisory work on ‘public sector, technology strategy and cyber security’ every month.

The register states that Edwards is an ‘unpaid’ director of Mongoose Bridges, though it is unclear whether she will draw dividends from the company. Her office did not respond to multiple questions posed by Byline Times. It is also unclear whether and how her husband is remunerated by the firm.

The contract with MHR started just six weeks after Edwards held a constituency meeting with the company. On her official MP website, Edwards publicises a summit with the company’s founder, John Mills, on 18 March.

“I met with founder John Mills who talked me through how MHR software is helping to support people and businesses with its software and outsourcing services for HR, talent management, payroll and business intelligence,” the website reads. “MHR currently employs 700 people – most based at their main sites in Ruddington (a village in Edwards’ constituency), but also others in Nottingham, Ireland, the USA and Singapore!”

There is no evidence that Edwards and MHR discussed private business opportunities at this meeting or as a result of this meeting – this was another question posed by Byline Times that remained unanswered.

Mongoose Bridges is listed on Companies House as specialising in farming, while Edwards states on her register of interests that it works in the fields of “consultancy, apiculture and horticulture”. Accounts for the latest period, ending 30 April 2020, show that Mongoose Bridges turned over just £6,000 in the previous 12 months.

Prior to becoming an MP, Edwards worked in cybersecurity policy and was head of commercial strategy and public policy for BT from 2015 to 2019. She was elected to the seat formerly held by long-serving MP Ken Clarke at the 2019 General Election.

Edwards has not disclosed how much time she personally expects to devote to working for MHR every month. The basic annual salary for an MP is £81,932, not including expenses. Edwards previously told the Guardian that her caseload as an MP had increased threefold due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The issue of second jobs held by MPs has been long-standing and controversial – with many groups calling for the practice to be banned. OpenDemocracy recently revealed that MPs had earned £5 million from second jobs during the pandemic. 237 of 650 MPs declared outside earnings during the 12 months since 23 March 2020.

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