Jacob Rees-Mogg accuses ex-cabinet secretary critics of hypocrisy for taking ‘nice jobs’ in private sector

Tory minister hits back at former officials who ‘deem themselves saintly’

Adam Forrest
Tuesday 30 November 2021 10:54
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<p>Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg</p>

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg

Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg has accused former Downing Street officials of hypocrisy for offering warnings on sleaze while taking “nice jobs” upon leaving office.

It follows an open letter from every living ex-cabinet secretary urging Boris Johnson to get behind widespread standards reforms at Westminster.

But Mr Rees-Mogg dismissed the advice of the “saintly” former top civil servants who have taken “well-paid” roles after stepping down from government.

The senior minister told the Moggcast podcast: “How many of those went off to take jobs in the private sector? How many of those got quite nice jobs once they’d left – well paid from merchant banks, etc., etc.?”

Mr Rees-Mogg added: “Why do we think they are the most high-minded and the politicians are not? I would rather things were determined by those who are accountable, than those who have deemed themselves to be saintly.”

In a joint letter to The Times earlier this month, five ex-cabinet secretaries – Lord O’Donnell, Lord Butler, Lord Wilson, Lord Turnbull and Lord Sedwill – urged the government to enact recommendations from the committee on standards in public life report.

On Monday the Commons Standards Committee set out plans for an outright ban on MPs providing paid parliamentary advice, consultancy or strategic services.

But Mr Rees-Mogg rejected the idea that widespread reform was necessary – warning that imposing much tighter restrictions and greater transparency on MPs’ second jobs could be “intrusive”.

The Commons leader told the ConservativeHome podcast that voters were the best judge of what kind of outside work was “reasonable” for their MP to take on.

Asked if an MP could also act as editor of The Spectator magazine, Mr Rees-Mogg said: “Yes, definitely because you could reasonably do that within the hours – they are very compatible roles without any obvious conflict of interest.”

The senior Conservative added: “If you look at the 1997 election result there was this view that the government was sleazy … John Major had done all sorts of things, set up all sorts of committee, but actually that hadn’t impressed voters.

“What people need is to have confidence that things are done properly and MPs are on their side. That is shown in all sorts of ways. That is the judge I’m most concerned about – my voters.”

Mr Rees-Mogg also dismissed the idea you could set a cap on earnings from second jobs – suggesting Tory voters would admire MPs who get paid large sums for working a small number of hours.

“If you do in a remarkably short amount of time, I think most people would think, ‘Gosh you must be pretty good to earn that amount per hour’,” said the senior minister.

The Commons Standards Committee report – which also recommended the period during which lobbying is banned following payment from an outside interest is increased from six to 12 months – will be the subject of a consultation before a final set of recommendations is published in the new year.

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