Good news, bad news: Nicholas Soames MP

Good news: the Conservative MP for Mid-Sussex has more than halved the number of outside jobs he does in addition to being an MP.

Bad news: he’s still doing three, paying over £350,000 per year in total.

(Back in December 2005, he had seven outside jobs, but payment for them did not have to be disclosed.)

Certainly can’t be said the jobs are badly paid. They bring in for him over £220,000 which, allowing for tax, means a gross pay of over £350,000 (as his MP salary will have taken up tax allowances and put him in in the top tax band).

He gets that for working approaching a day and a half a week on average. Even in Mid-Sussex, that’s a pretty good rate of pay 🙂 … but given how extremely busy many MPs are, there’s an obvious question about how he finds the time to do the outside jobs – or indeed whether it’s right for an MP to work on that scale and for that level of pay in addition to being an MP.

There certainly are benefits to MPs having outside knowledge and experience and that can extend to them fulfilling roles like trustee of a local charity. However, the number of hours and scale of pay in Nicholas Soames’s case are of quite another order.

He has had to repay £1,345.55 following the Legg inquiry and was one of the 19 Conservative MPs to have voted against MPs having to declare the details of their outside earnings in 2009.

Fitting the pattern identified by Mark Thompson that MPs in safer seats are more likely to have controversial expense claims, Nicholas Soames’s constituency has been in Conservative hands since 1910, though that is something Serena Tierney is working hard to change.

Note: Nicholas Soames’s pay and hours varies a little during the year, but during the second half of 2009 worked out at an annualised rate of £36,581.78 for Aegis, £25,894.22 for MMC and £100,000 for Intrepid Capital Partners. This is the net income he earns from the jobs, so the gross salary (the figure usually quoted when talking about salaries) is higher than this. On the basis that his income tax allowances are used up via his MP’s salary already, to receive that net income when paying 40% tax on it, the gross income has to be over £350,000. The number of hours was equivalent to annual total of 506 hours, or 10.5 hours a week for a 48 week working year.

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  • Following the recent death of Michael Foot, the three living former MPs who entered the House of Commons longest ago appear to be John Freeman (MP Watford 1945-55), Robert Carr (MP Mitcham 1950-Feb 1974, Carshalton Feb 1974 – Dec 1975) and Tony Benn (MP Bristol South-East Dec 1950-Nov 1960 and Aug 1963-83, Chesterfield Mar 1984-2001). Remarkably enough, all three were educated at Westminster School, like Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne, and Nick and Chris may take this as confirmatory evidence that those educated at Westminster have greater staying power than those educated at Eton (Cameron, Osborne, Soames) !

  • I think Mark’s identified another aspect to the behaviour of MPs.

    The expenses scandal identified a significant element who were prepared to take all they could get without scruple and ‘rip-off’ the voters.

    This willingness to indulge in other money making activity (rather than turn up for debates / votes) shows a similar disregard for teh interests of the people the MP was elected to represent.

    Okay so you don’t have to turn up all the time but what exactly was the point in standing for election?

    What takes priority – a piece of work, a board meeting or an important vote down the house….?

    What should I think of that as an elector?

    I think I might expect my candidate to offer a contract with a bit more in it that the one way ticket some MPs like Mr Soames think they deserve or can get away with… Yet again this syndrome is probably most present in safe seat sitters….

  • May be on my own here, but I have no problem with MPs having outside jobs; indeed, would encourage it.
    We all complain at ‘professional politicians’, but also complain with them having other jobs too. So he works up to 2 days a week outside parliament? There’s still five more days in the week.

  • Harry D – would agree that having people in parliamnet who have done other jobs and bring that experience into parliamnet is desirable. What concerns me about people like Soames is that the outside jobs seem to take the priority so the time he spends on them comes first so he’s only turned up for just over half the votes even though he lives a lot nearer to parliament than most MPs and missed some important votes and debates.

  • I can see downsides, to be sure…
    Part of the problem is that the only route for promotion for a career parliamentarian is through (shadow)ministerial ranks – especially for the government party, this ends up giving hordes of useless MPs (even if they do turn up).

    Part of the solution – stronger alterntive routes, such as select committees, has already been strengthened (though I think pay should follow) – the other I believe is having MPs not reliant on parliament for a career.

    To be honest it probably depends on the candidate: which is why STV (or any multi-seat constituency system) would help, since you get more choice about who you vote for!

  • Serena fought a grubby campaign and was rightly shown the boot. Startlingly unimpressive!

    Tom King is under the curious illusion that the job of an MP is to scrutinine and pass laws. The last finance bill (174 pages; 73 sections; 21 long and complex schedules) got passed in a morning. Huge amount of scrutiny going on there! But mostly, they nod in EU laws passed by people no-one voted for. And lick the whips’ boots of course.

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