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Revealed: British MPs earned more than £7m outside of Parliament in 2014

Earnings are under scrutiny following the 'cash for access' scandal involving Jack Straw and Sir Malcolm Rifkind

Lizzie Dearden
Tuesday 24 February 2015 12:36 GMT
Some MPs earn only a fraction of their salary from their work for constituents and in the Commons
Some MPs earn only a fraction of their salary from their work for constituents and in the Commons (Getty Images)

As the “cash for access” scandal around Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw continues, the highest earning MPs in Britain have been revealed.

The former Foreign Secretaries were filmed discussing possible payments of up to £5,000 a day for using their contacts and experience to benefit a private company in a sting by Channel 4’s Dispatches and the Telegraph.

Although the Chinese firm they thought they were meeting was fake, the footage has sparked scrutiny of MPs' earnings outside the House of Commons.

And analysis of official data by Statista for The Independent shows that British MPs earned more than £7 million in total outside their parliamentary wages last year, with Tories accounting for the largest proportion.

Conservative Party politicians collectively earned £4.74 million, more than double the amount of Labour MPs, although there were more Tory MPs when the figure was compiled.

The findings have sparked calls from Ed Miliband for payments outside Parliament to be capped but by far the biggest earner was one of his party's own MPs, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who was paid a total of £962,516 in 2014 on top of his parliamentary wage.

Mr Brown earned £61,730 for one two-and-a-half hour speech for the First Dameisha China Innovation Forum in Beijing and another £46,500 for speaking at The American University in Dubai, public records show.

He holds posts including Distinguished Global Leader in Residence at New York University,Chairman of the World Economic Forum Policy Coordination Group and United Nations Special Envoy for Global Education and also earns fees for newspaper columns and books.

Mr Brown states that he does not personally receive any of the money, which a public register of MPs’ earnings states is “being held by the Office of Gordon and Sarah Brown to support (his) ongoing involvement in public life”.

The second-biggest earner outside the Commons was the Conservative MP for Torridge and West Devon, Geoffrey Cox.

He took home an extra £820,867 last year, mostly through his work as a top lawyer at Messrs. Janes solicitors. Almost 2,000 hours of outside work were registered, making an average hourly rate of £420, or £20 every three minutes.

Mr Cox said some of that work dated back to 2013 or 2012 and in response to criticism last year, he estimated he works 15-20 hours per week as a QC, adding that the "majority is done at weekends or during parliamentary recesses".

Respect MP George Galloway earned more than £300,000 extra, mostly from his regular £1,600-an-hour appearances on Iran's Press TV and Russia Today.

Winston Churchill’s grandson, Sir Nicholas Soames, earned £275,500 for posts at controversial private security firm Aegis, energy firm Aggregated Micro Power and as a business adviser.

Sir Nicholas Soames is the chairman of private defence contractor Aegis. (Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images)

Former Labour Home Secretary David Blunkett received almost £180,000 on top of his Parliamentary wage, mostly as a director of Hadaw Production and Investment Ltd.

All MPs in the top 10 earned more than £178,000 extra last year. That figure alone is higher than the David Cameron’s entire annual earnings of £142,000 for being Prime Minister.

With the exception of Mr Cox, the highest earners were not the MPs who did the most hours of paid work outside their political office.

Stephen Dorrell, the veteran Conservative MP for Charnwood, put in 1,700 hours as the director of a management firm and in various consultancy work.

William McCrea, a Democratic Unionist Party politician from Northern Ireland, was the only other MP putting in more than 1,000 hours of extra work last year as a Free Presbyterian minister.

The 10 MPs who logged the most hours of extra work last year were all male. Eight were Conservative politicians, one was Labour and they collectively put in 9,089 hours.

There is a renewed focus on MPs' extra earnings after Sir Malcolm Rifkind and Jack Straw were suspended from their parties in a new 'cash for access' scandal (PA)

Embattled former Foreign Secretary Sir Malcolm, who is embroiled in the “cash for access” scandal after being filmed claiming he could arrange “useful access” to every British ambassador in the world because of his status, did not feature on the top lists.

He has since resigned as an MP and as head of the highly influential Intelligence and Security Select Committee after the whip was withdrawn by the Conservative Party.

In the sting, he said: “I am self-employed. So nobody pays me a salary, I have to earn my income.”

MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind being secretly filmed for the Telegraph/Channel 4 Dispatches programme (Channel 4/The Telegraph)

Public records show Sir Malcolm declared payments of £69,610 for 43 hours of work - an average £1,619 per hour – for directorships, consultancy, speeches and newspaper articles.

Defending his secretly filmed comments, Sir Malcolm said it was “unrealistic” to expect MPs with a business or professional background “to simply accept a salary of £67,000” and they are rightly allowed to continue other employment.

Mr Straw’s declarations showed payments for speeches, newspaper articles, books and as a consultant for ED & F Man.

The basic annual salary for an MP is £67,060 but they also receive expenses to cover the costs of running an office, employing staff, homes in London and their constituency and travel.

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