The British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has dismissed allegations that corruption was rampant in the UK, as his ruling Conservative Party is embroiled in a string of high-profile sleaze allegations against second-rate MPs.
Revelations that former Attorney General Geoffrey Cox used his parliamentary office for lucrative private work sparked a standard investigation, even though he insisted he had not broken any rules.
This came after Johnson tried – and failed – last week to change the rules on sanctioning stray MPs, when it was found that another Tory MP, Owen Paterson, was advocating ministers for two firms that had him on the payroll.
Both cases have opened up MPs for re-examination of potential conflicts of interest, more than a decade after a scandal over spending that caused public outrage and sparked a series of resignations.
But Johnson told reporters during a flying visit to the United Nations summit on climate change in Glasgow: “I truly believe that the UK is not at a distance a corrupt country. I also do not believe that our institutions are corrupt. not.”
Cox defends second position
Cox, the former attorney general, defended his second job of £ 400,000 ($ 540,000) a year on Wednesday, insisting he did not break any rules.
He said his job as a lawyer did not take him away to represent voters in the south-west England district he represents in parliament.
Cox is under fire for repeatedly earning his 82,000-pound ($ 110,000) politician’s salary through legal work, including advising the British Virgin Islands government on a corruption investigation.
He was allowed to vote by proxy in Parliament while in the Caribbean, a British overseas territory.
While allowing the execution of external work, the Times on Wednesday published a video apparently showing Cox participating in a legal hearing of his parliamentary office, an apparent violation of the rules.
In a defense of his second job, Geoffrey Cox claimed he was “primary importance and fully executed” his job in his constituency.
“He does not believe he has violated the rules, but will of course accept the judgment of the Parliamentary Commissioner or the Committee on the matter,” Cox’s office said. a statement on its website.
Members of Parliament are allowed to earn income from outside, as long as they declare it and do not overshadow it in lobbying. According to Cox’s statement, he is paid £ 400,000 a year for up to 41 hours of work a month.
‘Insult to taxpayers’
Angela Rayner, deputy leader of the main opposition Labor Party, said Cox should be investigated.
“Geoffrey Cox’s use of his taxpayer – funded office in parliament to work for a tax haven being investigated for corruption is a brutal violation of the rules and an insult to taxpayers,” she tweeted.
“I wrote to the Commissioner for Standards to encourage an inquiry,” she added.
Geoffrey Cox for using his taxpayer-funded office in parliament to work for a tax haven being investigated for corruption is a brutal violation of the rules and an insult to taxpayers.
I wrote to the Commissioner for Standards to encourage an inquiry. pic.twitter.com/IP7dxr0p78
– Angela Rayner (@AngelaRayner) 10 November 2021
The controversy over Cox’s second income comes as Johnson’s government is fighting to dismiss allegations of corruption caused when he tried to bring about a change in the system that oversees politicians’ standards.
The British leader unleashed anger last week as he tried to overhaul parliament’s internal disciplinary process, after the House of Commons standard committee recommended that a Conservative Party lawmaker be suspended for 30 days.
Owen Paterson was found to have committed a “gruesome” breach of the rules, after repeatedly pleading with ministers and officials on behalf of two companies that pay him more than £ 100,000 a year.
The government changed course the next day, but is now under increasing pressure to tighten the rules. While Paterson eventually resigned, Johnson’s handling of the case severely damaged the party’s morale.
The episode was the latest fuel for allegations that Johnson and his Conservative government do not follow rules that apply to everyone.
Lawsuits have been filed over the government’s award of tens of millions of pounds (dollars) in contracts to provide equipment and services during the coronavirus pandemic – often in a hurry and with little supervision.