Stephen’s View from Westminster column: Why being an MP is a full-time job

It’s nearly two and a half years since I was elected, and I can wholeheartedly say that being an MP is absolutely a full-time job. My office and I have helped over 1,500 people with individual problems in the last two years, and have responded to between 5,000 and 6,000 letters and emails.

I’ve listened to arguments put forward by those who maintain it’s not a full-time role, and that there’s ample time for MPs to take on second jobs (and second salaries), but I simply can’t understand how this can be the case, either practically or morally.

I’ve written previously about the key responsibilities of an MP, as both a legislator in Westminster and a constituency advocate.

In Westminster, the working week is about far more than just turning up for votes. There’s committee work, where MPs scrutinise the work and expenditure of the government, and examine proposals  for legislation; there are cross-party groups; and there are many meetings with local and national campaign organisations and individual constituents who have a views on a range of issues.

While in the constituency I deal with hundreds of pieces of ongoing casework, meet constituents at my regular surgeries or on the doorstep, attend local events, and meet regularly with police, the councils in both the Vale and Cardiff, local community and faith leaders, and more. Much of this takes place on Saturdays and indeed often on Sundays.

In recess, when Parliament is not sitting, it’s more a case of catching up with constituency work than taking time off; and I must always be contactable in case of emergencies, and up-to-date with local and national developments. Since I was elected, Parliament has been recalled for crucial matters such as the votes on Syria and on action against ISIL.

It’s never a case of switching off, which is why I believe it’s nonsense to suggest being an MP is anything less than a full-time job.

What’s more, I’m paid very well for the role, and I find some of the arguments being put around, that MPs should be able to earn huge amounts in addition to their salaries, through paid directorships and consultancies, quite extraordinary.

The idea that these paid roles help make better laws is a diversion. Supporting a local charity as a patron is one thing – being paid thousands of pounds for advising a foreign government or an oil company is quite another.

It’s this sort of thing that brings the reputation of our political system down, and that’s why Labour asked the House to back our ban on paid directorships and consultancies – a move voted down by the Tories.

In my view, MPs should be dedicated to the service of their constituents. People need to know that when they vote, they are electing someone who will represent them directly, and not be swayed by what they may owe to the interests of others.

I spoke about this issue on BBC1’s The Big Questions on Sunday morning. You can watch the programme on iPlayer here.

* Stephen writes his weekly View from Westminster column in the Penarth Times. This column appeared on Thursday, March 5.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *