MPs do a 'part-time job'

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A startling claim that being an MP was "a part-time job" was made by a Cabinet minister yesterday as Shandwick, the world's largest PR company, ended its two-year relationship with David Mellor MP in advance of Monday's knife-edge Commons debate on members' outside interests.

Roger Freeman, the public services minister, defended the right of MPs to have outside commercial interests but risked annoying the most conscientious and active constituency MPs when he declared: "It's a part-time job being a backbencher. That's what you are elected for."

Justifying the Government's line on Channel 4 News that MPs did not need to disclose outside earnings as the committee under Lord Nolan has proposed, Mr Freeman said: "Parliament only sits for a certain part of the year and so many days a week, and pay is related to the part-time nature of the work."

While Wednesday's select committee report rejected the original Nolan recommendation for a ban on multi-client consultancies in favour of a specific ban on advocating clients' causes in Parliament, Shandwick had already decided at the end of October not to renew its contract with Mr Mellor, the former heritage secretary and MP for Putney.

Colin Trusler, managing director of Shandwick UK, said he wanted to "stand clear" of the debate over links between MPs and multi-client consultancies.

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