The under-fire Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Cox has been accused of “taking the mick” after appearing on a livestream for duties involving private legal work while parliament was sitting.
The former Tory minister, who was accused of breaking Commons rules earlier this month, was taking part in day 55 of the British Virgin Islands Commission of Inquiry – shortly after the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions.
It comes during intense scrutiny on MPs’ second jobs and consultancy work after the government’s botched attempt to create a Conservative-dominated committee to review the work of the Commons standards watchdog.
Sir Geoffrey – a prominent barrister – has been advising officials from the British Virgin Islands (BVI) government on an independent inquiry into alleged corruption.
The Conservative MP’s office told The Independent that Sir Geoffrey, who had his background blurred during the virtual call on Wednesday, did not attend the hearing from his parliamentary office.
But Angela Rayner, Labour’s deputy leader, said: “Geoffrey Cox is taking the mick and the prime minister is letting him get away with it.”
She added: “This is a test of leadership for Boris Johnson and whether he is serious about tackling corruption and stopping his MPs from having dodgy second jobs instead of representing their constituents.
“You can be an MP representing your constituents or you can represent a tax haven against our own government. You cannot be both and Boris Johnson needs to decide which Geoffrey Cox will be.”
Earlier this month, Labour accused the former attorney general of an “egregious, brazen breach of the rules” after footage emerged purporting to show him taking part in a corruption hearing for the BVI government remotely from his Westminster office.
The party referred the incident to the parliamentary commissioner for standards for breaching MPs’ code, which states members “shall ensure that their use of public resources is always in support of their parliamentary duties”.
In a defiant statement at the time, Sir Geoffrey said he would fully cooperate with any investigation, but insisted he did not believe he had breached MPs’ rules, adding that he gave his constituency work “primary importance”.
He has also defended his outside interests by arguing that “it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon whether or not they vote for someone who is a senior and distinguished professional in his field and who still practices that profession”.
Sir Geoffrey’s total earnings from legal work has reached almost £955,000 in 2021 – on top of his £80,000 MP’s salary.
After weeks of sleaze allegations directed at the Conservative Party, Sir Keir Starmer called for a ban on MPs’ second jobs while Boris Johnson has backed a ban on MPs working as paid consultants or lobbyists, insisting that anyone “prioritising outside interests” and neglecting their constituents should face investigation.