Hague is earning £1m a year: Will he give it up for Cameron?

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Indy Politics

William Hague has set a new record as the first MP to declare an income over £1m in one year.

The former Tory leader is one of the country's best- paid after-dinner speakers, as well as earning huge sums as a newspaper columnist, company director, and business consultant.

His earnings outside Parliament, which fill almost two pages of the latest Register of Members' Interests, are an insight into the sacrifice Mr Hague would have to make if - as widely expected - he returns to front line politics next month with a leading role in David Cameron's shadow cabinet.

Mr Hague's biggest money-spinner is a weekly column for the News of the World, for which he is paid £200,000 a year. He has declared more than 50 speeches, for which he was paid an average of around £10,000 each.

MPs' declarations do not give a precise figure for their outside earnings. Fees are recorded in bands of £5,000, while some earnings, such as directors' fees, do not have to be entered. Mr Hague's declared earnings were somewhere between £675,000 and £925,000 - suggesting that the exact figure is £800,000 or more.

On top of that, he is a paid director of two companies, and the sole owner of Canyon Research, the company he set up to receive the royalties from his biography of William Pitt the Younger. Mr Hague also receives his MP's salary of £59,095, and last year he claimed MPs' allowances totalling £129,982.

Another Tory who may have to weigh up the cost of a return to the front bench is the writer and broadcaster, Boris Johnson, who declared fees for writing and speaking engagements up to £150,000, including up to £75,000 for his regular Daily Telegraph column, on top of his salary as editor of The Spectator. Yesterday, he dismissed reports that he was about to step down from The Spectator editorship as "completely fanciful".

Most of Parliament's other big earners are Conservative MPs, although David Blunkett demonstrated a capacity to earn money almost as good as any Tory politician's, during the four months between his departure from the Cabinet and his temporary political comeback. The Respect MP George Galloway and the left-wing Labour MP Diane Abbott are also in the big earners' league.

David Blunkett earned up to £92,000 in fees from the end of January 2005 - a month after he resigned from the Cabinet - until 5 May, when he made his ill-starred return. His income included more than £15,000 for giving seminars on the relationship between government and business for the management consultant firm, Indepen, and acting as adviser to the organisation for Research and Technology.

George Galloway, the Respect MP, declared fees of up to £155,000, including up to £80,000 for writing a column for the Mail on Sunday. Diane Abbott declared fees up to £80,000 for newspaper articles and television appearances. Ann Widdecombe has established a new career for herself as a novelist and agony aunt since her much criticised stint as Shadow Home Secretary under William Hague's leadership.

Her latest entry in the register includes £100,000 advance for novels number three and four, a fee up to £40,000 for writing a Daily Express column, and a fee of up to £30,000 for acting as the BBC's roving agony aunt. She also registers a smaller payment from the BBC for appearing on the TV programme Grumpy Old Woman.

Other entries are more modest. Chancellor Gordon Brown lists two Virgin Atlantic upgrades for him, his wife and their son. Among the outgoing Tory leader Michael Howard's declarations is a Christmas hamper from the Sultan of Brunei. John Prescott's entry is blank.

Although the register tells who is making money out of activities thatrelate to their role as MP, it is not an accurate guide to who is the richest MP. That is probably the Labour MP Shaun Woodward, who is married to a Sainsbury heiress. His modest-looking entry simply lists his five properties, in Oxfordshire, France, London New York and the West Indies and that he has shares in Sainsbury plc.

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