Geoffrey Cox’s other controversies, from foxhunting to welfare cuts and climate change

Ex-attorney general advised PM proroguing parliament was legal and voted against steps to curb the climate crisis

Jane Dalton
Thursday 11 November 2021 23:22

Revelations over the earnings of former attorney-general Sir Geoffrey Cox and allegations that he missed Commons votes while staying thousands of miles from the UK in a tax haven are not the first reports about the MP to have stirred controversy.

Sir Geoffrey, 61, earned at least £6m from second job on top of his MP’s salary since he entered parliament in 2005, according to one analysis.

He also lets out a London home that taxpayers helped fund while claiming £1,900 a month for having a second home to be near Westminster, it’s reported.

His affairs have come under scrutiny since it was reported that he took advantage of lockdown rules to cast votes by proxy from the British Virgin Islands, and this week from Mauritius.

Sir Geoffrey has insisted he does not believe he has broken any rules. But the former government chief legal adviser and MP for Torridge and West Devon has made headlines for a number of reasons in the past few years.

A known supporter of foxhunting, he has been photographed hosting the Lamerton Hunt on land he owns in Devon. Local hunt saboteurs pictured him in January 2019 allegedly mixing with members of the hunt who gathered outside his home for drinks and food before setting off on horseback into the fields.

Foxhunting was outlawed in 2005 but hunts claim their activities are lawful because they follow a scent trail.

The 2004 Act also made it illegal to knowingly permit land belonging to you to be used in the course of an illegal hunting act. There is no suggestion that Cox has committed any offence.

Cox said at the time there was no evidence that the hunt “engaged in any activity that could have been remotely considered to be illegal”. His office added: “Any attempt to link Mr Cox to illegal hunting activity would be irresponsible and wholly false.”

Earlier this year a Lamerton huntsman and a whipper-in were cleared of illegal hunting when a judge ruled they had been following a trail rather than trying to kill foxes.

A 2014 Wikipedia photograph apparently also showing Cox hosting the Lamerton Hunt has been widely shared on social media.

In 2015, he said he was very impressed with the turnout at a Boxing Day meet and congratulated the huntsman on the condition of the hounds.

Sir Geoffrey’s voting record suggests he holds traditionally right-wing views.

According to he voted, among other things:

  • For a reduction in spending on welfare benefits
  • Against raising welfare benefits at least in line with prices
  • Against allowing terminally ill people to be given assistance to end their life
  • For culling badgers
  • Against measures to prevent climate change
  • Against financial incentives for low-carbon-emission electricity generation methods
  • For selling England’s state owned forests
  • Against equal gay rights
  • Against laws to promote equality and human rights
  • For restricting the scope of legal aid
  • For phasing out secure tenancies for life
  • Against a “mansion tax”
  • Against a wholly elected House of Lords

One of the Commons wealthiest MPs, he also voted in favour of capping civil service redundancy payments and voted against restrictions on fees charged to tenants by letting agents.

The Brexit-supporting MP has almost always voted for a stricter asylum system and consistently voted for mass surveillance of people’s communications and activities, the records show.

In 2016, the then Cox – before receiving his knighthood - claimed almost £16,500 in expenses, including £94.74 for a fridge in his constituency office.

But Commons authorities rejected a claim of 49p for a pint of milk.

In 2019, he advised Boris Johnson that proroguing Parliament was ‘lawful’ – advice that 11 of the UK’s top judges later slapped down in a landmark ruling.

One of his constituents tweeted on Tuesday: “I emailed Geoffrey Cox and it took over 80 days before I received a basic reply. I don’t feel he is giving 100% or even close to his work as an MP.”

Sir Geoffrey has never sought to hide the fact he does legal work on top of being an MP, and there is no suggestion that he has broken any rules.

His most recent written question to a minister was to ask the health secretary whether the government has a maximum distance it considers appropriate for patients to travel for dental care.

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