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Revealed: Westminster Staff’s Second Jobs

Andrew Kersley takes a close look at the register of interests for Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants and finds some have surprising other roles

Parliament. Photo: PA/Alamy

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More than one in five MPs’ staff have received paid gifts or outside work in the last year – including from anti-climate change think tanks and major party donors, Byline Times can reveal.

This newspaper analysed the most recent register of interests for ‘Members’ Secretaries and Research Assistants’ and identified 412 individuals who logged either gifts or outside paid work in the last year – 21% of all the staff listed.

Even after removing gifts, and the staff with partisan roles, like working as an advisor for their own political party nationally or serving as a local councillor, more than 100 staffers declared some form of outside employment.

One parliamentary staffer was working as the head of policy for the Global Warming Policy Foundation and Net Zero Watch. These twin campaign groups, based in Tufton Street, are some of the most vocal groups opposing the Government’s net zero plans and have been accused of spreading “misinformation and propaganda” about the issue.

The think tanks have also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from funds linked to the fossil fuel industry and even the controversial Koch brothers, according to an investigation by openDemocracy.

A Labour staffer was listed as working as a political advisor to Trevor Chinn and Martin Taylor, who have collectively donated millions of pounds to Labour and have provided extensive funding for the powerful internal party group Labour Together.

The group, a major driving force behind Keir Starmer’s leadership campaign, failed to disclose donations from  millionaire venture capitalists and businessmen to the Electoral Commission, according to an investigation by The Times


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Other roles listed included working for major banks, Christian lobby groups, or as a freelance producer for GB News.

Just more than half of the roles identified by Byline Times related to PR, communications, consultancy or advocacy groups that may have a vested interest in lobbying Westminster.

Dr Susan Hawley, executive director of transparency campaign group Spotlight on Corruption, told Byline Times: “Parliament should clearly be looking to tighten the rules to ensure that staff in MPs’ offices are not becoming a back route for donations and influence from lobbyists and think tank staff, who get privileged access to parliamentarians and policy making by working there.”

The overall figures may be higher than Byline Times estimates as staff only have to register work if “that occupation or employment is in any way advantaged by the privileged access to Parliament” afforded by being a staffer – meaning many roles may simply be left off if it is believed it is unrelated to their Westminster work.

It is also impossible to determine the money made by staffers from these roles as they are not required to disclose income as part of their declaration in the register. 

There has been increasing scrutiny of second jobs and outside interests in Westminster in recent years – albeit mostly focused on MPs themselves – after a series of scandals involving MPs lobbying for companies they had outside work for.

Recent analysis by the Guardian found that MPs have been paid £10 million from second jobs and freelance work over the past year, continuing to rise despite promises of a crackdown in 2021-2022.

Last year, the Government ditched plans to cap MPs’ income from second jobs. 

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