Nolan vote spells boom for solicitors

MPs' earnings: Parliamentary lawyers to cash in on registration of contracts
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The Independent Online

The vote by MPs to declare their earnings could well turn into a bonanza for the normally stuffy world of parliamentary solicitors.

One firm was already on the look-out for extra business yesterday from MPs who have to lodge consultancy contracts with the new parliamentary commissioner, Sir Gordon Downey.

Dozens of MPs yesterday received letters from a firm of parliamentary solicitors offering their advice on how to meet the new rules for declaring private earnings.

Dyson Bell Martin, who have their offices in the shadow of Big Ben at Westminster, wrote to all MPs who have already declared a post as a parliamentary adviser in the register of members' interests.

"By reason of the nature of our practice and having followed the proceedings of the Nolan committee closely, we believe that we are well placed to advise members on the appropriate form of agreements and are happy to accept instructions for that purpose," the letter said.

Jonathan Bracken, the firm's head of government relations, said it was the first time a letter drop to so many MPs had been used. "What we are saying is if you have consultancy arrangements, they now need a written contract which has to be lodged."

Until Sir Gordon has issued guidance, there is likely to be a large grey area surrounding the definition of the sums that have to be declared. But Mr Bracken said his firm was definitely not in the business of offering help on how to dodge the rules.

"We are not offering advice on how you get round the rules. The suggestion of some of the press that you might split contracts into two parts, and get paid pounds 20,000 as a management consultant and pounds 2,000 as an MP - we are not in that business at all," Mr Bracken said.

Last week's humiliating defeat for John Major in the earnings vote led to renewed rumblings about his leadership from Conservative MPs angry that he had allowed the Nolan inquiry to get out of hand.

The issue will still be rumbling on when MPs reconvene tomorrow for the new parliamentary session.